Trust Your Gut


How do you make consistently good decisions? There are many who say: “trust your gut.” Maybe this saying is another way of advising you to pay attention to your feelings and emotions or experience when making a decision. But what about those who trust their gut and avoid part or all of the decision-making process? When in the decision-making process should you “trust your gut”?

We all know people who have managed the same business for a long time and pride themselves on trusting their gut to make decisions. When operational decisions are made where information is relatively static, it may seem unnecessary to go through a complete decision-making process. The results are good and the gut decisions come easily. The day always comes though when the information changes, the decision is made from the gut, and the decision is wrong. It gets worse if the results of the wrong decision are not monitored and communicated such that the decision is not changed to escape the adverse results.

Most of us understand the proven procedure for making consistently good decisions. That procedure involves collecting relevant information, efficiently using the time available to make the decision, making and communicating a decision, monitoring the results of the decision, and modifying the decision as appropriate.

In gathering all available information, talk to the experienced and the expert. Assemble written information in an accessible form. Listen to those who will execute the decision. When you discuss an issue with others make sure it is clear that you are not looking for support for a position, you want to know what someone thinks. Most of the time this requires listening not talking. This is the most important and the most time-consuming part of the decision-making process.

To adhere to the time constraints of the process, you have to be aware that taking too long (the paralysis of analysis) may be worse than not making a decision at all. On the other hand, the more time is taken, the more information and better reasoned the decision may be. Those who want to deliberate too long to make a decision are often helped by understanding that decisions can often be changed if necessary.

To monitor the results, be ready to correct for adverse results by revising the decision. With planning decisions, it is nearly impossible to predict the future. When the future unfolds, if the results are monitored and communicated to the policymakers, the decision may be modified to meet the reality of experience.

You should not “trust your gut” when that is used as a reason to ignore any of the well-established steps of the decision-making process. Experience, intuition, and emotion will be components of any decision but should not be relied upon to the exclusion of important steps in the decision-making process. The time to “trust your gut” is when you have completed the decision-making process and there is more than one viable choice to make. At this point, it is appropriate to rely on feelings and intuition as well as personal experience to make a decision.