A person who is not aware of his emotions makes worse decisions than that person who is aware of his emotions. That is a finding made by the Portuguese neuroscientist António Damásio. He and some other researchers have already observed that limitations in the areas of our brain which control emotions can negatively influence the decision-making processes. These persons are then sometimes no longer able to correctly assess situations. Thus, it is not (exclusively) in our reason when we make decisions. Our emotional make-up determines the scope of action in our reason. Even when we make decisions, we then reconcile these situations with past models. On the one hand, our experience helps us during the decision-making processes, but also affects us significantly on the other hand. This is not necessarily bad as long as we are aware of this because our environment would be too complex if we had to rethink each decision from the very beginning again. Thus, our neurological emotional filters are extremely important for intelligent decision-making. But what then encompasses intelligent decision-making?
Thomas Würzburger addresses this question, among others, in his book called “The Agility Pitfall”. I found this issue to be particularly interesting with regards to the theme of agility. In traditional organisations, the decision-making authority was clearly anchored in the management. For this, we schooled and trained the management during diverse management seminars. In agile organisations, we are now striving more and more for self-organised teams and give the employees the opportunity to make decisions on their own. Even more, in our organisations today, we expect that a very large number of our employees will be able to independently make decisions on their own. Should we then now train all employees during management seminars?
Notwithstanding the fact that all our training budgets would absolutely explode, in my opinion, this is not required at all. Our decisions will also not become better if we train people how they must make decisions. Rather, we must all become aware of where the problems lie in our decision-making processes. And we must all make decisions daily – regardless of whether we are Managers or employees. Thus, again, I consider it to be extremely important to invest more in our personality development and train people to be able to better identify with themselves. In this regard, Würzburger referred to the “red flag conditions” which experts have identified and which hinder us from making intelligent decisions:
- Self-Interests: Naturally, each of us will say that he would like to make decisions objectively. And, in spite of all good intentions, it is unfortunately still the case that a true objectivity does not exist. We all make decisions in a highly subjective manner and, in this regard, our decision-making is greatly influenced by our self-interest.
- Emotional Connection with persons and places: In court, it is often stated that a judge is biased and thus must be replaced by another judge. However, I have only very rarely heard about organisations with Managers who cannot make a decision owing to their bias. Persons are hired or promoted because they come from the same university, are active in the same professional association, among many other reasons – even if they do not fulfil 100% of the required qualifications.
- Personal Memories: That is our emotional filter because our experiences can be very helpful for not repeating the same mistakes, but also prevent us from embracing new and/or different paths.
We must become more aware of our quite personal red flag conditions. Each of us has them and we shouldn’t be ashamed that they exist. But if we aren’t aware of them, then we will also not know what guides us during our decision-making. Thus, we should always repeatedly ask ourselves the following question: Why did I make this decision this time? In agile organisations, this can also become a part of the retrospectives. Through the reflection on our own behaviour, we learn much more than in many (expensive) management seminars. Thus, the path towards correct decision-making leads only through one’s (internal) self-awareness. And we will probably never attain perfection. Charles de Gaulle once said: “It is better to make imperfect decisions than to constantly seek out perfect decisions which will never exist.” But the better which we know ourselves, the more perfect our decisions will become.
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