Ethical yoga: lead with your gut.


Here is a FastCompany article regarding thinking versus feeling decision-making when it comes to ethical choices. Of course, the “gut” isn’t enough to actually make those decisions, but it certainly should  be a filter through which to decide if you even will consider going there. What may have gotten us to this economic situation is a number of brains that do really convincing gut imitations.

Comments (4)

  1. Prats says:

    This is my first time on your blog… Liked the posts a lot.

    I would not agree giving Feelings a very high place in decision making… Not because of anything else but if alligned wrong… it creates terrible very very terrible decisions-

    Almost any crime/terrorism starts when the feelings alienate the rationalism out of the decision making.

    Ps. I am talking about role of feelings in generic decision making not a hard lined corporate/executive decision making scenarios… but I am saying is applicable to most of the scams in corporate history as well

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmmm, interesting perspective. I wonder if you could argue that it’s not the feeling that is bad but the intellectual reaction to the feeling? I need to think on this one. I get what you’re saying and good point!

  3. Paul says:

    Thanks for drawing attention to this article. I wouldn’t have gone down this path of thinking on my own. The research is scarily close to the infamous Milgram Experiments (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment), although the subjects in this case weren’t actually required to do physical harm to others. It’s the kind of thing I don’t like to acknowledge in people — that we can divorce what’s moral from what’s "logical" so easily.

    I disagree strongly with Prats.  What I see in business is that people at the bottom and most who’ve succeeded in getting to the very top (excepting the obvious few bad apples), make decisions with their gut and are often a lot more "moral" than the middle and upper-middle who are supposed to be uber-rational. And, they make better decisions because of it. No one recommends abandoning rationality in its entirety, but good decisions have to be tempered by the gut test. In my experience, no matter how good the numbers are, if it feels wrong, it probably is. And the long term consequences of something that feels wrong are usually far worse than mistakes made when accounting for how something feels in your gut.

    It’s not just about making well-reasoned decisions, but whether the decisions are made for the right reasons.

    Absolute emotion-based decision-making is just crazy — I don’t think anyone is advocating that, certainly not the author of this article. It sounds a lot like religion as a sole-source decisioning guide.  On the other hand, rationality guided by feelings isn’t wrong — it’s the best way to make any important decision.

    Sub-prime mortgage lending is only one example. Most of what we’ve done in the US over the last 20 years for "rational" reasons has significantly undermined the long term strength of the country, from repealing Glass-Steagall, to outsourcing our manufacturing and mid-level jobs overseas (what do we think supports the high-paying jobs?), to doubling down on our "national credit card" with extremely ill-advised bailouts that we’ll never be able to pay for without hurting the people who can least afford it (hyper-inflation hurts the elderly the most, increased taxation will break the back of the already over-burdened middle class). I could go on, but all these travesties were commited in the name of rational number-based thought, without regard to who ultimately pays for the downside.

    The implied conclusion of this article is one that sits well with me. Despite being an analytical, numbers-based type of guy, at the end of the day I’d much prefer someone with a strong moral compass making decisions with their gut than a Harvard graduate crunching numbers in absence of emotion. I have no doubt who’ll be right more often.

  4. Lauren Smith says:

    This was the whole premise of Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink. As Prats says, if your gut isn’t properly aligned with logic or you don’t truly understand what is in your best interest, you’ll just end up making ineffective decisions.