Season 2, Episode 5: Binary is Basic

Stop living your life like a computer because you’re not one.

Season 2, Episode 5: Binary is Basic

Don’t waste your time with black-and-white decisions. David helps you look beneath the surface and challenge your preconceived notions to make better decisions for your business on this episode of The Buck Stops Here.

Show Notes

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Show Transcript


Binary is basic, so, stop living your life like you’re a computer because you’re not one. That and more on this episode of The Buck Stops Here.



We’ve entitled this episode called Binary is Basic. For those of you out there who are listening, computers originally were created using vacuum tubes, and vacuum tubes had little light bulbs in them. And so the bulbs either turn on or off. An on represents a one and off represents a zero. So, with computers, things exist and vary what are called binary takes. You’re either on or you’re off. That’s how it makes decisions. Now, eventually we’ll invent quantum computers and DNA computers, and they’ll have a concept of maybe, but for right now, we don’t have them. But that’s a computer. That is a machine. You are not a machine, no matter how much you’d like to pretend, as a business owner, that you might be one. You’re an unstoppable, impenetrable force. You’re a tower under yourself and you cannot be hurt by anything. And decisions are simply boiled down to a set of factors; A or B, or A plus B equals C. But the fact of the matter is that almost any decision you as a business owner need to be focusing on comes down to things that are not simply binary decisions, not a yes no.



You should be looking at things that are yes, no, and maybe. At the end of the day, anything that’s a yes no decision, you should not probably be wasting your time with, as a business owner. Or here’s a pro tip, time yourself on it. If it’s a yes no decision and you have the factors you need to make the decision, literally put a stopwatch on it and make that decision in a minute or less. I guarantee you, your first decision is almost always correct, and your gut is going to take in some of those non-economic factors. We talked about that in another episode of The Buck Stops Here, it’s going to take in some of those non economic factors when making that decision.



I just want to get this out of the way early on in this episode, and this is the no B.S. segment. Managers, owners, visionaries of companies should not be spending their time on simple binary decisions. If it’s black and white, delegate that stuff to someone else that you trust to make that decision. You do not have time to waste or the energy to waste on those simple binary efforts.



What you need to be looking at is everything else. Anything that exists on a continuum is where you need to be spending your time. And if you find yourself spending a lot of time in A and B decisions, you’re either micromanaging or you’re not applying your time effectively. Get those things out of your decision making process and have someone else deal with those things. Maybe if they’re really big decisions, involve yourself in them, but other than that, don’t waste your time on it. Should we hire garbage company A or B to do that? They’re picking up your garbage. They both do it at the same time. If there’s not a lot of factors into making that decision, give that decision to someone else. Remember, your time is valuable and time is money. Do not waste your time on these things, because that could be a lot of head trauma, and you’re not doing the big decisions that are why you’re getting paid the big money. Those big decisions exist in a continuum and they’re more factors to consider, and that’s where you should be spending your very limited and very valuable time. So, we’re going to talk about the dangers of binary thinking today.



The danger of thinking they’re either with us or against us. In America, one of the things we talk about all the time is we have this hero worship thing we fall into in America. You’re either a winner or a loser. It’s one of the challenges, sometimes. We think about things in these very, very binary, polarizing methods. If someone hasn’t succeeded in life, it’s because they’re losers. It’s because they somehow have not risen to the occasion and to become a champion or whatever it is. The company I work for likes to say we build champions, but champions either win or they learn. That doesn’t mean you can’t lose, but we want to get rid of the language of losing in the vocabulary. I’m going to bring this back to why this is dangerous in binary decision making. You have a set of preconceived notions or filters that you see life through. Stereotypes, if you will. And you make decisions all the time on autopilot using these stereotypes. The fact is, a lot of your stereotypes are wrong, and they allow us to make very, very binary decision making. For example, someone is down on their luck.



They’re either a winner or a loser in America. Now, in Victorian England, they would call people, a little bit over 130 years ago or so, those people were considered unfortunates. I want you to listen to this podcast for a minute and think about somebody who’s down on their luck and think, but for a twist of fate, there go I. What if for a different set of circumstances, you could have ended up in that exact same scenario? Are they still losers, or is there now something you can relate to and look differently in your decision making process? That’s why I say that nothing really exists in a category of A and B in binary decision making, and there’s some dangers to this. And I’m going to talk about why, in this episode, we’re going to talk about a few things. We’re going to talk about how nothing exists in black and white. We’re going to talk about how deal breakers preclude you from making and seeing other opportunities. And the last thing we’re going to talk about is you need to examine where your preconceived notions come from. Are they valuable to your decision making process or are they damaging the underlying underpinning of what you’re doing?



