Stochastic Decision Making



Stochastic Decision Making

Stochastic decision making, or random chance, works well for low-stakes decisions when options are well-defined and all possible outcomes appear equal.


Slow Fast
Independent Collaborative
Hierarchical Egalitarian
Private Transparent

Flip a coin.

Taken from game theory, a stochastic solution is one where you choose randomly from a variety of comparable options. The process can be as private as a coin-flip or as public as a roulette wheel; the point is not to waste time doing deep dives when any of the options appear to work equally well.


  • Fast and potentially fun


  • Dangerous unless options are well-vetted for equivalent outcomes 

The Process

  1. Gather your options
  2. Vet them to make sure they are well-defined and comparable
  3. Add them to a randomization method (e.g. coin flip or wheel)
  4. Play! (er, decide)

Avoid These Common Traps

Falling prey to the either/or fallacy
The either/or fallacy is a cognitive bias whereby we think in only absolutes and frame every decision as only two possibilities. When making a random choice, don't skip brainstorming options with your group.

Rejecting the process after not getting what you want
It's especially easy to question making a random choice when you don't like the outcome. Be sure to agree as a group, before deciding, that you'll commit to the final decision whatever it may be.

Alternative Models

If you absolutely can't live with the way your stochastic cookie crumbled, you can take it back and decide autocratically.

Or if a single group member is especially troubled by the result and has unique expertise or insight, consider delegating the decision.