How Do You Judge How Good Something Is?

I’ve been shopping for a dress to wear to my younger daughter’s wedding. (I’ll call her YD because that’s definitely not her name.)

I have many criteria for a dress. Aside from flattering me, the dress has to work with my rollator. That means the dress can’t be chiffon. At OD’s (Older Daughter) wedding, I discovered the hard way that chiffon floats into the brakes. I had to lift the chiffon to walk. (There was a satin underskirt, so that was okay, but still.)

Was I happy about that? Not at all.

I’m determined to have different problems with this dress.

But that got me thinking about criteria, the way we judge the goodness of something. Here are some examples:

  • As we work with people, we judge interpersonal and other skills.
  • When we deliver something to other people, they judge what we delivered.
  • We judge staff at a restaurant, the quality of our online shopping experiences, and more.

We judge each other all the time.

With any luck, we have criteria for that judgment.

I have (possibly too many) criteria for the dress, but I often find we fool ourselves when it comes to criteria.

We think we have objective criteria and rank them. In my experience, the more expensive and the more the decision means to us, the more often we discover what we really want. That’s when our criteria change. We decide differently about how good something is.

Consider Your Previous Decisions

Think back to decisions you made for these purchases:

  • Relatively inexpensive and short-lived consequences, such as trying a new condiment or food. Or trying a new-to-you writer.
  • Possibly expensive with some medium-range consequences, such as changing how you worked. (That’s expensive because you learn as you proceed. We might need more time to learn.)
  • Relatively expensive and long-lived decisions, such as changing jobs, buying a vehicle, or finding a new place to live.

My default decision-making style is “find three reasonable alternatives and decide.” And I might not even apply that style to relatively inexpensive and short-lived consequences. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I don’t like the food or the book. Not so bad.

However, for medium-range and long-lived decisions, I slow down. That slowness allows me to re-examine the problem and make sure I’m solving the right problem and generating useful options.

For the dress example, as long as I can get the alterations done and look good in the pictures, I will likely be the only one who remembers how I walked in the dress. I’m sure no one else will remember. I don’t even have to wear that dress ever again. So the medium-range consequences are not very costly.

However, for expensive and long-lived decisions, I have learned that I discover more criteria as I look at my options. I also review the original criteria—sometimes, I throw out the original criteria and create new criteria.

Every time I change my criteria, I change my judgment about the relative goodness of this thing.

That’s one of the reasons your customers change their minds once they see what you create. You’re showing them options they might not have considered before. They change their criteria because now they see what’s possible.

I showed YD the dress I bought last night. She approved. Let’s hope it looks as good on me as it does online.

That’s the question this week: How do you judge how good something is?

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