How to bring out your gut’s inner genius

Posted by in Productivity

How to bring out your gut's inner genius

Let me guess: you, too, are tired of delving into projects, meetings and committees only to see decision made at the speed of running molasses. There’s a better way – just ask your gut.


A gut decision? Really?


When it comes to matters of importance, it is fair to say few people dare argue that they have based their decision upon a gut feeling. Never mind the fact that it looks ghastly in a Powerpoint presentation; the mere idea of a decision not resting solely upon quantifiable, measurable components seems to scare the living daylight out of people. Why is that?


From an evolutionary perspective, the feelings which crop up in our gut tend to be of the stronger variety: hatred, love, fear and anger are all on the short list. We do – wisely – not always trust ourselves in such matters, and yet history is littered with examples where following one’s gut – or heart, feelings or other appropriate synonyms – has resulted in the creation of legends.


Have you, perchance, noticed what kind of people make gut decisions? Richard Branson makes them. Donald Trump makes them. Hell, the legendary turnaround of Apple Computer appears to stem from the gut decisions made by one Stephen P. Jobs. You might know him as the turtleneck lad responsible for micro-managing the process towards fruition for some of the most lauded products in the latter decade or so.


And despite this, gut decisions suffer from a poor reputation.


This is all just a big misunderstanding


The thing with a gut decision is that – as with every other decision – can, potentially, be everything from apalling to excellent. Still, we all harbour a certain amount of prejudice towards what is often held forth as a synonym for rash decision as it is simpler to condemn something which cannot be explained away, however poorly, with elaborate and seemingly factual components.


The point, then, is to prove that it is perfectly feasible to improve the quality of gut decisions to a level where they can in fact be relied upon consistently through improving on certain factors – key among them information and consideration.


From uninformed to informed


When you make a decision, what is the first thing you should do? Oh, that’s an easy one, you might say – have all the facts on the table before you decide. Yet, in an increasingly complex and information-laden world, this can range in difficulty from challenging to impossible. Any experienced leader will tell you that they frequently make decisions not based upon all information, but rather what is available to them in a compromise of quantity and quality.


You, too, can do this. If you regularly make decisions, you need to consume a continuous (yet manageable) stream of information pertaining to potential decisions. Couple this with the fact that the human brain is first and foremostly a probability engine, which – literally – imagines possible outcomes based upon certain decisionsfor a living, and you have a good starting point.


As you continue to make decisions, their quality will improve in step with increased knowledge and experience.


From inconsiderate to considerate


What signifies a poor gut decision is lack of preparation and adherence to direction; if you are confident as to where you are going, what remains is to find out how to get there. To do so, I recommend carving time in your calendar for at least twice a week to simply consider everything on your plate from the big picture to small challenges. Decision-making during this time is highly optional, as it exists simply to encourage awareness and engagement.


This paves the ground for the ability to make rapid decisions when the need arises. What exactly is the desired outcome? Whom, if anyone, should – or must – be consulted? How much time is required? What are the steps required to achieve the outcome? What is the worst that can happen?


All of these questions and more can be answered rapidly, gut-style, if you are sufficiently present and engaged – that is, you enjoy the steady trickle of information combined with the time you have set aside for proactive thinking. If, however,  you are unable to do so, I strongly recommend you take a long, hard look at your level of commitment and the amount of resources at your disposal – including your time, energy and attention, in that order.


What stands to be gained


Unless you do not answer to anyone and are equipped with a safety net that voids any risk, going gut all the way is out of the question.


In fact, this excercise aims only to shift as much time as possible away from complicated, time-consuming processes (often by committee) towards a swifter, simpler method of progress with increased autonomy. Naturally, this assumes that you are sufficiently empowered to do so; if not, your first decision should concern the next step required to assume such a position.


The reward is simple: rather than having your energy levels depleted by inefficient decision-making processes, you will be able to build progress and momentum from a more fluid manner of making decisions.


How to be comfortable with decisions


Let’s get this one out of the way before we go any further: nobody is perfect. In a utopian world, noone would inhabit a position which requires important decisions to be made prior to their abilities having reached satisfactory potential – but this is the real world, and the opposite is often the norm. And it’s only natural: failure is the cornerstone of success, and will continue to be as long as humans retain their current limitations on memory and computational power.


As such, it is perfectly acceptable to fail. If you are placed in a position, you can only strive to do your best and be content with having reached the best possible decision based upon the information at your disposal. Anything else will quickly elevate your stress levels to a height where the Burj Khalifa will appear comparable in size to your average push pin.


The simple summary


[box]To bring out the inner genius of your gut and swap as many complicated, time-consuming projects for consistently qualitative gut decisions, presence and engagement are required. Keep constantly up-to-date on pertinent information and allow yourself the necessary resources – such as time and energy – for making decisions, and you’ll be well on your way towards improvement.[/box]