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How Our Brain Plays Games, Part 2

Why customer satisfaction is dependent on critical thinking

In the first part of this series, we explored one of the primary ways our brains play games with us—through our intuitive reactions. These reactions can lead us to making quick decisions, or fast thinking, at times when slower thinking is really required.

That’s why when we are pressed for time while managing an incident, we’re prone to complete ‘the picture’ quickly by filling in blanks with data that is not true. In Incident Management, speed is an important factor. Customer satisfaction depends strongly on the speed with which problems are solved. It is therefore important that we know when intuition should lead us, and when more thorough analysis is required.

Since we biologically prefer fast, intuitive responses, it can be easy to lose Situational Awareness of time passing when our working memory load is too high. That means we need an external trigger to drive the switch into slower, more methodical thinking.

Again, in his book, Thinking: Fast and Slow, Nobel laurete Daniel Kahneman believes that fast, intuitive thinking (‘system 1’, in his terminology) is safe if:

  • The issue is simple;
  • You have seen an issue like this many times before and resolved it successfully; and
  • The cost of being wrong is low and the consequences are acceptable.

Kahneman believes that we can think more slowly (in ‘system 2’ thinking), when:

  • Issues are complex and the solution is not obvious;
  • You have not seen an issue like this before. (For example, a new machine falters and existing procedures and protocols are not creating the solution.); and
  • The cost of being wrong is high and the consequences are unacceptable. (For example, the machine stops, which significantly impairs the operation.)

Making the Switch at the Right Time

Everyone is prone to respond intuitively to a simple issue. Therefore it is essential to learn to distinguish between simple and complex issues, and determine which response is merited—a fast response or a slow, more thoughtful one.

Effective triggers to watch for include identifying which of these conditions arrive first…

  • A pre-agreed number of fix attempts have been attempted; or
  • A pre-agreed number of people are now involved; or
  • A pre-agreed time has elapsed.

Slow thinking does not mean that in response to a complex issue you need to stand on the brakes and continue to address the issues in slow motion. It means that the thinking mode switches from knowledge and experience to thorough data gathering, critical thinking and evidence-based decision making with an appropriate degree of risk management.

Making the Thinking Available

Although technology provides diagnostic tools to help make thinking more visible, thinking is still invisible and takes place inside the skull. The results of Clear Thinking are a common understanding of a situation, and a clear and supported plan for resolution.

So how can you bridge the gap? Make the results of the thinking visible and available to the stakeholders. With screen-sharing tools now freely available, sharing information about the most current understanding of the situation is even easier.

Part 1: How Our Brain Plays Games

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How Our Brain Plays Games, Part I

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