Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brain Freeze: How Can I Make Better Decisions?

I’m a member of Vistage, which is a group of CEO’s who get together to talk about business issues and how to make better decisions. That’s right … I’m part of a CEO club. We’re dangerous, so watch out. We get together to discuss exciting things like organization, business strategy, business technique, and NASCAR.

(The last one wasn’t true, but boy-oh-boy … I wish it was. Now that would be a great club.)

One month’s Vistage speaker was Holly Green, former president of the Ken Blanchard organization. (Sidenote: Ken Blanchard is the author of The One Minute Manager, which, incidentally, took much longer than one minute to read.)

Holly now consults with major corporations on strategic planning, management issues, and how to make better decisions. She also has a master’s degree in brain technology. She explained to me (repeatedly) that this is not the study of robot brains, a fact that I begrudgingly accepted. I guess.

So apparently, brain technologists study how the brain sees things.

Lo and behold, I learned the most amazing thing. At any given time, we only see 10 percent of all the data that is available. Whoa. As I write this I’m only aware of 10 percent of what is going on around me. Tiny elves could be doing tiny elf things behind me, and I won’t be cognizant of it because of my 10 percent brain.

How much do you think secret service agents see at one time? 20 percent. 20 lousy percent! They’re trained in observation, and yet they still only get 20 percent. When they leave their presidential detail, their powers of observation quickly go back to 10 percent like all of us average Joes.

The most important thing that Holly said was that we do not believe what we see. Instead, we see what we believe. Okay, so this is a little bit like the Matrix. Let’s see if I can explain …

What we see externally enters our head, where our brains automatically select which pieces of data to concentrate on. Then we use a screen—or a filter—where we interject on attitude and make assumptions. From this, we make decisions about the data. In other words, the tiny amount of data that enters our head is drastically altered by the time we process it.

When I heard this it blew 10% of my mind.

It is crucial for all of us in business to understand that we only see 10 percent of what out there. Equally important to understand is that this 10 percent is colored by our preconceived attitudes.

This leads me to wonder: how can we make better decisions? I know I’m only going on 10 percent brainpower here, but I think I have a solution about how to make better decisions. It won’t solve the problem entirely, but maybe we can get up to 12 or 13 percent …

First, we have to understand that what we see is colored by our attitudes. Admit we have a problem.

Second, and I know this is hard, we have to admit that we have a problem. There are things we are not seeing.

And then, we should take a minute to look around and see if there’s anything else right in front of us. Simply ask: What am I missing that would help me make better decisions?

So what’s the moral to the story? If we all looked at the set of difficult facts we are confronting each day, took an Ultradian break, and then came back to revisit the facts … what else could we see that we weren’t seeing before? We might make better decisions. We might come up with better, more sophisticated, subtle, and understanding decisions. We will definitely differentiate ourselves from everyone else out there.

Today’s challenge: Remember that you should use more energy considering the missing 90 percent than you do trying to prove your opinions are right. From now on, I’m going to take a step back and see if I can pick up a different 10 percent and make better decisions. Guess what? Just did it. And, what can I tell you? I’m still 100 percent right about everything and willing to argue you with you about it until the cows come home. (I kid. I kid.)

Related Posts:
A Crazy Guy Taught Me to be a Better Listener
Are You Growing Older... or Aging?
The New & Improved You