Recent research into the workings of our brain has stirred the debate with respect to intuitive decision making versus rational decision making. How much we should rely on intuition when making difficult decisions? In his book, The Power of Intuition, Gary Klein suggests that 90 percent of critical decisions are made using our intuition. Even if only partially true, this would suggest that any approach to improved decision making should address this decision making style.

What do we mean when we talk about intuition?

When talking about intuition we are describing something that is known, perceived, understood or believed by instinct, feelings or nature without actual evidence, rather than by use of conscious thought, reason, or rational processes. This does not imply that intuitive decision making is irrational. Instead, we mean that the explanation for a choice is not directly available through conscious or logical thought. Brain research points to parts of the brain that work simultaneously with our conscious thought processes, acting as parallel intelligent systems. These systems will create responses (usually emotional) that compete with each other in determining a person’s response. When guided by experience with a previous pattern, these responses could be considered the result of intuition.

Problems with intuition and decision making

Intuition plays a significant role in the choices we make. Unfortunately, working alone, intuition can be the source of significant errors in the course of making a decision. Here are some of the problems with intuition that can be avoided with a structured decision making

  • Flawed information – Intuition decision making will respond quickly to inaccurate, insufficient, unreliable, or incomplete information based on patterns from previous experiences.
  • Short term emotional bias – Cognitive research has shown that even experts‘ decisions are influenced by unrelated emotions during the time of making a decision.
  • Insufficient consideration of alternatives – Intuition generally relies on pattern recognition and will point to solutions that have worked well with the current perceived pattern. This will limit considered options even though you may be dealing with a new decision situation that might require a novel or unique solution.
  • Prejudices – Emotions help form our intuition and can allow flawed experiences to overrule sound facts and evidence.
  • Lack of openness – Every person has a different experience base that provides the platform for their intuitions. Given that one’s intuition is not easily explained, it is difficult to use intuition in a group context.
  • Inappropriate application – People that have good experience, expertise, and intuition in one area can become overconfident and apply their intuition in an unfamiliar or unrelated area. This also includes using „Rules of Thumb“ that may not match the needs of the current decision context…..

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