Gut Check OK In Age Of Analytics, Gartner Says

Gut decisions are out of fashion in the world of analytics and big data, but one Gartner analyst says "Not so fast."

David Wagner, Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

October 8, 2015

2 Min Read
<p align="left">A diagram similar to the one Rozwell displayed.</p>

best decision. These are the types of decisions that in a business setting we can put best practices around.

Complicated decisions are those where the relationship between cause and effect might be knowable with analysis and research, but isn't readily clear. In complicated decisions, we need to engage both our rational and emotional sides. We need to investigate by using data, but be aware of its limits. These are the types of decisions in business we can often set practices around as well, but they shouldn't be quite as inflexible.

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"When we look at business decisions," Rozwell said, "we tend to like to stay with decisions that are simple or complicated. Those decisions are easier to make." But that isn't always possible. You'll see that some of the most important business decisions happen outside of these simple paradigms.

Complex decisions are those where the relationship between cause and effect is only knowable in retrospect. We might want to apply analytics to these decisions if they occur regularly (essentially transforming them to complicated or simple decisions). When faced with them, we simply have to go with our intuition. This type of decision calls for emerging practices to be created.

Chaotic decisions occur when events are seemingly random.

For these, it's most important to rely on your gut, because we have a built-in experience and intuition around things we have practiced. Rozwell gave the example of someone learning to golf. At first, people are awkward when swinging the club. They use their rational minds and try to guide the club. Eventually, as they practice, they are less rational and more instinctual.

Once you reach that level of experience, asking someone to think about their swing and explain it will make them more mechanical and awkward again. The rational brain gets in the way of intuition and experience. In other words, relying on your experience and intuition will make you a more "athletic" thinker in times of chaos. Rather than create any practices around these decisions, in a business setting we should approach each one as a novel moment.

The key to success, Rozwell believes, is to understand the type of decision you are trying to make and ensure that you key in every part of your brain as necessary. As a manger or IT pro, don't be afraid of some emotional decision-making. Sometimes it is the best way to engage your whole brain in a decision.

About the Author(s)

David Wagner

Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, leadership, and innovation. He has also been a freelance writer for many top consulting firms and academics in the business and technology sectors. Born in Silver Spring, Md., he grew up doodling on the back of used punch cards from the data center his father ran for over 25 years. In his spare time, he loses golf balls (and occasionally puts one in a hole), posts too often on Facebook, and teaches his two kids to take the zombie apocalypse just a little too seriously. 

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