How to make better decisions?

First-order thinking is fast, easy and straightforward. We know the immediate consequences, but Second-order thinking is more deliberate, thinking through time and making decisions.

How to make better decisions?

During the British colonial rule in India, the government found an increased number of venomous snakes in Delhi that were harmful to people. The government attempted to reduce the cobras' population by announcing a scheme. Each dead cobras brought to the office will be rewarded with incentives.

Initially, the scheme was a hit. People have shown interest to kill cobras and claiming rewards for their activities. The messages started to be widespread all across the cities. Later they started to breed snakes, slaughter them and bring them to the office to claim rewards.

The decision made by the officials leads to chaos.

The government anticipated only the immediate result of their actions.
They intend to solve one problem but unintentionally create another. They forget to think second-level or other consequences, which leads to a poor decision.

First-order thinking is fast, easy and straightforward. We know the immediate consequences, but Second-order thinking is more deliberate, thinking through time and making decisions.

Increasing our cognitive ability to think through the 1st, 2nd, or Nth order is a powerful tool for our thinking that could help us make better decisions.

The three ways to improve thinking capabilities:

1. Always ask, I made a decision "Then what's Next?"

2. What are the other consequences I will be facing in 10min, six months or a year from now by making that decision?

3. List down the consequences and review them more often to calibrate your thinking.

Second-order thinking is dense, time-consuming and comes with practice, but adopting this mental model will help us make better decisions in the long run.