And we’re going to talk about a lot of this from the hiring perspective. It’s one of the things that people have asked in the podcast repeatedly. They’d like to know more information about hiring. This is a perennial evergreen thing for people. They want to know all the time, how can I make better hiring decisions? And then what does that look like? So, we’re going to talk about that and how binary decision making, yes and noes, can lead to very bad outcomes, and how your survivability and profitability as a company can be increased by adding in some diversity in your decision making, looking at things in these shades of gray. So, the first thing we’re going to talk about is, I like to bring things back to the biological sciences sometimes, we’re going to talk about evolution for a minute. Okay? So, it turns out genetic diversity increases survivability of a species. It turns out that all the bananas you eat today are not the bananas, the Cavendish banana, that existed over 100 years ago. And in fact, the Cavendish is considered a very flavorful, good banana. And everything today, the bananas that we all love and enjoy are considered a garbage banana at that point in time.



What happened is there wasn’t a lot of genetic diversity in that crop in the Cavendish banana over 100 and something years ago, and there was a massive fungus that took them all out. It’s one of the problems with not having a lot of genetic diversity. In the biological sciences, this means that when something comes along, it affects all of you. And you no longer have the ability to survive. A case in point is the American alligator. They were an endangered species many, many, many years ago, and they’re now off the endangered species list. However, there is not a large amount of genetic diversity in their biological pool. They got down to less than, I think, 10,000 breeding pairs at one point in time in America. They were overhunted. And what happened was that got rid of a lot of the genetic diversity. And so they’re coming back as a species, but they are literally one illness or something away from surviving. So, how does this matter in your business? And we’ll talk about the binary decision making and how that ends up with a lack of diversity in your organizations. When you end up with diversity in your workforce, not just diversity in ethnicity, age, background, religious affiliation, once you get rid of all those things, those things do help provide a diversity of opinions.



But one of the things that’s really, really important that you need to think about in your business is that having a diversity of opinion or having diversity of ideas allows you to see other opportunities and look beneath the surface of the water and see what else is out there. When you have a lot of people who believe the same things, who come from the same backgrounds and same walks of life, you don’t end up with a lot of different perspectives. And those perspectives are incredibly important when you’re hiring or making decisions or anything else. And so what we’ve done in life is that it turns out that stereotypes, though they’re wrong, are a social construct and a shortcut to decision making. We offload our ideas a lot of times to these binary things. It’s either yes, no, it’s a deal breaker or it’s not. And I’ll bring in one case that’s caught attention nationally in the past few years. So, for a lot of companies, depending on the position or the organization, they have a certain GPA they will hire at if you come out of college, and a lot of them won’t even entertain hiring you if you don’t have a college degree.



Now in America, there are over 70 million people in the workforce right now who are what they call STARs. It stands for skilled through alternative routes. It’s the idea of the school of hard knocks, or you learned your stuff somewhere else. So, binary decision making. You’re going to hire someone. They do not have a college degree. They obviously go in the out pile. Now, you may have too many resumes coming in. You may not be able to make decisions because you have too much to deal with. So, you created a set of shorthands. Ah, they don’t have this GPA, if they don’t have this particular degree, they don’t have this particular thing, we’re not going to even consider them. And if you can boil someone down to just one factor as a yes no, then you’ve basically said, I am a computer. There’s no human element in my decision making factor. If I’m only going to hire above a certain GPA, what about that student who put themselves through college and took care of their special needs family member and worked full-time, and they have a 2.9 GPA, and you only hired a 3.0. Is the person who has a 3.1 quantifiably better than the person with that set of life experiences and that diverse set of ideas and background than a 2.9?



Let’s take it a step further. What if they don’t have a college degree at all? And this is where I’m going to bring up Google. For a long time, Google, and I’m not sure if that’s currently the policy there, Google would not promote you to a management role unless you were a computer engineer. Think about that. And there are some several really famous startups that came out of people who left Google because they couldn’t get promoted, who went out and started other companies, in some cases even competing with Google, because they could not get promoted because they weren’t computer engineers. Does a computer engineer make you smarter than the accountant on your staff? Does it make it smarter than the lawyer on your staff? Does it make you smarter than these other people? Does it make you make better decision making factors? Now, it could be valuable. It could be valuable because you’re a technology company, but you need to examine those considerations very deeply before you just make it a deal breaker. You have to decide if that’s something that you want to do as a company. Do you want to do that? Or are you looking for people who do these other things?



It’s one of the reasons why when you’re hiring and you have a computer literally cull through tons and tons and tons of different application based on a set of keywords is boiling people down to a formula. Now, two things I want to say on this. Number one, there can be a time component to that that’s very possible. My company, in particular, does not generally hire you if you only apply through a job board. This is a secret that we do. We bury into the application process itself a place where they have to say we will only consider the application if you go to the website and apply through the website. There’s a whole important set of reasons, but this is a deal breaker for us, and we put this in place for a reason. Does this mean we’re going to be missing good candidates who only apply through the job board? Yes. But we thought about this. We examined this very heavily. We said, okay, what do we want? We want people in our organization who pay attention to details, who read the directions, who look at the required, and yes, that is a hoop you have to jump through.



