S1E5 - TAF Decision Frame

In my last article I wrote about how founders make their decisions, validate business ideas. I described two opposite poles of decision making: A focus on thinking (e.g. in-depth analysis) and a focus on doing (e.g. trial and error). While both approaches are observable in the startup scene, there is a strong tendency toward a focus on doing. This involves producing timely results and making data-based decisions. In the following, I introduce a holistic perspective on decision making: the TAF Decision Frame.

German version of this article / deutschsprachige Fassung.

TAF is short for Think-Act-Feel. These three dimensions should be considered for good and sustainable decisions. To begin with, here is a brief definition of the three dimensions1.

Think: "to use the human capacity of cognition and judgment; to work with the mind; to consider"

Act: "to perform an action"

Feel: "to have a certain sensation from one's physical or mental state, circumstance, situation, or the like"

Decision making is always embedded in the environment, the context of the decision, as can be seen in the figure below.

The idea of considering these three dimensions is not new. I would like to point out Albert Ellis, pioneer of the cognitive behavioral therapy, as one of the intellectual fathers of this basic idea. The consideration of these three dimensions, which is useful in therapy, is also useful for the decision making of founders. Information can be gained from all three dimensions, by thinking, by acting and by the experienced feelings. So why ignore one of these dimensions and the valuable information from it?

In the figure below, I outline an example of how decision making can work with the TAF Decision Frame. Let's take my example. I wanted to create and publish content for founders. As a first step, I looked at what was out there on the topic and reflected on what perspective I could choose. At the time, I had read quite a bit of military literature for a publication. I wanted to learn how in a military context, decisions are made in the face of high uncertainty. The literature was quite insightful and some of the military concepts were also relevant to founders. So I wrote an initial article with military analogies and posted it on Linkedin. However, although the military analogies made sense to me in terms of content and it was easy for me to write the article, it didn't feel right in the end. Do I really want to dig further into military literature in the next few years? Do I really want that to be my focus? Rather no. Feedback on my article was also limited. I then asked for feedback and had good, critical discussions about the comparability of military and business. In military conflict, the story usually ends with one party losing. So there' s a loser and a winner. And although military terms are also frequently used in our business language (e.g., destroy the competitor, capture market share), in the business context there can also be several winners at the same time, e.g., in rapidly growing markets. Even cooperation between competitors, called Co-Opetition by Brandenburger & Nalebuff, makes sense in certain settings (e.g. a cooperation of competitors in the book market like Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel to the tolino alliance to compete against the Amazon Kindle. The combination of thinking, acting and feeling led me to the realization that the focus on military analogies was not right for me. While just thinking through it, it still felt right. My realization: sometimes you have to take action for feelings to kick in and the right decision to be made. Finally I went back to the start and thought about what I really want to do. The result of several TAF loops is this publication, which you are reading right now.

Although the acronym TAF might suggest it, the TAF Decision Frame does not have to begin with the dimension Think. The process could just as well start with a feeling, which is then reflected upon. While in the upper example the own thought was the starting point of a TAF loop, in the following example an impulse from the environment is the trigger of a decision process, namely the appearance of a competitor who acquires customers of the own enterprise. The situation meets the founder. A crucial switch is now performed in the dimension Think, because how the situation is thought about has a significant effect on which feelings arise, which in turn has an effect on the subsequent action. Therefore, pay attention to how you mentally react to situations that occur. In later seasons of this publication, I will elaborate clear directions on how founders can better perceive and influence their own thinking.

Illustration of the importance of the dimension “Think” on the dimension “Feel” and “Act” (Own Illustration, Prof. Thomas Metzler, PhD)

Sometimes an action has to be taken before a feeling about a situation can be developed, which I often experience in everyday life. The following example is intended to illustrate this and is probably familiar to some of you in various forms. The crucial point is that only when actions are taken do feelings arise. Often, a decision-making process can only then be completed. In this respect, I am a big fan of timely actions, but not rushed, but well thought out and also taking into account the feelings that arise in this regard. The TAF-Decision Frame should contribute to holistic decision making for founders.

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The three definitions of Think-Act-Feel are taken from the Duden online dictionary (2021).