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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - How to Think With Your Gut -- This article has popped up on a number of other blogs recently, so I checked it out to see what the hubbub (sp?) is all about. The author, Thomas Stewart, points out where "intuitive" decision making may be particularly helpful...where situations are complicated, complex, or chaotic. He concludes with...
"Behind many of the errors in decision-making lies a yearning for the "right" answer: If only we get enough data, if only we examine all the alternatives, we'll know what to do. "People tend to spend all their time looking for rules," Snowden says. "They're kidding themselves." Situations in which rules supply all the answers are becoming an endangered species, in business and everywhere else. Command-and-control management went out with tail fins. Risks are both greater and less predictable. As companies outsource, globalize, and form alliances, they become more interdependent -- simultaneously competitor and customer, drastically increasing the complexity of their relationships. More and more, all you can do is admit that you simply don't know and go with your gut.

This may well feel uncomfortable. No one likes uncertainty, and it's going to be hard to explain to your boss a hunch you can't really articulate, even to yourself. To make things easier, you can teach yourself to tune in more attentively to intuition and to raise your gut IQ."
To some degree, this feels like a bit of a cop-out. Like the advice of those in the "agile" or "extreme" project management camp, it feels like an excuse to give up on analysis, and take fire-ready-aim actions when at least ready-fire-re-aim is the more appropriate course. To be fair, this is not what is being said, as a side-bar points out....
"Practice, practice. This is the most important thing. "Gut instinct is basically a form of pattern recognition," says Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor and psychologist. The more you practice, the more patterns you intuitively recognize. List decisions you've made that turned out right -- and mistakes, too. Then reconstruct the thinking. Where did intuition come in? Was it right or wrong? Are there patterns?"
Nine times out of ten, there probably will be patterns...patterns that have been hidden by blinding assumptions about the complications, complexity, and chaos of the situation. Those patterns are based, in my opinion, in at least a modicum of cause-and-effect logic. The confidence of "high-intuitives" comes from their ability to "feel" the logical connections. The fact that they haven't been exposed to the tools to verbalize their intuition does not mean those connections and patterns aren't there.

A simplified (but not simplistic) understanding of complex systems can go a long way to helping one's confidence in one's "gut," as will the willingness to step back a bit before being forced into a decision on the spot, when it will be enhanced with a "gut-check" in the form of a little logical thinking.

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