We recently asked Michael Townsley to share his thoughts on better decision making.

Associate Professor Michael Townsley is the Head of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, at Griffith University — the largest group of criminology researchers in Australia. He has previously held research positions at the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, University College London and University of Liverpool. Michael’s research interests include crime analysis and crime prevention, with an emphasis on spatial patterns. He completed his PhD in 2001 on spatial and temporal distributions of residential burglary. Some of the problems he has worked on include maritime piracy, decision making of insurgents in Iraq, clandestine meth labs, offender mobility and the journey to crime, alcohol-related violence, drug operations to name a few.

What is your favourite, or most used, inspirational quote?

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” Jerzy Gregorek, a Polish man who went from being an alcoholic to winning four World Weightlifting Championships.

When was a time you were at your decision making best?

During the early stages of COVID. I told my team (I lead a University department) their primary job was to look after our students, and my job was to look after them. I stopped doing all busy work and spent the majority of my working day checking in with my team members and trying to remove obstacles in their way. Having a clarity of a single objective (look after your team) was enormously liberating for me.

Who inspires you? Why?

There’s so many candidates. I think I’ll pick Bill Gates. He was tremendously successful in building Microsoft from nothing and maintaining its dominance. And has devoted his second act to philanthropic pursuits and public health initiatives.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to be a better decision maker?

Control your environment as much as you can. Try to slow things down. You will make better decisions the less pressure you put yourself under. Others will impose their timetable on you. Resist with all your might!

What are you reading/watching at the moment?

Yellowstone. It is a TV drama set in a sixth generation cattle ranch in Montana, which is under constant threats by land developers and Native American community. Kevin Costner plays the patriarch of the family, who is a less than brilliant parent.

What is the most effective strategy you use for keeping your Ape (your emotional reactive state) in check?

I acknowledge how insecure I and everyone else is. I remind myself that impulsivity is a killer for good decision making, so it is better to delay decision making if possible.

What type of decision maker are you?

I’m a comfort seeking activist. That’s the good one, right?


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