Connect with us

Success Advice

Why Smart People Think Beyond Reason to Make Powerful Decisions



decision making
Image Credit: Unsplash

How long has it been since you’ve had a tough decision to make at work? I bet it happens regularly, if it is not on a daily basis. Sure, making decisions can be exhilarating, but it can also be draining. Sometimes dreadful.

Your pulse accelerates, you start to sweat, your mind jumps from one point to the next, hoping to settle on something. You really want to make the right decision for you, for your team, for your organization. But often times, it can be a tough call. You wish you had the perfect step-by-step recipe to get to the right decision.

Well, in fact, decision-making is quite a complex process for everyone. So much that it is a very popular topic in management research.

For decades, academics have observed and interviewed successful senior leaders to understand and model the thought process that take them to the right decision. These studies resulted in the inescapable rational process. Which we are all very aware of.But what if there was a better way to make decisions that doesn’t just rely on rational thinking?

The problem with rational thinking

rational thinking

We are trained from an early age to develop our rational abilities. We are taught to systematically gather the relevant data, to analyze it, to design options and evaluate them, until we make the final decision. There is no doubt that the demand for data science specialists are growing since companies are hiring skilled individuals who have an excellent knowledge of data management. Leveraging data is as a slow process requiring conscious and sustained effort. Our rational thinking make progress step by step and draws a logical conclusion. And that’s great. Indispensable.

I couldn’t agree more. I hold a Bachelor of Mathematics, and a scientific Master’s degree in Management. My natural preference is rational thinking. However, I must admit that rational thinking can be wrong. Or jammed, unable to decide.

I mean, do you always have enough time to gather data, analyze, evaluate options and decide? Do you always have all the data that is necessary? Does it sometimes happen, on the contrary, that you have so much data that it is overwhelming and you can no longer distinguish the forest from the trees? What if there was another way?

Rational thinking is not your only option

rational thinking

Senior leaders realize, and researchers have found out, that all decisions are not, or are not only, based on rational thinking. Decision-making also leverages … intuitive thinking. Smart leaders consider their intuitions — in addition to their rational analysis — when making decisions.

And the truth is, leaders consider their intuitions — in addition to their rational analysis — when making decisions:

“90% of the 60 leaders who participated in a study reported using their intuition in combination with rational data analysis. They found that their decisions were accelerated, and were better.” (Burke, Miller, 1999)

“Managers at the top of every [of the 2000] organizations surveyed scored higher than middle or lower-level managers on their ability to use their intuition to guide their key decisions.” (Agor, 1986)

This is a well-kept secret, isn’t it? I bet you rarely hear someone at work trying to convince you that this decision is better because his instinct says so. We would rather emphasize the extensive research and analysis we have done to give credibility to our decision.

However, it doesn’t mean that intuition is not instrumental to the process. So, let me explain what intuition is, exactly.

How intuition helps you reach the right decisions


Neuroscience understands that the human brain thinks in two different ways. There’s the rational process, as described above, and the intuitive process. The latter is not esoteric, magical, nor is it about a premonition.

Intuitions are the conclusions that spontaneously raise to your consciousness, without you being aware of the intermediate stages — although it is often possible to justify your intuition after the fact.

Imagine meeting someone for the first time. Within a blink of the eye, you have an opinion of the person. That’s an intuition. And, contrarily to reason, intuition is incredibly fast. Intuitions are conveyed to your consciousness by your emotions. The first thing that comes to mind is the feelings you have for this person. You like or dislike, you trust or you don’t.

Rather than dissecting information, the intuitive process of the brain makes connections almost instantaneously based on your experiences. By analogy and association, it synthesizes and jumps to conclusions. Beneath the surface, when you meet this person for the first time, your brain finds similarities with people you’ve known in the past, and concludes.

Intuition is thus essentially based on the knowledge accumulated through your experiences, all too often forgotten, and on the models of the world that you have created for yourself, of which you are often not aware of. You may or may not realize that this person in front of you reminds you of the type of people you don’t trust, as an example.

In fact, because it is spontaneous and effortless, intuition is the way of thinking that drives the majority of the decisions you make in a day. If the stakes are not high, intuition will prevail, it is so much easier and efficient. Whether you are conscious of it or not. Whether you like it or not.

Here are a few examples:

  • You slow down your car in traffic, because you instinctively understand that the car on the other lane is trying to cut you off.
  • You pick clothes in your closet that feel comfortable if you don’t have an official meeting today. You don’t need to rationally think over your choice.
  • You accept an invitation without hesitation because it feels exciting and you have time. No need for some complex thinking here either.

Does that mean you should always listen to your intuition?

listen to your intuition

Now, is this to say that your intuition is always right? Sorry, it is not the case. The quality of your intuitions depends on the quality of the knowledge you hold, and thus of your learning.

In fact, as you are getting experienced in your job, as you face numerous situations and overcome challenges, you develop mental models on the appropriate ways to react. That’s called expert intuition. It explains why senior people can make decision swiftly, without hesitation, and without a long rational process.

Your expertise may not only be related to your job. You can also be an expert in human relations, for example. If you have always been fascinated by people, and an avid observer of good and not-so-good interactions, you may intuitively know how to react with difficult people or situations.

However, a word of caution. Intuition can also tap into your biases and your fears. In those occasions, intuition could be wrong, and it is really difficult to tell when this happens. Intuitions, at the end of the day, are no more no less than assumptions. That’s why engaging both rational thinking and intuitive thinking is so important.

How smart people use intuition to make the best decisions

using your intuition

Let’s say you are in a restaurant. You read the menu, and choose one food rather than another according to how you feel about it. It is then your intuitive process that intervenes, without real awareness of what leads you to that choice.

