Journal Three

Does Gut Instinct Really Work?

When I was young, deciding for me has always been a problem. Often, I get into an argument with myself. For example, when I want to buy new shoes (which turn out to be expensive), I weigh the pros and cons – “these shoes are expensive but they will last me a few years”; “if I buy these shoes, then I won’t be able to buy a new coat”, etc. When I’ve made my decision and I’ve finally bought the shoes, I realized that I liked another one better. Hence, I find some truth in Gareth Cook’s words about people purchasing a house, that people “do not choose wisely if they spend a lot of time consciously weighing the pros and cons” (Cook A3).

Reading the Cook’s work, I began to contemplate on my own decision-making. I have realized that over the years, my style of making decisions has evolved. From spontaneous decisions, I have learned to give more time to deliberation before I finally make a decision. But then, I also learned to sleep on many critical decisions I had to make because I felt that I was a dead end. While do not always make “unconscious” decisions, I often make the right choices when I postpone decision making when faced with difficult circumstances.

I realize that much of the claims made in Cook’s articles are revolutionary in that it is asking business-minded people to use unconscious thought processes to make critical decisions. In a difficult economy, this essentially meant relinquishing total control of the business. It is almost the same as the Chinese concept of wu wei, doing something without doing anything. It is like the new age philosophy that says everything has its own place and time. Perhaps the only difference is that Cook’s work is backed up by facts gathered through the scientific method.

I that the article was correct in saying that non-linear thinking (or gut instinct) has a place in business. For people who are passionate about what they do, they get an intuitive feel of what the “world” needs. One concrete example of this is Steve Jobs – we all know his story. But I think that for a business person, it is important to realize that deciding through gut instinct is not the same as deciding on a whim. As a manager or owner of a business, it is still important to know the facts – what people are saying about a particular product, how the employees are feeling, how much sales a service is getting, how many people are part of the target market – in order to use the “gut instinct” effectively. Without such information, a decision may be out of context and there is a danger that the choice made is incorrect. For example, if a person does not know that the public does not like shoes with laces and his gut instinct says that they should develop new models with the laces on still, then the new product might not sell.This type of decision making is what I call as “deciding on a whim”, someone makes a decision, without regard for other factors. It is typically laden with bias, hence, the decision maker  does not see the entire “picture”. While the decision may have its advantages, the negative effects are not appropriately considered, hence can potentially cause the failure of a business.

I think that the “gut instinct” works best if it has complete information to process. In the case of Chrysler CEO Bob Lutz (Hayashi), he couldn’t have made the appropriate decision if he didn’t know what people are saying about the company, and what the company’s future plans are. Only with inside knowledge can someone make the right decision. Having said that, this essentially explains why many company owners would trust their own “gut” instead of a consultant’s because they know the ins and outs of their own business while the consultant knows only what is given them. I think that the “gut” works best when one is really passionate about a business/company/product/service that he/she actually “lives” it.

Cook, Gareth. “Big Decisions May Turn Out Better With Less Thought Study Reflects Changed Thinking On How People Make Choices.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette 19 Feb. 2006: A3. Print.

Hayashi, Alden M. When to Trust Your Gut. 2001. Print.

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