Decision Making

Trusting Your Gut

Decisions aren't always easy in a small business. Sometimes you have all the facts and it's easy to reach a rational conclusion . . . And sometimes you just have to trust your gut.

You can't argue with the fact that instincts play an important role in business success.

Trusting Your Gut

Highly successful business owners sometimes make decisions based on little more than a feeling, a hunch, or an intuition. Although it sounds like luck, there might actually be more to the idea of "trusting your gut" than you think.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talks about rapid cognition, i.e. the ability to think and make decisions in the blink of an eye. Gladwell argues that intuition may have less to do with emotional decision-making than it does with subconscious thought processes based on a solid foundation of experiences and learnings we have accumulated throughout our lives. When seen from this perspective, "trusting your gut" takes on a whole new meaning. Instead of existing as a random problem solving strategy, intuition can sometimes be a reasonable way to make business decisions.

Is "trusting your gut" always the right problem solving strategy? Definitely not. Sometimes it's just more appropriate to rely on more conventional decision making skills. Here's how to tell the difference:

When to Trust Gut Instincts

  • Several viable options. It's easier to go with a gut feeling when you have several viable options or solutions on the table. If there are several ways to resolve the issue, the consequences of making the wrong decision are contained, making it a perfect scenario to nurture and test your sense of intuition.
  • Few facts. Sometimes intuition is your only alternative. If you have few facts about a problem and no way of obtaining additional information, you'll need to either trust your instincts or walk away from the decision entirely.
  • Similar experiences. Feeling "déjà vu all over again"? It might be because you've experienced a similar situation in the past and your instincts are telling you to make a decision based on past experiences.

When Not To Trust Gut Instincts

  • Personal stake. If you have a highly personal interest in the outcome of a decision, you can't trust your gut to lead you to the right conclusion. Seek outside opinions before you make the call. Likewise, if the issue is highly emotional, you may need to remove yourself from the decision making process.
  • Overwhelming facts. Exercise caution when your instincts conflict with overwhelming facts and evidence in the other direction. It's possible that the facts aren't telling the whole story. Then again, it's also possible that your sense of intuition needs a tune-up.

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