One of the most important questions leaders face today is when to trust their instincts. Research shows that intuition helps make better decisions by giving us the confidence to make them. When making a decision, the elements to consider include objective, logical analysis and rational thinking yet we can’t get away from the influence of our instincts. They influence our emotions, our time and effort put into considering decisions, our discussions before coming to a conclusion. So, to protect our decisions against bias, we need to understand when to trust our gut feeling and how to assess the situation with sound reasoning. Here are four questions that can help you test your decision-making instincts.
Have we experienced an identical or similar situation?
Our subconscious works on pattern recognition so if you have appropriate memories to scan, your judgement is likely to be sound. Ask yourself, do you have enough experience to make a rational decision regarding the situation? Examine the uncertainities to help you assess and come to a conclusion that leads to success.
Did we get reliable feedback in past situations?
The only way to judge our previous experience is to find out if we learned the right lessons. Without reliable feedback, we may consider our judgements to be good even though further assessment may record them as bad. For instance, if we don’t have enough information regarding past experiences or if we have people filtering the information we receive, we may not get the feedback we need to come to a sound conclusion later.
Are the emotions we experienced in similar or related situations measured?
Our memories come with emotional tags, some more highly charged than others. When faced with a situation, if your mind brings forth emotions that are highly charged, this can cloud your judgement. By assessing the emotions experienced in past experiences, you can realise if they’re biasing your judgement. If so, analyse the doubts and concerns before coming to a final decision.
Are we likely to be influenced by unnecessary personal interests or attachments?
Imagine that your organisation is deciding on new locations for the office, one if which is convenient for you considering travel and distance. Your subconscious will surely have more positive emotional tags for the convenient location and for this exact reason, you should be cautious. Step away from the panel of decision makers if you are likely to be influenced by personal interests.
If you fail at answering any one of the questions, you need to think of a stronger decision method to reduce the risk of a bad outcome. While there are no universal safeguards, use methods like a stronger governance, additional experience and data, or more dialogue and challenge for a seamless process. Be thoughtful of your gut instinct but also realise that it might let you down, coming up with the best safeguard for each situation.