Kathleen Eisenhardt on Simple Rules To Unblock and Make Faster Decisions

When analyzing my work with teams, projects, and my own contributions I often try to find the bottleneck in the system. What’s blocked? How could we move faster? What’s are the important decisions?

Kathleen Eisenhardt is a professor at Stanford University who dives deep into these questions, and more. Below are two examples that share insights from her work around complex systems, decision making, and how simple rules can make all the difference.


Kathleen Eisenhardt: What Are Simple Rules? — We’re more likely to remember and act on 2-5 simple rules.


Kathleen Eisenhardt: Effective People Think Simply — You can make decisions faster when the rules are simple.

Start from both ends — open versus closed, and structured/complex versus chaotic.

What are the likely scenarios?

  • Product development teams that are highly complex might launch the wrong product very efficiently.
  • Product development teams that are highly chaotic — and anything goes — have a great time launching nothing.

Questions to ask:

  1. What are we trying to achieve?
  2. What’s the bottleneck in the process? What keeps us from achieving our goals?
  3. What are the rules? For example, understand your own data while also bringing in outside experts.

You can make decisions faster when the rules are simple.

“Stopping” rules are the hardest to learn. People are good at starting! Bad at stopping.

One of the biggest mistakes business people make is staying in something too long. A stopping rule helps you get out of that.

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Involve people around you to determine the rules — they shouldn’t just be from the top.

I hope you learn as much as I did from Kathleen Eisenhardt’s work.

Published by

Lance Willett

My name is Lance, I am a blogger, product manager, software developer, and business executive creating high-quality, engaging, and customer-centered experiences for people online. México-born. Chief Product and Technology Officer at Tumblr (Automattic).

2 thoughts on “Kathleen Eisenhardt on Simple Rules To Unblock and Make Faster Decisions”

  1. “Stopping” rules are the hardest to learn. People are good at starting! Bad at stopping.

    It can be really hard to either take a break from a project or stop work on it entirely when you have already invested in it and know it’s important. Usually once you finally pause, it’s easier to see that it wasn’t as essential as you thought and not worth all the time (which was taking time from other work).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Eric. I think of this in terms of “sunk costs” fallacy, where the importance of the project is tied to the time and effort already sunk in, instead of the expected impact of continuing on it. Human behavior works against us here.

      Liked by 1 person

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