Jumping to Conclusions or Trusting your Gut?

Have you ever been in a situation where you made a decision based on extremely limited information? I am certain the answer is yes.  We all “make the quick call”, “follow our gut”, or “act fast”.  In fact, it is a behavior that is positively reinforced in advertising, pop culture, and personal/professional anecdotes. Han Solo is the epitome of a fly by night, go with your gut, fictional character. When he says “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” he is correct. When he shouts, “Never tell me the odds!”, we know it is because he has beaten them time and again. It also implies that knowing the facts gets in the way of thinking tactically in a live situation. However, we also see evidence of careful thought and calculation. “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy. Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?”.  The part that appeals to most people though, is the maverick smuggler. In the real world we often see the same thing. Gut instinct tends to be celebrated over careful decision making.

When it comes to instinct driven decisions the results tend to determine what we call it.  For example, when the outcome is poor, or undesirable, we say that someone “jumped to conclusions”. The implication is that the decision maker should have taken time to gather more information before coming to a conclusion.  The individual is chastised or maybe even disciplined for their failure to provide due diligence. Picture the guy that pitched the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” in the movie Office Space. On the flip side, when the outcome is favorable or leads to success we say that they “followed their gut” and “made the right call”. In these situations, we celebrate the intuitive decision as a symbol of the individual’s professional powers. The decision making process for both situations is essentially the same.

However, the outcome biases the perception of the value of the process and the language used reinforces the stereotype based on outcome.  The whole structure is backwards. If we say we want repeat success, then we also need to reward systems that are repeatable.  Gut instinct is not.

So how do we make decisions in a more scientific and repeatable way that deliver consistent outcomes? For starters, we begin with the end in mind.  What is the desired outcome or goal? At Allovance, we call this the Decision Model Goal.  This is the whole end point of the decision we are making.  It is important to keep that in mind throughout a decision making process. Once we have a clear goal (allocating capital to maximize budget, to become a leader in the tech industry, etc.) we develop and weight priorities that will help us meet that goal. But what about that gut feeling? What about the professional insight? Allovance accounts for that as well.  Subjective measures such as community support, stakeholder perceptions, goodwill, and such can all be included as priorities or as objectives under a given priority.     

Once we have selected our priorities we can identify and quantify objectives that support achieving those priorities and thus, the decision model goal. This gives us a reliable, consistent, scorecard that we can use to evaluate the strategic value of any option that may impact achieving our decision model goal.  This is the Allovance Method in a nutshell.

As a consultant, or an organization, it is imperative to have tools at the ready as companions to your most important decisions. As an individual it is important to internalize the idea that we all have biases that we must acknowledge and face.  Our gut response is something we should pay attention to, but in a way that is inclusive of our logical processes as well. In the end, part of us wants to be Han Solo. Let’s just be the part that realizes the importance of taking time to calculate our jumps to lightspeed, even when we are under stress or pressure to perform. 

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