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Gut instincts vs. dataset – not a contradiction, but a harmony

Gut instincts vs. dataset – not a contradiction, but a harmony

Experience or data collection as a basis for decision-making? The data clearly say that Solution A is correct. But you have a feeling that something doesn't quite fit, although you can't pinpoint it. Nevertheless, there's that small voice that says, choose Solution B.

Left or right, buy or wait, expand or stick with the status quo? Decisions always come with consequences. But whom do you listen to? Do you trust your gut feeling or the dataset? The real question should be how to reconcile these two aspects.

Intuition and gut feeling – evolutionarily sensible

Two aspects strongly argue for relying on your intuition in decision-making – your experience in the field and the speed in decision-making.

Experience teaches us. The experience you've gathered as a decision-maker in your field enables you to tap into it for decisions. So, you don't always need freshly collected data to make a good choice with a high probability. Renowned Professor Gerd Gigerenzer at the Berlin Max Planck Institute also supports this, saying that intuition can be a valuable decision-making aid as long as you have extensive practical experience in your field. In other words, experts can make gut decisions in their area.

The second important point is the speed of intuitive decisions. "Oh, here comes a pack of wolves toward me. Time out, dear teeth-baring predators! I'll calculate the perfect escape route based on wind and terrain data and your number." Well, and the Stone Age person was wolf food. As you can see, in this case, an intuitive gut decision to flee would have been the best option. Survival often depended on the evolutionary advantage of quick gut decisions.

Gut decisions are usually fast decisions in high-pressure situations. Cultivating this trait is often very beneficial for decision-makers in important business positions. The maxim here is often "better to decide quickly and risk a mistake than not make a decision at all."

Software solutions like help facilitate the decision-making process before, during, and after meetings. All inputs and outputs can be easily documented and made traceable for all relevant individuals.

Nevertheless, there is also room for intuitive input during direct exchanges in a meeting.

When data is indeed the better choice

Especially when your company relies on scientifically founded facts, these should be empirically and evidently supported by data. It's only through data that analyses and forecasts become meaningful and can benefit your decision-making process.

Wherever data sets are available for a problem, and time allows, conclusions from them should be used as a basis for a decision. Instead of risking an overly simplistic view of a problem based on gut feeling, a detailed examination of data is a safe way to make an informed assumption. Such an assumption ultimately allows for a highly secure conclusion.

It's important that the number of data sets matches the decision at hand. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman sees a problem in too limited a data set. Decision-makers might recognize patterns that don't actually exist this way. For example, just because you see three points, they don't necessarily have to be the corners of a triangle. They could also be measurement points for a circle, square, or octagon, for example.

Data sense: dual decision-making

Using data yields well-founded results. However, an overly detailed approach is also a risk. If you rely solely on your gut feeling, quick decision-making is your advantage. Nevertheless, such decisions often rely on superficial assessments, increasing the risk of making a wrong decision.

A middle ground, a combination of dataset and gut feeling, would be desirable – a data sense, so to speak. Here are some tips on how to combine intuition and gathered facts into an advantageous decision-making machine in your favor:

Back your gut feeling with data

A decision is at hand, and your gut feeling is urging you toward a specific decision. Before you follow this impulse, take a moment to pause and, ideally, take the time to refrain from rushing impulsively, instead conducting a brief fact and data check. This way, you're not only relying on your experience but also supporting it with facts. This approach can be particularly useful when you want to explain your decision to others and create transparency.

Feed your gut feeling with data

Your gut feeling is firmly based on your wealth of experience. The richer this treasure is and the longer you cultivate it, the clearer the foundation for quick gut decisions. This means you should practice making decisions. Choose something that you enjoy and is related to your work. The more data you read about it, the more your gut feeling will be refined. Another option is to answer quick, intuitive yes-or-no questions without thinking – this taps into your subconscious and, in turn, your gut feeling.

Change your mind if the data dictates it

It's essential to be willing to change your mind. If your gut feeling has guided you on a certain path for years, but current data reveal it to be wrong, don't deny yourself the opportunity to take a better course. Transform your opinion into a collection of data-based decisions. In this way, if the data change, you can also change your mind.

Use only complete and valid datasets

Research is important - in two senses. If you find data sets on which to base your business decisions, it's beneficial. However, always be clear about your sources. Use either secure data obtained through scientific standards or consider different research opinions side by side. If both (or more) data sets recommend different approaches, rely on your gut feeling.


No, the middle ground isn't always the right choice. In the dualism between intuitive gut decisions and empirical data and fact-based decisions, it's rare that a harmonious coexistence leads to the desired outcome. In most cases, one side, even when both are used, will result in either a faster or a highly likely correct result. Decision-makers in a company must decide how to make these decisions.

Tapping into the input of multiple people is always useful. A greater amount of gut feeling can indeed lead to a more positive decision. Meetings are a valuable tool for this. With the help of our software, you can make a decision based on shared digital and always accessible data, informed by your gut feeling, and in collaboration with your employees.

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