This post is based on events of the past few weeks. During this time I experienced conversations and became involved in different debates, during which I witnessed the art of decision making by some very senior Leaders. And as you can expect there was different context and consideration given in each situation. However, what I found intriguing is how each leader placed such different emphasis and trust on the different inputs to their decision making. Whilst I can’t disclose the precise nature of these decisions, suffice to say, the common theme across all of them was that the inputs were a mix of perception, experience and evidence.

This in itself is not necessarily intriguing however, this was:

None of the Leaders used their intuition in the decision making process.

As the debates continued and different views and inputs were considered in these distinct discussions, what surfaced was; a lot of anecdotal talk which was largely based on perception, a good level of judgement on the basis of what the various individuals’ experience was telling them, and in some cases there were some objective facts and figures (although not as much as you would hope for when making such important decisions.) But… no obvious intuition being expressed!

So, two things make this situation bizarre.

1) Outside of the meeting some of these Leaders disclosed their discomfort at the decision that was just made. They declared that it ‘didn’t feel right’ but that the collective evidence, perception and experience outweighed the ‘feeling’ and on this basis, they allowed the decision to fall the way it did.

2) Separately and in the same week as having some of the above conversations, I came across two blog posts debating the topic of decision making. One (MBG – 18 ways to strengthen your intuition) suggested that we live in a fear based culture where we don’t allow enough intuition in our decision making. And the other (HBR – Outsmart your own biases) suggesting that we all rely too heavily on intuition and flawed reasoning.

Both blogs had their merits; what I found uncanny was that in the same few weeks as reading these posts, whilst I didn’t witness the explicit use of intuition in those decisions, each Leader did have this inner compass working. I know they did because they spoke about their hunches, gut feelings, sense of feeling uncomfortable…

So, is the issue that;

  1. We need to work on cultivating our intuition?
  2. We need to make it more acceptable (particularly in the big business world) to use intuition as one of the inputs?
  3. Both!?

Our mantra in this environment was ‘In God we Trust, everyone else brings data’. So for me to be talking on this topic probably comes across as strange.

For those of you who know me, my early career revolved around analysis, data, evidence. I grew up in a corporate culture that demanded very well reasoned and fact based arguments and decisions. Our mantra in this environment was ‘In God we Trust, everyone else brings data’. So for me to be talking on this topic probably comes across as strange. However, a few years ago, my very good business coach helped me to trust my intuition in making business decisions – not just for my own business but those decisions also involving our clients. He helped me to cultivate a sense that I always had but used very little. And the result… better decisions! Decisions that I could whole heartedly commit to; decisions where I could demonstrate how I was sharing the accountability because I had input my own personal ‘gut feel’ into it.

In conclusion, I share with you my very simple recipe for decision making – quantities obviously need to vary depending on size of decision:

  • A strong base of objectivity
    Ensuring that any data, facts and evidence is not biased with just what happens to be available.
  • Layered with a generous amount of experience
    Your own experience or that of other credible peers, hence sharing the accountability of the final decision.
  • Flavoured with your choice of opinions
    This is different from experience, because these perceptions might not be based on anything but merely credible observations from bystanders.
  • Topped with a sprinkling of intuition
    This has to be your own. This is the bit that makes the decision something that you can commit to.

And so with this post, I am advocating the use of intuition as a healthy ingredient in our business decisions and call out to all leaders to bring this potent and trustworthy inner voice to life!