Monday, November 26, 2007

Decisions and Timing

One of the key aspects of decision-making is timing - judging when to commit yourself to something. Two contrasting styles/cultures can be identified
  • Delay / Hesitation / Procrastination
  • Haste / Impatience

Delay / Hesitation / Procrastination

It is always possible to find a reason (excuse) for deferring a decision.
  • More information needed
  • More options could be developed
  • More stakeholders consulted
Some individuals / organizations take ages to reach a decision.
  • Committees and subcommittees
  • Referrals and due diligence

Haste / Impatience

Because it is always possible to find a reason for delay, some people / organizations are inclined to dismiss such reasons, or are reluctant to take them seriously.
Some people / organizations are impatient with anything that inhibits action.
  • JFDI - "just xxx do it!"

Lacan's Theory of Logical Time


Lacan offers an interesting analysis of hesitation. Logical time is divided into three "moments".
  1. the instant of seeing
  2. the time for understanding
  3. the moment of concluding
Lacan illustrates this with a story of three prisoners. The prison governor shows them three green discs and two red ones. Then he puts a green disc on each prisoner's back. Each can see the disc on the other two prisoners' backs. The first one to deduce the colour of the disc on his own back will be granted his freedom.

The correct deduction appears to depend on the hesitation of the group. "If I had a red disk, then each of the other prisoners would not hesitate to deduce immediately that he was green. Since neither has done so, I must also have a green disk."

Delay, doubt, hesitation, procrastination, the ability to make nothing happen (ungeschehenmachen) - these characteristic features of decision-making are grounded by Lacan in the phenomenology of obsessional neurosis.

For a detailed discussion, see John Forrester, The Seductions of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Lacan and Derrida (Cambridge 1990), Chapter 8. The prisoner story can be found on p178 ff.


Related Post: Time to Act (Feb 2008)




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