Gut Feelings: Short Cuts to Better Decision Making

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An executive might have a very strong intuition that a given product has promise, without considering the probability that a rival is already ahead in developing the same product. A December survey of readers of mckinseyquarterly. In contrast, only 49 percent of non-C-level executives agreed with the same statement. The Quarterly : So you would argue that selection processes for leaders tend to favor lucky risk takers rather than the wise? Beyond that, lucky risk takers use hindsight to reinforce their feeling that their gut is very wise.

We associate leadership with decisiveness. That perception of leadership pushes people to make decisions fairly quickly, lest they be seen as dithering and indecisive. Gary Klein: I agree. Gary Klein: I met a lieutenant general in Iraq who told me a marvelous story about his first year there. He did that by continuously challenging his assumptions when he realized he was wrong. The Quarterly : A moment ago, Gary, you talked about imagining ways a decision could go sour. Could you please say a little more about that? If a project goes poorly, there will be a lessons-learned session that looks at what went wrong and why the project failed—like a medical postmortem.

Now, everybody, take two minutes and write down all the reasons why you think the project failed. Daniel Kahneman: The premortem is a great idea.

I mentioned it at Davos—giving full credit to Gary—and the chairman of a large corporation said it was worth coming to Davos for. The beauty of the premortem is that it is very easy to do. But it will probably be tweaked in ways that everybody will recognize as beneficial. So the premortem is a low-cost, high-payoff kind of thing.

The Quarterly : It sounds like you agree on the benefits of the premortem and in your thinking about leadership. Daniel Kahneman: I disagree. But it may prevent you from being overconfident.


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I view that as a good thing. So you have to turn them into a standard operating procedure—for example, at the stage of due diligence, when board members go through a checklist before they approve a decision. A checklist like that would be about process, not content. The Quarterly : What should be on a checklist when an executive is making an important strategic decision?

Daniel Kahneman: I would ask about the quality and independence of information. Is there a possibility of group-think? Does the leader have an opinion that seems to be influencing others? I would ask where every number comes from and would try to postpone the achievement of group consensus. Fragmenting problems and keeping judgments independent helps decorrelate errors of judgment. Daniel Kahneman: Sure. When people do that independently, the accuracy of the judgment rises with the number of estimates, when they are averaged.

But if people hear each other make estimates, the first one influences the second, which influences the third, and so on. The Quarterly : Beyond checklists, do you disagree in other important ways?

Gut Feelings: Short Cuts to Better Decision Making - Gerd Gigerenzer - Google Books

Performance depends on having important insights as well as avoiding errors. But sometimes, I believe, the techniques you use to reduce the chance of error can get in the way of gaining insights. Daniel Kahneman: My advice would be to try to postpone intuition as much as possible. Take the example of an acquisition. Ultimately, you are going to end up with a number—what the target company will cost you.

You do as much homework as possible beforehand so that the intuition is as informed as it can be. The Quarterly : What is the best point in the decision process for an intervention that aims to eliminate bias? This should take place fairly early. Otherwise, they get into an information overload mode. You want to create the possibility that people can discover that an idea is a lousy one early in the game, before the whole machinery is committed to it.

The Quarterly : How optimistic are you that individuals can debias themselves? Most decision makers will trust their own intuitions because they think they see the situation clearly. I think that almost the only way to learn how to debias yourself is to learn to critique other people.

Gut Feelings: Short Cuts To Better Decision Making

The Quarterly : Do you think corporate leaders want to generate that type of gossip? Please post any questions that may interest other readers in the comments. If you are interested in coaching or training, for personal questions about that and appointments you can reach me by e-mail mail karstennoack. You can also use this contact form.

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Whether you enter your real name is up to you. To separate limiting fear from helpful intuition, it is good to know yourself. This is a lifelong challenge.


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Do you trust your experiences? How about your gut feeling? Are gut feelings short cuts to better decision-making? Gut feeling Is it magic? Comments Related articles. There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra. Is it magic? But it is clever to listen to it? Coaching for your decision making.

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Strategic decisions: When can you trust your gut?

Do you know your values? Far from truth: Most people think they are very good at lie detecting. Next article: Using values as the driving force for good decision-making.



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