You have two options in front of you. They both sound great, are backed by research, and could transform your business for the better, but you can only choose one. Which do you commit to? When you’re faced with two equally worthwhile options, science says the best way to make a decision is to flip a coin. When you flip a coin, you’re not really leaving the decision up to chance; you’re actually calling on your intuition to guide you. The practice is often regarded as unscientific, but there’s a lot of research to support making intuitive decisions. Friederike Fabritius and Hans W. Hagemann, authors of “The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier,” explain how we develop that “gut feeling.” Intuitive decisions are driven by two structures in your brain: the basal ganglia and the insula. The basal ganglia are connected to movement and building habits. The insula, part of the cerebral cortex, becomes engaged when you experience pain, feel love, listen to music, or even enjoy a piece of chocolate. Neuroscientists believe the insula is responsible for self- awareness, particularly for recognizing changes in your body. The Scientifically Smarter Way to Make Business Decisions Heads or Tails? When you have to solve a problem, your basal ganglia start working on a solution, even if you aren’t consciously thinking about it. If you make a conscious decision that agrees with the subconscious solution of your basal ganglia, your brain gives off a subtle reward. The decision doesn’t have to be logical to feel right — that’s your gut feeling. However, if the conscious and subconscious parts of your brain don’t agree, your insula detects the discrepancy and registers a threat. It’s the “I have a bad feeling about this” response. Fabritius and Hagemann note that gut feelings “represent the most efficient use of your accumulated experience.” According to the authors, flipping a coin is the best way to really listen to your basal ganglia and insula. Your subconscious brain has If the coin lands on heads and you feel relieved, then heads is the right choice. However, if the coin lands on tails and you’re uncertain or want to flip again, then that’s your intuition saying the other option is the better choice. So, the next time you’re caught in a pickle, grab the nearest quarter and put your intuition to the test. already made a decision; flipping a coin helps you test your intuition about each option.
For over two decades, Helen Lee Bouygues, founder and president of the Reboot Foundation, has helped struggling organizations turn things around. She teaches people to address organizational problems by improving their critical thinking. “Too many business leaders are simply not reasoning through pressing issues [or] taking the time to evaluate a topic from all sides,” says Lee Bouygues. “Leaders often jump to the first conclusion, whatever the evidence.” These poor thinking habits can lead to declining profits, lost clients, and low team morale. The good news is critical thinking is a learned trait. Anyone can improve their critical thinking by building three simple habits. 1. Question Assumptions When the stakes are high, Lee Bouygues encourages business leaders to question their assumptions. This doesn’t mean second-guessing yourself but instead double-checking the foundation of your beliefs. If a retail chain assumes its customers have more disposable income than they actually do, they can overprice items and lose out on millions in sales. This is when marketing research or “secret shoppers” come in handy. When you’re sitting down to come up with a long-term plan for the company, make sure you’re building that plan based on facts, not your own assumptions. 2. Reason Through Logic Over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle introduced the formal practice of logic. If you’re about to make a decision based on a given argument, pay attention to the logic “supporting” the argument. Is the argument supported by evidence all the way through? Does all the evidence support and create a strong conclusion? If not, then the argument is not logical. Sound logic is key to critical thinking. 3. Diversify Thought THINK SMARTER, NOT HARDER 3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Critical Thinking
In other words, step out of your echo chamber. We like to surround ourselves with like-minded people, and while that may help make sure everyone is working toward a common goal, it can also mean you’re not getting different points of view. This can cause you
to miss a potential mistake or error you simply cannot see. Reach out to different branches of your company or connect with different levels of the team to escape your usual thinking. This can help you gain better insights. While some decisions can be made on gut instinct, it pays to be critical about those decisions in the long run.
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