Decision-making should not be left to the mind alone, it should be a cohesive result of thinking using all the three brains inside the human body – the head, the gut and the heart.
Several years ago, I was leading a large team of people who had a huge portfolio of responsibilities, including managing key suppliers. During this time, we went out to tender for a supply contract that was worth around $30 million and I made the decision to delegate this tender process to several members of my highly qualified and experienced team. As a result, they managed a thorough and detailed process and came up with the recommendation to change to a new supplier. Although I was happy that they had followed the correct process, I have to be honest – this supplier just didn’t feel right to me.
Even when the time came to sign the contact with the new supplier, I procrastinated for days and really didn’t want to go ahead with it. However, unable to articulate a good reason why I felt this way, I chose to override my gut feeling and went ahead and signed the contact.
As a result, the next two years of working with that supplier were a complete nightmare. Yes, technically the supplier could deliver and did everything they said they would – but, in reality, the fit between the two organisations didn’t work at all. The head-based decision process that was used to choose the supplier wasn’t enough to get the right outcome and my gut reaction was actually giving me much more accurate guidance.
Have you ever made a decision or taken an action that, despite following the correct process, or being logical, just didn’t feel right? Maybe you found it hard to put into words, but you just felt something wasn’t quite right in your gut? Did you go ahead and do it anyway, only to discover later on that things didn’t work out or had serious consequences?
We are often told to ‘follow our gut’ but, in reality, how many of us do this? Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you had actually listened to what your gut was telling you? Would the outcome have been more positive?
Think back to how many situations may have turned out differently if you had made a better decision, or taken a different action – that is a decision made on ‘feeling right’ as well as meeting all of the standard ‘thinking’ criteria?
There’s a growing body of research on the importance and value of intuition or ‘following our gut feel’. This technique is particularly useful in decision-making and proves that using our intuition – combined with our knowledge of a subject – results in better, more powerful decisions than just using knowledge or ‘head thinking’ alone.
So what is intuition?
There are numerous theories on intuition, many supporting the concept that intuition is our unconscious mind, merely trying to pass information on to us. When doing this, it provides access to far more accurate detail, than our conscious cognitive mind could ever do on its own.
Can you imagine how powerful it is to be able to access your intuition in order to gain more information to work with when taking action and making key decisions?
Remember, humans are far more than our heads and we have hearts, guts, emotions, values, identities and strengths that make us who we are. Therefore, in order to reach our highest potential, we need to understand and utilise our whole self – not just our thinking brain.
How does this impact you?
Think about those times when you are relating with your customers and stakeholders, when negotiating service levels and contracts or when dealing with stressful crisis situations. Can you imagine how powerful it would be to add the knowledge of your intuition into these processes?
Recent neuroscience findings support the concept that if you want to become a true leader, then you need to use all the intelligence available you – not just the brain inside your head. Science has confirmed that we have at least three ‘brains’ – one each in our head, heart and gut. So important are these discoveries that there are dedicated fields of medicine and research including neurocardiology and neurogastroenterology.
Utilising the practical methodologies of neurolinguistic programming, cognitive linguistics and behavioural modelling, Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka have synthesised a wide range of research findings into an integrated approach. The findings are published in their book entitled mBraining – Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff.
MBraining is a new field of human development (developed by Soosalu and Oka), which suggests that everyone, particularly leaders or those making important decisions, will have far more success if they are able to practise accessing all the resources in their head, gut and also their heart. In doing this, they align their conscious and unconscious intuitive abilities, and are able to harness that priceless wisdom within them. The mBraining research and behavioural modelling has shown that each of these three brains offers a unique intelligence, each with specific areas of competence:
Heart brain prime functions
- emoting – emotional processing (e.g. anger, grief, hatred, joy, happiness etc)
- values – processing what’s important to you and your priorities (and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires etc), and
- relational effect – your felt connection with others (e.g. feelings of love/hate/indifference, compassion/uncaring, like/dislike etc).
Gut brain prime functions
- core identity – a deep and visceral sense of core self, and determining at the deepest levels what is ‘self’ versus ‘not-self’
- self-preservation – protection of self, safety, boundaries, hungers and aversions, and
- mobilisation – motility, impulse for action, gutsy courage and the will to act.
Head brain prime functions
- cognitive perception – cognition, perception, pattern recognition etc
- thinking – reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition etc
- making meaning – semantic processing, languaging, narrative, metaphor etc, and
- it’s easy to see, considering the prime functions of the three brains, what we may be missing out on if we don’t leverage the resources of our heart and gut brains as well as our head brains.
For the wisest decision-making, all three intelligences need to be accessed and operating at their highest expressions. Decision-making with the highest expressions of head, heart and gut offers:
- HEAD BRAIN: Creativity
The head intelligence ensures the decision has been thought through and analysed.
- HEART BRAIN: Compassion
The heart intelligence provides values-driven emotional energy to care enough to act on or prioritise the decision against competing pressures.
- GUT BRAIN: Courage
The gut intelligence is all about courage. It ensures that there will be sufficient attention to managing risks and enough will power to mobilise and execute the decision when challenges arise.
How to access these three brains
The development of mBIT (Multiple Brain Integration Techniques) allows everyone to be able to build the skills for accessing the resources of their head, heart and gut. mBIT is a suite of practical techniques for communicating with, aligning and harnessing the intelligence of your multiple brains.
The first step in accessing these three brains is to bring balance to your autonomic nervous system, the system that manages your stress levels and flight/fright responses. This means that rather than operating from a stressed or depressed state, you can make decisions and take actions from a fully resourced state using all of the resources of your heart, head and gut. A simple way to do this is to practise balanced breathing using a balanced inhale/exhale breathing cycle. This will give you the opportunity to get yourself in the peak performance zone and to be in the present moment.
Try ‘balanced breathing’ anytime, using a balanced inhale/exhale breathing cycle – simply inhaling for six seconds and then exhaling for six seconds. If you do this regularly for a few minutes at a time, it will help to bring your autonomic nervous system into balance.
It is good practice to use this technique before undertaking important activities like presentations or meetings and making key decisions. Just by practising this, you become more connected to what is happening around you and your closest values, and this enhances your ability to make wiser, more intuitive decisions and take more courageous action.
Stacey Ashley is the managing director of Ashley Coaching and Consulting. The developers, Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka, invited her to become one of the first globally certified coaches of mBraining. Stacey works with executives, senior management and teams from many of Australia’s leading corporations, along with private clients. www.ashleyconsulting.com.au.