Everyday wisdom offers familiar advice to curtail impulsivity through slowing down and reflecting:
- “Go slow to go fast”
- “Sleep on it”
- “Wait before sending an emotional email”
- “Count to 10, think again”
Former investment banker and lawyer Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay provides empirical evidence on the value of delay to increase the quality of decisions and performance across investment, sports, comedy, and other disciplines.
Creativity experts have demonstrated the importance of an “incubation period” in developing innovative solutions, and Partnoy suggests that similar principles provide and advantage: gathering maximum information in uncertain situations, by executing decisions and performance close to the last opportunity.
University of San Diego’s Partnoy recommends a three step approach to decision-making:
1) Determine the maximum time available to gather information and take the decision
2) Consider, reflect, “incubate” on the information as long as possible
3) Act quickly at the last possible moment
His approach could be summarized by referring to Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking : “Don’t just blink but think.”
Gladwell argues that people with expert experience and insight are often skilled at using ‘adaptive unconscious’ intuition to “thin-slice” subtle cues to filter relevant information from “noise,” a concept based on Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal’s research at Harvard.
Research by Justin Albrechtsen, Christian Meissner, and Kyle Susa of University of Texas at El Paso demonstrated “thin-slicing” when they found that intuitive processing can lead to more accurate judgments of deception when compared with deliberative processing.
Gladwell and these researchers acknowledge that non-experts, and even experts, can be make erroneous decisions due to bias and prejudice that comes from automatic thinking and habitual cognitive heuristics like the halo effect.
Gerard Hodgkinson of Leeds University found that biased intuitive judgment may be mitigated by “devil’s advocacy” and applying analytical tools like multi-attribute decision analysis and root cause analysis.
He suggests that informed intuition or ‘intelligent-unconscious’ results from subconscious information storage, processing and retrieval, and has conducted several empirical studies to evaluate its mechanisms applied to developing business strategies.
Intuitive judgment was positively correlated with quality and speed of decisions, organizational financial and non-financial performance in at least five studies.
Hodgkinson’s team summarized recent advances in neuroscience, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to explain complementary intuitive and analytical approaches to decision making instead of the overly-simplified notion of left brain vs right brain processing strengths.
He synthesized intuition attributes:
- Instantaneous insight after incubation period
- Subjective judgments
- Based on experience, tacit knowledge, “knowing without knowing”
- Arise through rapid, non-conscious holistic associations
- Affectively-charged: “feels right”, experienced as ‘‘inklings’’ or ‘‘glimmerings’’
- Lacking verbalization or conscious awareness of problem solving.
Cognitive neuroscientists have differentiated intuition from instinct and insight using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques.
Instinct refers to hardwired, autonomous reflex actions, whereas insight involves recognizing and articulating a problem’s structure, and may follow from intuition.
Hodgkinson’s research suggests that intuition can be enhanced by increasing:
- Expertise (“prepared mind” or ‘‘deep smarts’’)
- Self-awareness (feeling and cognitive style)
His team’s research supports an assertion by Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony and driving force behind its successful Sony Walkman, that ‘‘creativity requires something more than the processing of information. It requires human thought, spontaneous intuition and a lot of courage.’’
-*How have you used pauses or intuition to strengthen decision-making and advance business innovation?
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- Hypothetical Questions May Lead to Bias
- Biases in Unconscious Automatic Mental Processing, and “Work-Arounds”
- Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship
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