In this post, I will unpack the concept of Convenient Reasoning and link it to managerial judgement and the spirited defense of Gut. I really haven’t challenged these assumptions in a few months, so, if you dislike what you read, give me a shout.
I’ll spend too much time over the next 45 days repeating the orthodox line of scientific management and continuous learning in digital. It’ll be a great opportunity to unpack some language and really tone down the information density.
Just as I translate the word ‘leverage’ into ‘use’, I translate the word ‘gut’ into ‘my feelings about expectations’. Or, put more derisively, ‘muh feelz’.
I’m indebted to James G. March for highlighting the difference between expectations, preferences, and dissatisfaction.
Ever notice how sometimes big fire drills happen because the big guy is dissatisfied with the status quo? Note the indignant rage? The state of dissatisfaction is tremendously predictive of searching for solutions. It’s more of an emotion than it is a behavior. Some people are simply driven by continuous rage. It’s pretty generous to call these people “passionate”. James March observed that this tendency tended to cause huge swings in managerial performance.
A manager with lather themselves up with high expectations for the future, and when they fail to achieve it, they collapse into a pit of self-pity and hatred. A lot of people never recover. I’ve watched a lot of CEO’s at DMZ and MaRS go through this.
If you’re going to be governed by your gut, prepare to be hungry all the time.
I’ll take somebody with great judgement over a lucky gut any day.
Demonstrating good, systematic, self-improving, judgement in the face of dark skies, is admirable, and more than likely is a root cause of systemic, structural, and sustainable competitive advantage.
Superior judgement is rooted in understanding the difference between a preference and an expectation.
Superior judgement includes inputs that are both qualitative and quantitative. In other words, both your personal experience with reality, your personal experience with the facts, and your personal experience with facts and models generated by others, can all produce superior results.
Judgement and Gut
A gut may experience the world either by being punched, kicked, stabbed, or, through it’s esophagus.
A brain experiences the world through its ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and specialized nerves.
I did the math. Five senses are better than two.
Convenient Reasoning Dressed Up As Judgement
Sometimes, if it becomes a requirement to use data to argue why you must get something that they want, people will dress up what they want using convenient reasoning.
Almost everybody who is reading this now has likely engaged in that behavior.
And it’s one of the primary, impolite, reasons why people who live in data don’t want everybody to have access to the same data. They’ve witnessed the damage that those with poor judgement have done using the figures that they enabled, and like Oppenheimer felt bad about the Bomb, they feel bad about it too.
Because even stupid ideas look delicious when breaded in enough circumstantial panko facts and deep fat fried in the database.
I’d rather see the 20% with good judgement become better using data than to hold them back for fear of the 80%.
As a CEO, I’m not interested in hiring or retaining people with poor judgement in the first place. Good luck to me if I can invent an instrument to detect the difference.
Productivity Gains And a Better Future
We’re living in the age of the gut. We’re all poorer for it.
If 8 in 10 decisions are currently are solely preference based, image how much better things could be if that figure were to fall to 5 in 10? The sensitivity model could be huge, especially in areas of the economy that are very resistant to evidence or data.
I’m optimistic that things are going to get a lot better, for everybody, in the near future.
I think you can make things a lot better for yourself, as a leader, by adopting those behaviors sooner. Or at the very least, being aware of when you’re getting conveniently reasoned to.