Being Process-Oriented Means…

Thinking process over outcomes is one of those simple, yet difficult pieces of advice that is useful in many areas of your life. It’s difficult because we’re so obsessed keeping score and thinking in binary right or wrong terms. Since luck and randomness play such a large role in a complex world it’s more important to distinguish between good or bad decisions not being right or wrong every single time.

The first step is designing a system to make good decisions again and again. I think it helps to define what a good process is in the first place.

I was recently sent a copy of 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick. I’m not exactly an architecture connoisseur, but Frederick had a great description of the learning process involved:

Certainties for architecture students are few. The architecture curriculum is a perplexing and unruly beast, involving long hours, dense texts, and frequently obtuse instruction. If the lessons of architecture are fascinating (and they are), they are also fraught with so many exceptions and caveats that students can easily wonder if there is anything concrete to learn about architecture at all. […]

The resulting open-endedness provides students a ride down many fascinating new avenues, but often with a feeling that architecture is built of quicksand rather than on solid earth.

The way you get around this “open-endedness” is by being process-driven, not outcome or product-driven. Frederick explains:

Being process-oriented, not product-driven, is the most important and difficult skill for a designer to develop.

Being process-oriented means:

1. Seeking to understand a design problem before chasing after solutions.

2. Not force-fitting solutions to old problems onto new problems.

3. Removing yourself from prideful investment in your projects and being slow to fall in love with your ideas.

4. Making design investigations and decisions holistically (that address several aspects of a design problem at once) rather than sequentially (that finalize one aspect of a solution before investigating the next).

5. Making design decisions conditionally — that is, with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward a final solution.

6. Knowing when to change and when to stick with previous decisions.

7. Accepting as normal the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do.

8. Working fluidly between concept-scale and detail-scale to see how each informs the other.

9. Always asking “What if…?” regardless of how satisfied your are with your solution.

I love this description. The comparison of process versus product is extremely relevant to the financial services industry where it can be tough for clients to tell the difference between useful advisors and glorified salespeople. Here’s my attempt at putting these nine issues into a context of financial advice:

1. Never prescribe before first diagnosing a problem.

2. Don’t focus on fighting the last war and avoid hindsight bias.

3. Strong opinions, weakly held.

4. Tactics are over-rated. Think in terms of a comprehensive plan rather than always focusing on the individual parts.

5. Understanding what you’ll do in advance by making high probability decisions is how you prepare for a wide range of market environments.

6. This is one of the hardest aspects of investing — am I being disciplined in something that’s not working right now or stubborn about something that’s not going to work anymore?

7. It’s okay to admit we don’t always know exactly how things are going to work out. That’s half the battle.

8. It’s important to define your overall philosophy to see how it can guide your actual strategy.

9. You have to remain humble, especially when things are going well because no one knows what’s going to happen or how long success will last.

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

Further Reading:
What They Don’t Teach You in Business School

Now here’s what I’ve been reading lately:


This content, which contains security-related opinions and/or information, is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in any manner as professional advice, or an endorsement of any practices, products or services. There can be no guarantees or assurances that the views expressed here will be applicable for any particular facts or circumstances, and should not be relied upon in any manner. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment.

The commentary in this “post” (including any related blog, podcasts, videos, and social media) reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the Ritholtz Wealth Management employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded the views of Ritholtz Wealth Management LLC. or its respective affiliates or as a description of advisory services provided by Ritholtz Wealth Management or performance returns of any Ritholtz Wealth Management Investments client.

References to any securities or digital assets, or performance data, are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others.

The Compound Media, Inc., an affiliate of Ritholtz Wealth Management, receives payment from various entities for advertisements in affiliated podcasts, blogs and emails. Inclusion of such advertisements does not constitute or imply endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation thereof, or any affiliation therewith, by the Content Creator or by Ritholtz Wealth Management or any of its employees. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. For additional advertisement disclaimers see here:

Please see disclosures here.