Fred “The Shred” Goodwin is a former British banker who inflated the Royal Bank of Scotland like a pufferfish then burst the damn thing at enormous, enduring cost to everyone.

His Tao (“way”, “path”), was to make all decisions in five seconds. Gut feeling was everything. Obviously, this is a very extreme, very singular way of making decisions.

People make decisions that are right (this happens rarely, but only because the next category is so common), partly right or partly wrong (the vast majority fall here) and absolutely wrong (again, fairly rare).

Combine this with the consequence of an individual decision. Very few decisions involve big swings in outcomes. Either the options with large consequences aren’t considered, or they’re ruled out very quickly based on an assessment of risk (usually not reward).

Then combine this with having to make consecutively correct decisions as the consequential moments present themselves.

If you roll a normal dice twice, you have a 1/36 chance (at the outset) of rolling two sixes.

Six rolls, six sixes, and it’s 1/46,656.

For most of his career, Fred the Shred appeared to make the right calls, rolling six after six.

Then he rolled the dice one too many times.

Through processes such as sprints, we can foster collaboration, embrace good research, practice constructive critique and test our ideas. We can reduce the number of sides on the dice (our options), and the number of rolls (our consequential decisions). We can increase the value of good ideas and reduce the cost of bad ones. We can explore high reward ideas at low risk, and high risk ideas at low cost.

All the while, we can move quickly, while not being strangled by process. Our gut feel is still valuable – after all, it’s a shorthand for the sum of our personal and professional experience – but let’s augment it by thinking a little longer, and a little better, than Fred.

If you’re interested in us helping you with a sprint, get in touch.

Also published on Medium.