Flipping_A_CoinThere was an interesting Horizon program on BBC2 a couple of weeks ago with the title “How You Really Make Decisions?” This is a topic that has always fascinated me. I’ve read widely on the subject and sat in on several lectures, seminars and presentations on the topic as well. I have a personal interest in the subject about my own decision making – but also a specific interest in the topic when it comes to decisions about purchases. I mean, if we really can understand what is going on in someone’s head when they make an important business decision, or purchase a large piece of equipment, or decide on which business professional to work with, then that’s an incredible incite, isn’t it?

I think most people will relate to the internal dialogue (or battle) between the rational mind (logic) and the emotional mind (feelings) when making a decision. The weighing up of the pros and cons and then comparing those with our intuition and what ‘feels’ right. The other way of looking at this is covered in Daniel Kahneman’s wonderful book “Thinking fast and slow“. The book looks at the slow way of thinking (logical and deliberate) which is capable of analysing a problem and coming up with a rational answer. This part of our mind requires a great deal of energy, but it’s slow and can be very lazy – but it can solve very complex problems. The other system within your mind is far faster. It’s intuitive and automatic – incredibly powerful – but can be hidden.

The subject of intuition in decision making is covered in Becky Walsh’s book “You Do Know” and this book encourages the reader to use their intuition more in their decision making and to learn to listen to their inner voice.

So here are two extremes of the models that might be at work in decision making. Both interesting reads. The summary of these books and TV program is that we primarily make decisions with our emotions and intuition. We do what feels right to us. But we don’t always feel comfortable explaining how we reached a decision to others in that way.  So we explain the decision in terms of logical and rational reasons. We may even explain it to ourselves internally in the same way as well. We may say to others that our purchase of a specific car, say, was down to safety and fuel consumption (logic) but we preferred a specific model of car because of emotional reasons like image, style or status that may be aligned to a particular model.

Or we may say to an unsuccessful supplier that the reason we went for the competition was price (logic) but the decision really rested on the fact that we got on better with the competitive salesperson (emotions). Oh, and if you are going to be clicking over to Amazon later to order the books above (and why not?) you might as well add this interesting book on the subject as well, the excellent “The Decisive Moment – how the brain makes up its mind” by Jonah Lehrer.

I think my old boss summed this up pretty well. He always told me there were two reasons why someone did something: A good reason (logic) and the real reason (emotions). And that if you don’t understand the emotions and feelings of a potential client and ensure that you build empathy and trust with them (emotions), and relied solely on the benefits (logic) of your product or service, you were likely to lose the business.

An old Harvard Business Review tells us that – even in business – over 85% of the purchase decisions made my Fortune 500 companies were mainly emotional based.

Amazing eh? So next time you have the opportunity of talking / pitching / presenting to a potential customer – think less about the logic and benefits of working with you (although these are important, they may be used to justify the decision to others later) – and more about the emotional connection with the client and their situation.

So what are you going to decide to do now? 

 

 

2 Responses to “How do we really make decisions?”

  • Great post Trevor, thank you.

    One of my favourite books on decision making is Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer. And if you want to know more about the ‘Dark Side’ of influencing the decision making of others, then Influence by Robert Cialdini is also worth a look.

    I work as a consultant, coach and non exec; one of the first questions I always ask my clients is ‘How are you feeling?’. Sure, I’m interested, but it also helps me to set a baseline for the rest of the conversation. And people get comfort from hearing themselves saying out loud how they actually, really feel.

    It helps them make better decisions too, as they are more aware of their emotional state when they have to make tough calls.

    Best

    Mark

  • Trevor Lever:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the positive feedback – always appreciated. I’ll add those books you mention to my reading list – I think Amazon may have a good month out of this post and comments?

    Thanks again,

    Trevor.

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