A decision tree is something where you test something and depending on whether the answer is yes or no (from the outcome of the test) it leads you in a different direction depending on the answer.
Getting sick and seeing a doctor is where I run into decision trees the most. We get frustrated when a loved one is sick. It takes the doctors days to figure out what is wrong. They run a lot of tests. Take a lot of x-rays, cat scans, or mri images before they can say what is happening. It’s because they are following a decision tree. A patient’s symptoms lead them to test for A first. Then depending on the result of the test that might confirm A, they then test for B if A is not present. They keep going until they find out what’s wrong.
We don’t use decision trees very much in our daily life. We are too impatient and jump around a lot. Our mind wanders. Our distractions are many. So many things sound like great things to do or have happen.
Decision trees are boring and take time. We don’t have the patience. We think we know it all. Above everything else we always think our thinking is correct even when the outcome is bad.
In the business world, the concepts of a lean start up and customer/product market fit have been reduced to an ever changing unique decision tree for each company that demands testing to learn something first before deciding what is best to do next.
What is powerful about this approach is not the decision tree itself but rather creating the tests and getting the feedback to evolve and change your path depending on what you learn each step of the way.
The old saying of “learning from your mistakes” is another way of saying that decision trees can be good for us. What happens when we learn from our mistakes? We choose differently the next time. We go down a different path.
Learning from the feedback we get and then changing our direction or choices is damn hard. Think of habits and the need to change them. Beginning to understand the power that comes with the realization that testing for a different choice or different path could lead us in a better direction is the first step that each of us has the power to make.