Ann Marie Bland of Boston, a video game marketing executive, was recently faced with two attractive job offers. Both companies were start-ups in which she felt she could rapidly grow her career as part of a successful management team. Ann Marie made a list of pros and cons and did her due diligence on the two companies, examining their goals and direction, funding, and culture. She also relied on her instinct.
Instinct is at the center of the decision-making process advocated by Jonah Lehrer, the author of the bestselling book “How We Decide.” Jonah, who was inspired to write about this topic after “pathological indecisiveness in the cereal aisle at the supermarket,” claims that the brain's prefrontal cortex is limited in its ability to make complex decisions.
“In the face of an overwhelming number of variables, we have to trust our hunches,” Jonah says. “Although we can’t explain them, they often reflect the most critical information.”
When making an important decision, Jonah argues that uber-rationality doesn’t always work because pros and cons aren’t created equal, and by simply looking at a list, you may not be seeing the whole picture. Watch Jonah talking more about decision making on the CBS Early Show:
Are people who are less in touch with their gut feelings destined to experience what Jonah dubs “paralysis by analysis?” Fortunately, this is a skill that can be honed. Jonah suggests eavesdropping on subtle feelings, clicking off the reasoning process, and listening to the quiet emotions that arise when you think about the decision.
“Also recognize that the brain doesn’t like change, so it’s normal to be scared,” he says. “Emotions associated with fear don’t necessarily signal that you’re making a wrong choice.”