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Is There Room for Impulse in Business Decision-Making?

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If you have a pulse, at some point you have done something on impulse. Recently, tennis player Svetlana Kuznetsova cut her hair during a match before returning and winning the match. I don't know the details surrounding the emergency haircut, but definitely looked like an impulsive decision at its finest.

In art and sports, spontaneity and split-second decison-making are often encouraged. In the business world, not so much. If you are starting a business, own a business, or even work in a business --you probably have plenty of cautionary tales of impulsive decisions gone wrong. The six-figure-earning account executive who got into a fist fight with a co-worker, the business owner who built an expense around money not yet earned, the employee who leaves a passive-aggressive (or just plain aggressive) note on the refrigerator, or the elected official with the insensitive tweet. All true stories of decisions that were so irresistible in the moment that the person curved their entire trajectory.

Darrin Stevens working on a campaign
Although we are more familiar with the cautionary tales of impulse gone wrong in the business arena, there are a host of examples of when it goes right. I am reminded of my very first marketing mentors: Darrin and Samantha Stevens (Bewitched).  Much of the ongoing plot of the popular sitcom was built around the hard-working mortal, Darrin Stevens, who would inevitably be plugging away on a high-stakes marketing campaign when some sort of witch-related catastrophe would develop around his magical wife, Samantha. Witches, warlocks, incantations, and spells did not come close to the biggest trick (or treat) of the show: Samantha would seamlessly come up with an instinctive and innovative way to wow the clients Darrin and his two-faced boss Larry had been working weeks on. In hindsight, it was not magic; Samantha, as a mother and housewife, was a member of the target audience for many of the products Darrin was trying to market.

Now that I have grown up (a little) and learned (a little), I realize that the business - especially marketing--has to have a balance of strategy and spontaneity. In technology, we see it all the time: carefully planned new product launches are tempered with relatively quick decisions to acquire or sell products. When Facebook bought Instagram from Kevin Systrom for one billion dollars, it broke the internet. In hindsight, it was a good move but at the time it seemed too risky.

I don't recommend making any billion dollar decisions on the fly. However, I think there is a bit of room for impulse in the business decision-making process. What say ye?

Have a Happy,

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