Jason Fried

January 17, 2024

It’s all a judgment call

It's all a judgment call. Every human decision is a gut decision. The decision itself is the messy integration of many disparate pieces of information, experiences, instincts, stories, and unknowns.

Data may inform, but as long as a human is making the decision, it's ultimately a judgment call. If you're just going by the data, then you're confirming, not deciding. Machines are better at that than you'll ever be.

A decision is a point of view seen through a million lenses, many of which are invisible even to the one deciding. The lenses are formed by every experience that person has ever had, their imagination, and, in many ways, the generations of people that came before them in order for them to be here. An experience doesn't exist without a prior experience. And every past colors every future.

Think about it. When companies hire executives, they ultimately hire on experience and judgment. Hiring itself is a judgment call about other people's future judgement calls.

Narrow it down to three extraordinary candidates. What sets them apart? It's the stuff gleaned through conversation, not questionnaires or test results. That's why we interview, and don't choose our best algorithmically. Competency is bigger than "can they do it". Competency is "how they do it." Can is clean and binary, how is messy and analog.

In many ways, the output of any company is that company's collective judgment about what to do, how to do it, why to do it, and when to do it. Each one of these is a loose collection of prior judgment calls made by individuals, all unique in their own experiences.

Give 10 companies the same data, the same facts, and the same amount of time, and you're going to still have 10 different outcomes. Because all those clean binaries are transmuted through the messy analog that is judgment.

At least that's what I think.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.