Tilting an argument when both sides are in fine balance ultimately leads to a decision. Sometimes this could be a very difficult proposition, especially when very high stakes are involved.

The best examples are judgments made in Supreme Courts, the cases by themselves are difficult and that is precisely the reason they qualify to be admitted in the apex court.

50% of the top 20 U.S. Supreme Court judgments, where the decision is made through voting by the nine judges, were close calls stemming from a 5-4 split; path breaking judgments, that changed the course of history, have come from tilting the outcome that otherwise was in fine balance.

Think of the famous Miranda V. Arizona, 1963 where the case was about deciding ” Prisoners must be advised of their rights before being questioned by police” and the ruling was in favor of the advice, which was a 5-4 split decision.

Or think of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010, where the ruling was in favor of “Corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts in elections”, that was decided by a 5-4 split decision.

Rarely the outcomes are a clear majority outcome, like a 7-2, the cases which go to Supreme Court are that difficult that a clear winning argument seems illusive.

As we get closer to a winning argument, the more difficult it becomes to find the tilt or the most conclusive evidence that could steer the case in a particular direction.

The Miranda case had the winning argument delivered by Justice Brennan that the root issue was not the role the society must assume in prosecuting individuals for crime, but in the restraints that society must assume in prosecuting individuals for crime. Had the court focused on the former, “role” instead of “restraint”, the outcome could have been very different.

In the Citizen United V. federal Election Commission 2010, the winning arguments mostly were part of Justice Kennedy’s line of thought that ” If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech” and that the First Amendment did not distinguish between the Corporations and the media. The final nail was the argument, “the government had no place in determining whether large expenditures distorted an audience’s perceptions”. Much of what was in evidence in the case attracted equal number of logically sound views but were diametrically negating each other.

Court judgments cannot risk lives or for that matter leave things to chance events. They remain evidence based but the final decision is provided by a tilt that could go above the boundaries of evidence.

But in business where success and failures could be based on the ability to take risks, the arguments alone do not tilt a business call taken and therefore they are not entirely based on evidence at hand.

Taking a difficult and uncertain path resembles such acts of reasoning where there is logic on both sides of the argument. A strategic choice framework actually could be built on this multi-faceted and equally likely scenario where one could be forced to a status quo.

Challenging a status quo is that leap of faith for that single argument or absence of an argument, where a lot is put at stake with one single forceful belief that it must be the only way.

Tilting an argument in a strategic choice framework would need enormous courage in believing a line of thought, it cannot be based on circumstantial evidence but on deep rooted beliefs; sometimes absence of a clear reason could pave the way for a particular line of thought.

Many of the calls that the entrepreneur takes is based on arguments that he or she had heard through, but many actually are forceful tilts that he went into believing that there is more to it than is actually evidenced; evidenced based approach here is up to a point.

From acquiring a business to diversifying, from entering a new market to changing a product line, or for that matter getting out of a business to buy another are all calls taken where the fine balance between both sides of the argument must have been tilted by some very different urge.

It is not always that this urge to do something different than what was offered by sound advice was the right action at the beginning. But here management of the situation is also important; a right call with a wrong follow through could make it worse while a wrong call corrected by the right follow through could rectify the situation.

Being nimble and taking vulnerability as a virtue could be good. Where future is very hazy and the path is not known, it is good to steer with an open mind. The call to take on a journey is only correct when the journey makes it to the destination.

Being unreasonable in business decisions is not uncommon therefore.

 

 

Tilting an argument: Difficult decisions in business are not always evidence based

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