Will we lose people because we’re doing that? Yes, we recognize that and we are aware of that, and we’re okay with that. But we did this for three reasons. Number one, I want people who read the directions. Number two, it means that my company will stand out versus other people. You’re going to go to our website and find out more of what we do. And number three, it shows that somebody’s done at least the bare level of work that we want to spend our time interviewing them and possibly doing those things. Now, this is a very reasoned and thoughtful process. There’s a reason we do that. I recommend other companies do that, too, if that’s the person you want. If you just need warm bodies doing other things in your warehouse, that may not be the criteria you hire under. But for us, that is a core value we’re aligning things up with that makes sure that that person is generally more qualified for what we do. Is it a deal breaker? Absolutely. Is it something that makes things black and white? Well, no. We’ve literally taken in the factor some of those other criteria and considerations we’re looking for.



Does that mean we’ll lose applicants? Absolutely. Does it hurt us? No, it means we actually don’t waste as much time on some of the things. But you have to be making sure if you have a deal breaker, is there a valid reason for that? Is it based on a bias that you have? You may have deal breakers or stereotypes you created for yourself and your hiring process or who you’re going to promote in your organization that you don’t even realize that you have. Have other people on your team ask them, is there a valid reason for this? What are the pros and cons of this? Listen to our podcast about economic decision-making, and see if there’s stuff you’re missing below the waterline and you’ve boiled things down to a binary decision making process. Understand that, at the end of the day, having a more diverse talent pool to pull from with different backgrounds and histories generally make you more survivable as a company. It also allows you to look at and hire other people like that who might exist in that situation. One of the things you need to understand is that some cases your biases might be illegal.



So, be very careful. They might be immoral, they might be unethical, and in some cases they might be illegal. So, this is why sometimes you have an HR department and say, we’re not hiring this person based on this. What does this look like? And by the way, you need to look at your biases really, really hard and decide what they look like. With this, at the end of the day, you are going to make decisions. But when you boil things down to an A or B, you’re missing the C through Z opportunities that could exist to you as a company. This podcast is a little bit shorter, but what I’m bringing to you is a few things I want you to think about. Remember, nothing exists in black and white. Nothing that you as a business owner or captain of your own ship is dealing with really should be these black and white issues. You should be dealing with things in the shades of gray. You want to understand that any deal breakers that you put in place for your organization or your company will preclude you from seeing other opportunities. And the last thing you want to do is you want to thoroughly examine where your preconceived notions and hard and fast rules come from.



I heard years ago, I had a business manager who told me once, he says, when you’re green, you grow, when you’re ripe, you rot. And he meant it in the context of sales. When people are new, they’re out doing things that you suffer from the curse of knowledge. The further you get into it, then you’ll overthink things and get out of them. I think one of the problems is the longer you’ve been in business, the more likely you are to ossify, to become hardened, to become hard stone. It’s the first time you have to really seriously agonize over firing an employee is the hardest. And later in your career, you get a little callous with that. I’m suggesting to you that maybe the callousness is something you need to look at breaking open. You need to look at removing the ossification from that. That is why people become old and fossilized and die is because they don’t think about new opportunities and things like that. Because what we do is a shortcut as we build our companies and as we grow our organizations, and as we move through life, we literally handicap ourselves with a lot of baggage that we should have left at the curb years ago.



So, really think about those things. Think about what your company does. Your company culture will invariably change over time. New generations will enter the workforce. They’re going to have different diversity and different ideals. They’re going to bring different skills and abilities to the table. And you may not value those people because you exist in a different generation. You exist in a generation where work was all that mattered. Why are they so worried about their life-work balance? Just do the job. Shut up and do the work. Realize that you’re now the old guard and that maybe doesn’t work for you. It’s going to make it really hard for you to hire and engage and get the best talent. You need to recognize that this binary decision-making- The young kids don’t work. Young kids are getting so upset about this Elvis character. It’s a whole thing. Why am I bringing that up? Because that was a whole thing. Elvis was getting everybody sexed up. Things were a problem in the 1950s. Elvis was a problem. Same stories told time and time again as people go through the ages. Every generation after you is worse than a generation before.



That thinking is very binary, and it’s fatal to good decision making and could cause problems in your organization. And if you have that decision making in your closet right now, you need to sweep it out, you need to get rid of it. I need you to realize that you’re not a machine, you’re not a robot, and that set of baggage that’s letting you have these deal breakers in your life and in your company is probably holding you back. With that, that brings us to an end of another episode of The Buck Stops Here business podcast. I’ve been your host, David Maples. If you like this podcast, please give us a thumbs up or like it or share review online. If you’re looking to listen to this podcast, you can find us on Google, Apple Podcasts, or on Spotify. With that, have a good week. Remember, get rid of the binary decision-making. It’s not helping you. You shouldn’t be spending time on it anyway. Thank you. Have a good week.


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