Let the Best Ideas Win

Previously, a BEAM blog post (refer to the Originality post) covered how to come up with good ideas. This blog post is about how to double-check that your ideas are actually good. When it comes to important decisions, it might not be best to simply vote and go with the majority.

In his TED talk, investor Ray Dalio, founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates (one of the world's largest hedge funds), spoke of how computers, open-mindedness, and a certain management style can help “stress test” decisions and ideas.

Dalio was able to come up with clear lessons from his mistakes. He wrote these lessons into computers as algorithms. We humans often having conflicting versions of ourselves: an intellectual version in the prefrontal cortex and an emotional version in the amygdala. Computers, on the other hand, think faster and less emotionally, so he used them to help him with rational decision making on investments.

Dalio also wanted to “stress test” ideas with the smartest people who disagree with him. It is very healthy to hear out people who stand on the other side of your views. You may realize you have overlooked some points, or you might actually be assured that your views are better supported than theirs.

To “stress test” ideas in a corporate environment, Dalio needed to design a system so that a newly graduated college student could easily offer him, an experienced CEO, constructive criticism. He had a company-wide online discussion platform (with some special analytics built in) to allow for open dialogue. What he was encouraging is called, in his words, idea meritocracy.

It is not a democracy, where every view gets put in the picture with equal weight. It also is not an autocracy, with leaders and followers. It is having the best ideas win.

Chase Robbins