Why Chaos Makes Good Decisions

If you want to make the best decisions, seek productive chaos.

Adem Turgut
5 min readFeb 13, 2023
Chaos and Decision Making

Making smart decisions is critical in today’s fast-paced world. Traditional decision-making processes don’t cut it. In this blog, we examine the flaws of the traditional approaches and present an alternative: the concept of Idea Meritocracy. A decision-making philosophy that promotes transparency, open-mindedness, and critical thinking. It assumes that the best ideas should win regardless of who comes up with them. We all need a healthy and productive chaos that allows the best ideas to rise to the top.

Decision-Making is NOT a Democracy

Involving everyone in decision-making can trigger lengthy discussions and debates. This slows the decision-making process. This can be particularly problematic in situations where quick decision-making is essential. Also, individuals may feel pressure to conform to the opinions of the majority. Rather than expressing their own opinions, people can fall victim to “groupthink.” The group makes suboptimal decisions because they prioritize consensus over critical thinking.

The most damning flaw with democratic decision-making is its inherent lack of accountability. If five people made the decision, it isn’t easy to hold someone responsible for the outcome of the decision.

Decision Dictatorships Fail


The “Hippo” is the highest-paid person’s opinion. This is the idea that the most influential opinions come from the highest-paid people. This may also be a proxy for the most senior person in the room. This can be a problem because:

  1. It can lead to a lack of diversity of thought and a disregard for the opinions of others.
  2. High pay does not equate to knowledge in a particular subject matter.
  3. The “Hippo” mentality can stifle creativity, as it may ignore better ideas from lower-paid employees.

Relying on the highest-paid person’s opinion can limit the potential of an organization. It results in sub-par decisions and minimizes the contribution of all its employees.

Ron Johnson, the former head of retail at Apple and creator of the successful Apple Stores, fell victim to the “Hippo” mentality. Johnson left Apple to become the CEO of J.C. Penney, a large chain of department stores. However, he failed to realize that the context was different. He disregarded existing data and did not conduct any tests on his strategy, even though this was a common practice in retail. As a result, his changes did not sit well with customers, and his strategy was unsuccessful.

Johnson often told employees that there were only two kinds of people, “believers” and “skeptics.” He discouraged employees from speaking up about their concerns. He created a culture where employees felt afraid to voice their opinions. As a result, his staff held back on giving him bad news (the evidence that his strategy was failing). Johnson’s strategy resulted in a $1B drop in revenues (about 25%) and a halving of the company’s market capitalization.

The Fallacy of Authority

A key issue in democratic decision-making and HIPPO is the tendency to ignore data. Rather than seeking the best idea backed by evidence, decisions are made based on some perceived authority.

The “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacy. It occurs when someone tries to support their argument by citing an authority figure. This is in place of providing evidence or reasoning. It’s when someone tries to prove their point by saying, “I am an expert” or “an expert believes this”.

Using an appeal to authority can be problematic because:

  1. The expert can be wrong. Just because someone is considered an expert doesn’t mean they are always right.
  2. Different authorities can have conflicting opinions. In some cases, experts or authorities may hold different opinions on a subject.
  3. The authority may not be an expert on the topic in question. An authority in one field may not be an expert in another, so their opinion may not be relevant or reliable.

Generally, it’s important to consider the evidence and reasoning behind an idea. rather than just accepting it because someone with authority says so.

The Idea Meritocracy. Letting the Best Ideas Win

Decisions should not be made democratically. You must also protect yourself from the HIPPO scenario and be aware of the “appeal to authority” fallacy. Instead, focus on an environment where the best ideas can be put forward and debated.

Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Capital, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. He introduced the notion of an “Idea Meritocracy.” This management philosophy is based on the belief that the best ideas should win, regardless of who comes up with them. This belief promotes transparency, open-mindedness, and the value of challenging one’s convictions. It also encourages employees to communicate their ideas.

Here are some steps that can help:

  1. Encourage open communication. Encourage employees to share their ideas and actively listen to them. Create a safe environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
  2. Evaluate ideas objectively. Develop a process for evaluating ideas based on merit rather than the source. Consider factors such as feasibility, impact, and risks when evaluating ideas.
  3. Provide equal opportunities. Ensure that everyone, regardless of their seniority, has the opportunity to share their ideas for evaluation.
  4. Foster a culture of experimentation. Encourage employees to experiment and try new ideas. This can help encourage people to continue to share new ideas.
  5. Reward good ideas: Recognize and reward people whose ideas are implemented. This can help to motivate employees to continue to share their best ideas.

The risk with this philosophy is that, eventually, a decision needs to be made. After all the communication, evaluation and experimentation, someone must decide the way forward. This must be the person that is accountable for the decision. This requires that the people sharing ideas do so with a fundamental understanding:

The right to an opinion is different from the right to a decision.

This understanding is critical for all parties involved (the decision-makers and everyone else). It prevents ideas and opinions from turning into ideological debates.

Healthy and Productive Chaos

We make the best decisions in productive chaos. In an environment of open debate, where everyone has a voice. Rather than placing bias on where an opinion comes from, we must evaluate an idea based on its merit. This is only possible with a culture of dialogue and a yearning for data and evidence.

Your company needs an Idea Meritocracy, not a democracy. This requires everyone to understand that a right to an opinion is not the right to a decision. This prevents debates from turning into ideological flame wars. This is critical as it encourages decision-makers to seek the opinions of others.



Adem Turgut

CEO of SolveXia (Enterprise Process Automation), Writer and Efficiency Enthusiast