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Making Space for Intuition in Decision-making

Published 4/25/2022

Decision-making shouldn't just be about algorithms. It also shouldn't be just about intuition. Incorporating both is required to make the best decisions for your career.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
So much of what we talk about on this show, especially the last couple of years, has been about decision making, how to make better decisions because so much of what you do in your career hinges entirely on making good decisions. Yes, there are absolutely other factors. Luck certainly plays into it, positioning yourself in a particular way, certainly plays into it, but making good decisions on a regular basis is the most controllable factor that you have over your career. But the advice on decision making often goes too far in one direction or the other. And in today's episode, we're going to talk about the dichotomy there. And then I want to tell you why both sides are not entirely correct. My name is Jonathan Cutrell Listening to Developers. My goal on the show list is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective and purpose in their careers. So much of the discussion on decision making is about the process of making a decision. Decision science, all the books that you read, they all tell. Now, better decision making essentially comes down to creating better rules, creating better processes for making those decisions. And this is where most of the research actually agrees. Most of the decisions that we make in our careers and in our lives, we are compressing too much information and we are over-weighting things and underweighting other things incorrectly. We're making errors in our judgment. The flip side of this is the opposite. Whatever the other opinion is, which is to use your gut or to use your intuition. This is certainly an opinion that is still held by many and is reflective of a kind of antiquated way of thinking about management that your gut, your intuition is what got you where you are today. But somehow it will be the most important part of making decisions into the future and indeed the only thing you should rely on. As you might come to expect, going to the extreme of either of these sides is an incomplete picture of what it means to have a good decision framework. Good decision frameworks, as it turns out, incorporate both of these things. Integrated intuition alongside rigid rules. And you might be asking why. If you are paying attention, then you know that most of the time our intuition is unreliable. Most of the time our gut is just a feeling. But the truth is that it's much more complicated than that. Our gut, our intuition, is the product of a very long line of evolution with sites that are not on sabotaging us, but on helping us survive. And perhaps the most important part of that is that our survival has heavily depended on our ability to connect with other people. Furthermore, our intuition is often informed by our experience. When you have the intuitions of highly experienced people in the room, those intuitions are not purely found with the same effect of the meaning of instances that they've seen before, that pattern match to some degree to the one that they're seeing now. Athletics is a good place to look to wrap our heads around this reality. The intuition of a highly skilled athlete is going to be leaps and bounds better than the intuition of an amateur athlete when it comes to situations that rely on that built-up skill. As a broad rule, these kinds of intuitive moments for athletes and beyond tend to show up in nuanced ways, the few milliseconds of a delay for a pass from a skilled quarterback or the slight throttle change just before touching down from a skilled pilot. These kinds of intuitive responses may even be invisible from the outside looking in. So what does this mean to us, though, as decision makers in our careers? But what it means is that we need to find ways of incorporating both. If you have a hiring process, you should include both systematically evaluating different aspects of the candidate, as well as evaluating your intuitive judgment of the candidate on those same aspects. If you're a manager and you're getting a feeling that one of your reports is getting burned out, but they haven't told you that yet, then it might make sense to pay attention to that feeling. Importantly, we shouldn't try to suppress our intuition, but we also shouldn't overreact to it. So one simple thing you can do is when you have these intuitive spikes, these moments of emotional or reflective clarity that didn't necessarily come from a formula or some specific analysis that you've done, take these notes down. Record what your intuition is. Record, what is the evidence that has informed it if you can figure that out, if you can uncover that from your intuition? Because here's what happens if you don't do this. Number one, you're going to forget and ultimately mutate whatever it is that that intuition has informed. You may internalize it, for example, and that internalized representation is going to get changed over time. It may not track necessarily with what it was originally. On the flip side, if you try to immediately react to every intuitive spike that you have, sometimes those intuitions are going to be errors. In fact, very often they will be errors. They need to be informed by other things as well. So overreacting to these intuitive spikes will lead you to make bad reactive decisions rather than informed pro-active decisions. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Teane. I hope that this will give you a feeling of excitement and license in your decision making to incorporate your intuition, but doing so responsibly is critical, making sure you give intuition its proper place in the decision making process. Thanks so much for listening. A few simple requests. If you enjoyed this episode, the first thing, please leave a review in iTunes. Or I think you can also click the button that says I found this review helpful. If you see that someone else has left a review that you would have left, there's a bunch of ways that you can help this podcast, but this is probably the most salient, most critical one for a long term success because this is how other engineers decide what kinds of podcasts they want to listen to ultimately when they're browsing through your words, your recommendations, that's how they decide. So please leave a review in iTunes and in the other platforms you might be using. The second thing I recommend you do come and join the Developer Teane Discord. And to do this, you can do it at www.Developer Teane.com slash Discord today to join that's totally free. There's other engineers in there just like you. We post all kinds of things. We have a book club. We have job postings from time to time. We have discussions on career problems. There's even interpersonal discussions. You can do those things with total anonymity if you want to. Go and check it out. Developer Teane.com slash Discord. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.