Intuition and decision making


Use your intuition for better decisions in uncertain situations

Have you recently had to make a big decision such as taking a new job, hiring a new employee, starting or ending a business or deciding where to invest? Did you feel you had enough information? How did you go about it?

In each of these situations, we make significant decisions without enough data to be certain about the best approach. Recently Agility3 hosted a workshop called “The Intuitive Executive”, and Andreas Wettstein shared how to make better decisions in uncertain situations, for example by using “Rules of Thumb” and “Somatic Markers”.

“Rules of Thumb are not Dumb.”In an uncertain world, simple rules of thumb can lead to better decisions than fancy calculations. Andreas suggested to look for simple solutions first using heuristics such as:

– Recommendation heuristic: Don’t ask your doctor what they recommend to you, ask what they would do if you were their mother, brother or child

– Beginners/Expert heuristic: If you are a beginner, take your time in deciding what to do. If you are an expert, don’t think too long about the next move.

– Communication heuristic: First listen, then speak

Heuristics help you focus on the key elements of a decision when you are surrounded by piles of confusing data.

The most interesting part of the presentation was a discussion of “Somatic Markers”or what we otherwise call intuition.

Antonio Damasio found that our body remembers and responds to emotions associated with particular situations and their outcomes. When making subsequent decisions, these somatic markers are called up such that we feel intuitively that some decisions are better than others. Over our lifetime, our body has gathered zettabytes of data. It is this subconscious data we draw on when using our intuition.

Andreas suggested a step-by-step process to use our intuition in decision making, building on the insights from our somatic markers:

  1. State the question
  2. Propose a solution
  3. Create two scales – one positive and one negative
  4. Make an emotional judgment of the solution on each of the two scales
  5. Adapt the solution until it is high (above 7) on the positive scale and low (below 4) on the negative scale.

In summary, simple rules of thumb and intuition through somatic markers can help you make better decisions. This is not to take away from the current trend of “Big Data”. Only to say that your body processes big data all the time. Don’t hesitate to build on this intuitive data in making decisions when you face your next uncertain situation.

Questions for consideration.

  1. Can you think of a situation when your intuition guided you in your decision making? Do you remember specific emotions or feelings in your body associated with this experience?
  2. Are you facing a decision today in a situation of uncertainty? Can you use heuristics or a process to listen to your intuition to build on the data your body has collected subconsciously?


Author: Janet Shaner

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