Maree Conway said that "Our worldview conditions what we accept and don't accept as real, and this conditions how we make decisions. Being aware of your worldview and biases is the first step to wise decision making …. That may be the saddest decision anyone makes.
In his book Blink , discussed in this column in February , Malcolm Gladwell advised us to place faith in intuition based on experience in deciding many things quickly. Now Michael Mauboussin, with his book Think Twice , makes the case for a more careful approach, suggesting that we place too much emphasis on intuition and personal experience as opposed to the "wisdom of crowds," mathematical models, and systematically-collected data.
He argues that "blink" serves us well in stable environments where feedback from previous decisions is clear and where cause-and-effect relationships can be identified. Unfortunately, in his view these conditions are more and more rare. As he puts it, "intuition is losing relevance in an increasingly complex world … more is different.
Perhaps these sound like "dog bites man" assertions. I'll risk oversimplifying a complex set of arguments this way: Mauboussin, citing a wide range of examples and research, argues that we use experts as opposed to diverse "crowds" too frequently, that we too often fail to: identify the nature of the problem, match solution techniques with problems, seek diversity in our feedback, and use technology where possible. Among other things, he argues, we ignore the subtle and ignored biases that our experiences impose on our independence as decision-makers, we decide too frequently on our emotional reactions to risk playing the lottery even when we know better, for example , and we succumb to pressures to follow the group.
As decision-makers, we are products of our environment to a greater degree than we realize.
We take credit for things out of our control while blaming others for failure in similarly uncontrollable circumstances. We hire "stars," only to watch them burn out in a new and different managerial environment. Mauboussin maintains that we too often underestimate the importance of luck in the outcomes of our decisions, employing Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman's observation that success requires some talent and some luck, while great success requires some talent and a lot of luck.
The importance of this observation is that systems that involve significant amounts of luck, such as investing for many people, revert to the mean for the group over time, a fact that can be used to make better decisions without the influences described above. It's why, for example, some successful investors simply choose stocks of the bottom companies in the Dow Jones average in the preceding year in making their investments for the coming year.
Is intuition losing its relevance in an increasingly complex world?
Will we need to turn increasingly to such things as quantitative models, "prediction markets" where people bet on their views , the wisdom of crowds, and even such things as models based on "system dynamics" developed at MIT in the s? And should we rely less on so-called "experts" and "stars"?
J. R. Madaus is a computer network executive who found himself suddenly experiencing expanded states of consciousness that included out-of-body trips and. Think Logically, Live Intuitively book. Read 4 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. J. R. Madaus is a computer network executive who f.
In short, should we be spending more time examining our true decision-making abilities and the things that influence our results, i. What do you think? Michael J. One has only to look, and no effort is necessary; it is only a question of good eyesight, but it must be good, for the principles are so subtle and so numerous, that it is almost impossible but that some escape notice.
Now the omission of one principle leads to error; thus one must have very clear sight to see all the principles, and in the next place an accurate mind not to draw false deductions from known principles. All mathematicians would then be intuitive if they had clear sight, for they do not reason incorrectly from principles known to them; and intuitive minds would be mathematical if they could turn their eyes to the principles of mathematics to which they are unused.
The reason, therefore, that some intuitive minds are not mathematical is that they cannot at all turn their attention to the principles of mathematics. But the reason that mathematicians are not intuitive is that they do not see what is before them, and that, accustomed to the exact and plain principles of mathematics, and not reasoning till they have well inspected and arranged their principles, they are lost in matters of intuition where the principles do not allow of such arrangement.
They are scarcely seen; they are felt rather than seen; there is the greatest difficulty in making them felt by those who do not of themselves perceive them. These principles are so fine and so numerous that a very delicate and very clear sense is needed to perceive them, and to judge rightly and justly when they are perceived, without for the most part being able to demonstrate them in order as in mathematics; because the principles are not known to us in the same way, and because it would be an endless matter to undertake it… Mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous.
But this mathematical or logical mind is only a subset of the intellect that stands opposite intuition:. There are then two kinds of intellect: the one able to penetrate acutely and deeply into the conclusions of given premises, and this is the precise intellect; the other able to comprehend a great number of premises without confusing them, and this is the mathematical intellect.
Guy Gould-Davies' comment was particularly insightful: "The idea of using feeling in the context of decision making makes many people highly uncomfortable which is why intuition gets a bad rap. If a disposition to believe is a propositional attitude, such an account would allow that intuitions are propositional attitudes and, unlike belief analyses, allow that one may have an intuition without belief. It takes an exceptionally active System 2 to generate alternative formulations of the one you see in front of you and to discover that they invoke different response. They tend to be reserved and prefer to interact with a group of close family and friends. To say that the intuition that p is treated as evidence might be to claim that the fact that a person has an intuition is taken to serve as some kind of evidence the intuit ing or it might be to claim that the propositional content of the intuition the intuit ed is treated as the evidence. Expert intuition takes a long time to develop.
The one has force and exactness, the other comprehension. Now the one quality can exist without the other; the intellect can be strong and narrow, and can also be comprehensive and weak. Pascal argues that our failure to understand the principles of reality is due to both our impatience and a certain lack of moral imagination:.
Those who are accustomed to judge by feeling do not understand the process of reasoning, for they would understand at first sight, and are not used to seek for principles. And others, on the contrary, who are accustomed to reason from principles, do not at all understand matters of feeling, seeking principles, and being unable to see at a glance. The understanding and the feelings are moulded by intercourse; the understanding and feelings are corrupted by intercourse. Thus good or bad society improves or corrupts them. It is, then, all-important to know how to choose in order to improve and not to corrupt them; and we cannot make this choice, if they be not already improved and not corrupted.
Thus a circle is formed, and those are fortunate who escape it.