A sanity check is a back-to-basics validation that a decision, calculation or condition has some chance of being correct. It is possible to become so involved in a complex decision, calculation or procedure that you miss something completely obvious that invalidates your result. A sanity check doesn't check that something is right, just that it is somewhat reasonable. The following are illustrative examples.
DecisionsA professional is offered a job at a firm and thinks for an entire week about whether to accept. They consider tradeoffs such as salary, work hours, office location, perks, professional opportunities and stress. She decides to take the job. As a last step, she performs a sanity check by asking herself "does this feel right?" She decides it doesn't feel right because she feels the new firm doesn't reflect her values.
CalculationsAn investor does a compound interest calculation to determine that a $100,000 investment will be worth $755,090 in five years. They perform a sanity check by asking themselves if it makes any sense. They decide the result is far too large and return to find a mistake in their calculation.
TestingThe term sanity check is commonly used for basic tests that are run before real tests. For example, a software developer might make sure a new product release is up and functional before releasing it to a testing team.
Maintenance An aircraft maintenance team does a final sanity check after each maintenance to ensure the equipment looks right, no tools were left behind and that the maintenance procedures made sense.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about decision making.
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A list of decision making techniques.
The observation that groups may make collective decisions that are viewed as wrong or irrational by each individual member of the group.
A complete guide to the decision making process.
The difference between rational thought and logic.
The common types of uncertainty in decision making and strategy.
A definition of information costs with examples.
A definition of reverse brainstorming with examples.
The definition of decision fatigue with examples.
Taking a position that you do not necessarily agree with for the purposes of argument.
The definition of paradox of choice with examples.
Overview of preserving ambiguity.
Strategic dominance is your best choice in a given situation.
The definition of maximax with examples.
The definition of indecision with examples.
A list of group decision strategies and techniques.
The definition of normative decision making with examples.
The definition of non-decision with examples.
Examples of decisions made with different decision making approaches.
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