Intuition and rationality – how it works in decision making

Rationality, intuition, the brain and decisions

Iain McGilchrist’s TED talk.

Through the use of RSA animations, Iain gives a brilliant talk on left brain and right brain differences. He claims to destroy a few myths about how the left and right brain function in relation to rationality.

In the end however, it seems that he puts across those same myths only in a slightly different light – rather than destroying the myths. Basically he says that in almost all thought-types, both hemispheres of the brain are used – but in certain activities, one hemisphere dominates. He explains how each side of the brain views the world. To me, these dominating activities and persepctives do not appear substantially different to the myths he is claiming to destroy.

Having said that, the talk is still immensely interesting and amusing; and he ends with a call for greater emphasis on the right-brain type activities and intuition. The video flies by in 11 minutes, but I would recommend taking the time out to have look if this topic is of interest to you.







Strategy in the crisis – keep it simple!

Strategic decisions are complex – lets not make the job tougher!

Jo Whitehead of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, writing for the Executive Education section of the Financial Times struck a cord with me. His call was for Business Schools and strategy text book writers to get back to the basics. More and more text books are offering complex strategy models that do nothing  to help with the real challenge of strategy: the need to make and implement hard choices in an uncertain environment, with limited information.

Jo talks about students and professors wanting to talk about the latest new and sexy ideas and leave the basics behind. Furthermore, they do not have the time or inclination to put these concepts into practice other than applying them to a few after-the-fact case studies rather than in the crucible of real life, messy situations.

It leaves us with graduates (and executives) talking about these flashy ideas, but when they are required to develop a strategy, they go back to over-simplistic approaches like a SWOT analysis. Jo calls for a smaller number of foundation-type models upon which to build a rigorous set of strategy skills.

After having been in the field of crafting strategy for about 25 years, I have seen many of theses trends come and go – and admittedly have often got caught up in the excitement of some of them myself. I am not saying that they are not without value. For instance, working with a team while at Deloitte, we used the concept of “core competencies” to help convert a company manufacturing arms and ammunition into one that manufactured other peace-time products (a classic swords to ploughshare project). However, core competency thinking cannot be applied universally in all strategies and frankly it took the immense experience and brain-power of our consulting team (Dr, Adriaan Davidse and Karola McArthur) to make it practical.

All good strategy results in one, or a series, of critical decisions – always taken in complex environments with uncertain futures. Strategy tools that help us visualise, understand and manage this complexity add insight. Strategic concepts that make it more obscure or unnecessarily add another level of complexity are seldom useful. As we constantly remind ourselves at Genesis Management Consulting, strategy is ultimately “what are we going to sell to who, and with what basis of competitive advantage”. And if you cannot answer that question at the end of your strategy development process, you had better follow Jo’s advice and go back to the basics!

Link to FT article


For further information about how to combat the complexity of strategic decisions, contact Simon at


Habito 1: tener lo fundamental claro

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Los 7 habitos de los tomadores de decisiones altamente efectivos
Habito 1: tener lo fundamental claro

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The error often made by powerful people when taking decisions

Flaws in decision making – the over-confidence of power!

The effect of confidence on taking advice in decision making

Here is an interesting article discussing the level of advice people are likely to take related to the amount of power they perceive they have. It is based on a number of real experiments conducted by the researchers.

In summary, the findings are:

  • People who perceive themselves as wielding power in their own organisation are much less likely to take advice from others when making decisions. This is mainly caused by their level of confidence in their own judgement.
  • This is far more prevalent in men than in women.
  • In the experimental cases, the results of the decisions of the more powerful (and took less advice) groups were less accurate than those groups who considered external inputs.
This reminds me about the findings from Surowiecki’s famous book “The wisdom of crowds” which postulates (and goes some way to proving) that in many cases large groups of people are smarter than a few experts. However, we accept that in many cases, leaders do not have the time (or for other reasons) to tap into large crowds – but that does not mean they should shun all advice. At Genesis we have designed a tool that is perfect for the task of gaining input to strategic decisions: INSTRAT (see below for more details).




(Or see our “Decision Shop” for a special offer on initial use of the tool).


If you would like to discuss this topic with us, drop me a line at and we can arrange a no-obligation Skype call.


using visualisation techniques in your organisation

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Using visualisation techniques in your organization

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The 3rd Habit : Subscribers Only

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The 3rd habit of highly effective decision makers:

Using Visualisation

You will have reached this page because you are registered on the Genesis mailing list and receive notification of our latest research and publications.

Here you can view and download our latest publication: “The 3rd habit: using visualisation to combat complexity” – part of the series of “the 7 habits of highly effective decision makers”.

