“Most people are comfortable with short timespan decisions,” Pablo continued. “Most elements are tangible, known. We can observe, inspect, feel, touch each of the elements. The level of uncertainty, the level of ambiguity is low. And most people are comfortable.”
“I can see that,” I said.
“And, as the level of ambiguity grows, the timespan of the decision gets longer, some people struggle. Some people struggle to the point of paralysis.”
“I have seen that as well,” I replied.
“Look closely,” Pablo lowered his voice. “We can measure the ambiguity, measure the uncertainty of the decision by looking at timespan.”
“How so?” I asked. “How do we calibrate the timespan of a decision?”
“All we have to do is inspect the timespan of intention, it will tell us.”
“Timespan of intention? I am not sure I understand,” I said.
“What is our intention? What is our expectation? What do we want to happen? What is the goal? It is our intention that defines the timespan of the decision. It is our expectation. It is what we want to happen. It is the goal. Very simply, a goal is a ‘what’ by ‘when?’ Built into our intention is timespan.”
“Your example about the cloudy day and the umbrella?” I wanted to see the connection.
“If we want to avoid the possibility of rain today, we might carry an umbrella,” Pablo explained. “If we want to stay dry next week, we might acquire the habit of carrying an umbrella all the time. And, if we want to stay dry next month, while we sleep, we might build a house. And, if we want to stay dry next year, in the face of a hurricane, we better make a decision today to construct a building to withstand a windstorm. And, if we want to stay dry for the next five years in the face of multiple storms that might occur, we better create an enforceable building code rated for Cat 5. The timespan of our decision provides us with a calibrated measurement to indicate the complexity of that decision, in the face of uncertainty, in the face of ambiguity.”
This post feels like a lightbulb moment for me. Time span and intention — the wisdom of balancing what we want now with what we’d like the future to look like. Are we designing systems that can take us beyond our immediate desires. Thanks!