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Thursday, 1 September 2011
Should you trust your gut?
Testing your decision-making instincts
Do you know when you should trust your gut instinct when making a decision? According to Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead, “Our gut intuition accesses our accumulated experiences in a synthesized way, so that we can form judgments and take action without any logical, conscious consideration.” This can be helpful because it speeds up our ability to act. But how can we be sure our gut isn’t giving us wrong information?
If it is true that we can’t prevent our gut instinct from influencing our judgments, what can women do to protect our decision-making against unconscious bias? Campbell and Whitehead provide tests women can use to help them feel confident that they are “drawing on appropriate experiences and emotions.” These four tests include:
The familiarity test: This means thinking through past experiences and searching for appropriate memories where we have experienced identical or similar situations. This test is about examining the key uncertainties in a situation and determining if you have sufficient similar experiences to be able to make sound judgments about them.
The feedback test: This test is about analyzing the feedback you have received from past situations. Were your previous decisions perceived to be the right decision by others and why? If they were not perceived as good decisions, what was the feedback given and why?
The measured-emotions test: This test is about separating past experiences with past traumatic experiences by realizing a traumatic experience can make us wary of similar situations and thus may bias us from deciding in the same way. If this is the case, it is important to bring in others and solicit their opinions of the situation.
The independence test: This test is about making sure you are not being influence by any inappropriate personal interests or attachments.
As you mentally work through each of the tests, if you find yourself where a situation fails even one of the four tests, the authors recommend strengthening your decision process so as to reduce the potential of a bad decision.
The three suggested methods include: Stronger governance (such as a boss who can weigh in on the decision); additional experience and data; or more dialogue and challenge. While gut instinct can be helpful, it can sometimes cause trouble. As Campbell and Whitehead note, “We should never ignore our gut. But we should know when to rely on it and when to safeguard against it.”
What steps do you take to make sure your gut instinct isn’t leading you toward and incorrect decision? Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section.