The 3rd habit

This is also viewable from our slideshare page at : Habit 3 via slideshare

At the end of the slideshow, we give details of training on using visualisation within your own organisation. If you would like to find out more, click on the link below and we will contact you with further information.

Training programme: using visualisation in your own organisation.




The 3rd Habit: Using Visualisation To Combat Complexity

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The 3rd habit of highly effective decision makers:

Using Visualisation

Continuing our series on the 7 habits of highly effective decision makers, we are pleased to publish our latest slide-show “habit 3: using visualisation to combat complexity”.

In this slide-show, with the help of some StarWars characters, we demonstrate how increasing levels of complexity are making strategic decisions even more challenging. Complexity also often impacts on our ability to communicate effectively which is a crucial element in making decisions within a group; as well as in advising others about the output.

We then show how the power of visualisation can help solve this problem. It has the potential to combat complexity through simplification and visual reasoning. It is also an important tool in clarifying and enhancing communication.

A further benefit is that visualisation is an excellent catalyst for creativity – a further necessary element in strategic decision making. Creativity can dramatically improve the outcome of our decisions in a number of ways including, for instance, in the development of previously unconsidered options.

The slideshow wraps up by asking some challenging questions of the reader in considering the use of visualisation in their own organisation and how they might unlock the potential of this tool – as do the really effective decision makers.

You may download the slideshow here:



Flexible strategy in action – adapting the business model

Agile strategy
Adapting the business model to create flexibility 

Pop-up stores.

There has been much talk for the last decade about having an agile strategy or being a flexible company. This is seen to be even more important in crisis situations – such as much of the world is currently facing. However, although there is a great deal of information about the “why”, there is less about the HOW and far less about real case studies of such.. So when we came across this article about pop-up shops (Inc. mahgazine) we thought we should publicise it as an example of how this can work in practice.

The article discusses how a New York City beauty chain store launches pop-up shops (temporary shops) to capitalise on the Halloween season – with significant success. This may sound like a tactical or short-term move – but in reality it is part of their overall strategy and is carefully planned.

For us, there are 2 points of particular interest:

  • They use a model that seems to be more similar to a prototyping model than more traditional strategic models. They try, learn and refine based on their new knowledge.
  • It is built into their overall strategy. For instance, if a particular pop-up store is successful in attracting young females they may convert the temporary store into a permanent one as the location obviously works for their target market.


We recommend you read the short article (click on the link) and while doing so, consider whether or not there may be analagous things you might be doing to to generate new revenue streams – especially if you are suffering in the current crisis. Are there parts of your business model that may not be as “fixed” as you believe? (eg Do retail stores have to be permanent fixtures? Must you own manufacturing facilities or warehouses?)


Look out for the latest in our series The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Decision Makers: Habit 3 Using Visualisation. In this document, you will find ideas about using visualisation to stimulate creativity and innovation – which could be useful in thinking about your agile strategy (Habit 3 to be published tomorrow 11 October 2011)


If you would like to discuss how you might go about deciding whether you should make your strategy more agile or how you should go about it, drop Simon a line at


Creativity. Innovation. Disruption.

Think Differently
We all have the capability to be  creative.

Here is an HBR blog article that comments on the book The Innovators DNA It discusses how we all have the ability to be creative … to “connect the unconnected”. It is not just the Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos of the world who have the ability. The article gives three tips on how to start building those creativity skills:

  • Just Do It. Force yourself to make connections between seemingly unconnected items.
  • Shake it up. When things do not come naturally, force them to the surface, Use metaphors or games or even the Idea Generator app.
  • Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If you do it frequently enough, it becomes easier. So practise this form of creativity.
An additional tip from Genesis is to keep track of the ideas that may arise. Keep an ideas journal. Our preference is for a hand-written book (my Moleskine is a perfect repository). Often on returning to ideas, or mixing them with other ideas (perhaps those of colleagues) and after your unconscious has had some time to dwell on them, what we call “derivative ideas” may surface. 


Finally, if you are interested in innovation, look out for our new publication later this week: The 3rd Habit: Visualisation (the next in the series on “the 7 habits of highly effective decision makers“) which discusses the power of visualisation in strategic decision making and, in particular, in support of creativity and innovation. We are really excited about this particular “habit” and believe many will find it exciting and stimulating! Why not subscribe to the blog and be one of the first to be notified about it.


Link to HBR article:  Learn how to think differently
We are also on the verge of launching a course on enhancing the ability of organisations and individuals to think visually and embed creativity development skills into their problem solving and decision making activities. Could your company be the next “Apple” of your industry? Why not?


Contact Simon at for more information.