Four tests McKinsey authors Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead request managers and leaders to do before engaging in an instinct-based decision making process. Doing Familiarity, Feedback, Measured-Emotion and Independence tests do trigger events that would allow the human mind to be more conscious! The article does not specify what types of instinct-based decisions should be scrutinized by such tests,  They’ve been offered as a general framework to follow. Decisions that are to be taken promptly are the high risk ones that if a leader does not train or fine tune his guts-decision making, then, consequences will be unexpectedly ‘negative’ as well miscalculated.

Leaders should try Campbel and Whitehead tests and monitor the quality of their decisions over time. I urge you to read the full article at McKinsey Quarterly site here. Here is a snapshot:

“One of the most important questions facing leaders is when they should trust their gut instincts—an issue explored in a dialogue between Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein titled “Strategic decisions: When can you trust your gut?” published by McKinsey Quarterly in March 2010. Our work on flawed decisions suggests that leaders cannot prevent gut instinct from influencing their judgments. What they can do is identify situations where it is likely to be biased and then strengthen the decision process to reduce the resulting risk.

Our gut intuition accesses our accumulated experiences in a synthesized way, so that we can form judgments and take action without any logical, conscious consideration. Think about how we react when we inadvertently drive across the center line in a road or see a car start to pull out of a side turn unexpectedly. Our bodies are jolted alert, and we turn the steering wheel well before we have had time to think about what the appropriate reaction should be.

The brain appears to work in a similar way when we make more leisurely decisions. In fact, the latest findings in decision neuroscience suggest that our judgments are initiated by the unconscious weighing of emotional tags associated with our memories rather than by the conscious weighing of rational pros and cons: we start to feel something—often even before we are conscious of having thought anything. As a highly cerebral academic colleague recently commented, “I can’t see a logical flaw in what you are saying, but it gives me a queasy feeling in my stomach.”

Given the powerful influence of positive and negative emotions on our unconscious, it is tempting to argue that leaders should never trust their gut: they should make decisions based solely on objective, logical analysis. But this advice overlooks the fact that we can’t get away from the influence of our gut instincts. They influence the way we frame a situation. They influence the options we choose to analyze. They cause us to consult some people and pay less attention to others. They encourage us to collect more data in one area but not in another. They influence the amount of time and effort we put into decisions. In other words, they infiltrate our decision making even when we are trying to be analytical and rational.

This means that to protect decisions against bias, we first need to know when we can trust our gut feelings, confident that they are drawing on appropriate experiences and emotions. There are four tests.

  1. The familiarity test: Have we frequently experienced identical or similar situations?Familiarity is important because our subconscious works on pattern recognition. If we have plenty of appropriate memories to scan, our judgment is likely to be sound; chess masters can make good chess moves in as few as six seconds. “Appropriate” is the key word here because many disastrous decisions have been based on experiences that turned out to be misleading—for instance, the decision General Matthew Broderick, an official of the US Department of Homeland Security, made on August 29, 2005, to delay initiating the Federal response following Hurricane Katrina.The way to judge appropriate familiarity is by examining the main uncertainties in a situation—do we have sufficient experience to make sound judgments about them? The main uncertainties facing Broderick were about whether the levees had been breached and how much danger people faced in New Orleans. Unfortunately, his previous experience with hurricanes was in cities above sea level. His learned response, of waiting for “ground truth,” proved disastrous.Gary Klein’s premortem technique, a way of identifying why a project could fail, helps surface these uncertainties. But we can also just develop a list of uncertainties and assess whether we have sufficient experience to judge them well.” …
McKinsey: How to test your decision-making instincts
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