Decision making is a unique human ability. It is the opportunity to define and shape one's future, based on past experiences and environment. Before we make a decision, we review the pros and cons of each option. Many people believe that following a certain evaluation process helps us identify the best possible choice. However, a new study from the University of London found that going with your gut can result in better decision-making than using detailed methods.
We are inundated with making decisions every day. Everyone wants to become a better decision-maker and the decisions we make carry consequences. We asked experts from different fields whether they agree or disagree with the findings of the study.
Celia Johnston-Hale, CEO of an engineering company in the UK and a business coach agrees with the findings of the study, notes that she made some of the best decisions in business and life by following her gut feeling. She says, “your gut tells you what you genuinely want to achieve and gives you a snap decision to help make that achievement a reality.” She thinks that following a certain evaluation process before making a decision only complicates theprocess. “Analyzing your decision, thinking it over or even sleeping on it, only serves to allow your brain to seek reasons to not take action on a particular matter. This is because our brains are trained to protect us from the worst-case scenarios and never wired to think of the most positive results,” she adds.
Charli Burbidge, co-founder of Petz, offers a similar perspective when it comes to following your gut instincts. She believes people should follow gut feeling even when it doesn’t feel right, giving an example of her own experiences. She says, “Whenever I have chosen a candidate over another because their positives outweigh theirs, or they have less negatives, I always find it comes back to bite me (pun intended). This is because I went against my gut feeling and went with what looks good on paper. People don't work on paper, so if you find you have an innate ability in making the right decision (most of the time), then just go for it.”
“Working in a fast-paced industry means there has to be at least a partial reliance on your gut,” says Alex Mastin, Founder & CEO at Homegrounds. He says that there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut in the first instance, however, “it doesn't mean that you don't follow the process and recognize mistakes too late.” Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry, offers a similar perspective. He thinks following your gut feeling can be a good practice depending on the role and industry, but definitely not in finance and money, where you have to be more methodical and precise. He explains “there may be certain, small situations that call for gut decisions, but it is about being right, not necessarily about how we feel about something. I think every industry has times when they need to consider being more methodical, while also having times where gut decisions are needed. Whichever industry or even role you are a part of will dictate how much of each you will need to put in place.”
Doug Noll, a professor at Caruso School of Law, Pepperdine University, claims that the study ignores the fact that “gut instincts in VUCAR (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and risky) environments are often suboptimal.” He explains that managers often choose to use gut instinct simply because it’s fast and doesn’t require much effort. Instead, he suggests that they “employ critical thinking skills, which are slow, painful, and tedious.” Dave Kohl, President of the First In Real Estate Marketing, has a similar opinion, as he also thinks that “gut instincts should be avoided on important business matters.”
“Gut feeling is an important piece of information to consider, along with other information you have access to. It should not be the only information you base your decisions on,” says Ana Sokolovic, a licensed psychotherapist and writer for ParentingPod. She says that our body can sometimes give us false signals, as it has a memory of its own. She explains that “two very different situations (the one from past and the current) may have something in common that causes our body to respond with a “gut” feeling, which signals something is right or wrong for us. Whatever that is, might have been a threat to us in the past, but not today. Our capacities, skills or support may be different today than they were yesterday.” She believes that making decisions solely on the basis of gut feeling is wrong, as we should also consider our current capabilities and pros & cons of the situation we are in.
While experts agree that gut instinct can come in handy at times, it might not always produce an outcome one hopes for, especially when it comes to major business matters.
Tina Arnoldi, MA is a marketing consultant and freelance writer in Charleston SC. Learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com