That being said, if you are following a particular diet, you may rule out your initial choice. You can be the impartial observer of your feelings. You can decide to slow down for a second and have your rational thinking intervene to choose more proper food for you. You have a veto power over your intuitions.

The same holds true for decisions made in a professional context, even for the most rational of us. You have intuitions, and you have rational thoughts.

Let me ask you a question: When you have a decision to make, how would you describe your typical thought process?

  1. You spontaneously have a feeling of what the right decision is, and then you engage your rational thinking to confirm whether or not your intuition is right. That is called strategic intuition.
  2. You first collect data, you analyze it, you evaluate your options, you make a rational decision and then you stop for a moment to perceive how you feel about the decision. That’s called conclusive intuition.

Strategic intuition and conclusive intuition are both efficient. But it speaks to your natural preference, and to the level of experience you hold. The more experience, the more mental models you developed over time, and the easiest it is for your brain to make connections and associations, and thus generate intuitions.

In both instances, integrating intuition and reason increases dramatically the potential for you to make the right decision.

Intuition is really an assumption your brain makes based on your experience. Relying solely on your intuition could be risky, unless you don’t have the time to analyze the situation rationally — for example, in the middle of a heated discussion, or a particularly stressful situation.

Depending solely on your reason is also suboptimal. Your brain has the capacity to detect information beneath the surface which could have a crucial impact on your decision. Ignoring it could lead you to the wrong conclusion.

The more you navigate between the two processes, the more knowledge you tap into, the better the decisions, and the more you can adapt to circumstances. You can decide how much you rely on one or the other — or both. It is a matter of choice, and practice.

Make the best use of your brain’s powers to make smart decisions

brain power

Imagine that going forward, you listen to the little voice inside of you, in addition to proceeding systematically, rationally.

Imagine that going forward, you navigate between your reason and your intuition. You dig deeper into your feelings, the voice of your intuition, and challenge your reason. Similarly, you observe impartially feelings that arise, take a step back, and apply your veto if you know better.

Navigating between your reason and your intuition, you tap into the knowledge you are aware of at a conscious level, and also into the wisdom you hold beneath the surface. Chances are that you will make better informed decisions, even if time is short, data is insufficient, or contradictory.

As a senior leader once told me:This will make the difference between a potential of success, and an assured failure.


This article is based on the research I performed for my Master’s thesis (2017). The full bibliography includes over 100 articles and books, of which:

BURKE, Lisa A., MILLER, Monica K., Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision-making Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 13, №4, p. 91–98, New York, Academy of Management, 1999

AGOR, Weston H., The Logic of Intuition: How Top Executives Make Important Decisions, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 14, №3, p. 5–18, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1986

Ginette Gagnon is a certified Team Performance Coach and holds a Masters in Management from Montreal, Canada. She works with entrepreneurs, high-potential executives and management teams around the world making her clients athletes in their respective professional discipline.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Success Advice

Mastering Self-Management for Success: Lessons From Peter F. Drucker

With careers no longer following a straight, predictable path, self-awareness and adaptability are essential for success.



Peter f drucker lessons
Image Credit: Midjourney

In today’s dynamic professional world, self-management has become increasingly important. With careers no longer following a straight, predictable path, self-awareness and adaptability are essential for success. (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How to Ignite the Spark Within for Future Success

All of us come to this world with our own reserve of magic unfortunately, not everyone can unleash it



Igniting your spark
Image Credit: Midjourney

What is it that makes some people great leaders while others remain followers? What magic do they have that others don’t? What special blessing gives them the power to bring significant change?  (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions



Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success (1)
Image Credit: Midjourney

Pause for a moment and ponder two pandemic-era beliefs: First, closing schools will control the spread of a serious virus. Second, the consequences of such school closures—particularly social interruption and the prevention of immunity—are worse than becoming sick with the virus. (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How to Break the Cycles of Mediocrity and Manifest Your Greatness

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity



Image Credit: Midjourney

In just a few weeks, we will be wrapping up 2023. Can you believe it? This year has been absolutely incredible for me.

I have seen amazing doors opened, new relationships formed and I am seeing dreams realized in my life. While this seems like the hallmarks of a great year, this has also been the most challenging year of my life. With all of the change happening in my life, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to grow in every area of my life.

I can truly say that I have made the most of my moments this year and I have used everything as a catalyst for maximizing my greatest potential.

As a revolutionary leader, I have the pleasure of consulting and advising leaders around the world to fulfill purpose, realize their greatest potential and make an impact.

I want to share some insights with you that will help you to break cycles of mediocrity and manifest your greatness

Everything legal must come through the matrix

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am using the term matrix. However, what you have to understand is that I am trying to make a highly complex spiritual principle practical to understand.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, every life has an origin and I believe that origin is divine and begins with eternity. You are birthed from eternity and into time to fulfill a unique purpose and assignment in your lifetime and generation.

The matrix is simply the portal or vehicle that brings something out of the invisible realm and into tangible form. The problem with much of the teaching today is that it excludes the matrix. We are told to believe that success is instantaneous and overnight.

Nobody talks about how a dream progresses through stages beginning with visualization and ultimately culminating in manifestation. Without a matrix or portal then everything that you attempt to birth and build will be illegal.

The matrix not only makes you legal but it gives you the authority and power to function as the greatest expression of who you were created to be. 

Every matrix has an incubation process

While many people admire and respect me today, I remember a time when nobody knew who I was or the significance of my message. How did I get to where I am today? I got here through an incubation process.

In other words, everything that has been destined for your life is incubating and awaiting a set time of manifestation. The problem is that most people live their entire lives idle and never initiate the incubation process.

What do I meany by that? Most people are living reckless and very few people are living intentionally. I am amazed at the number of people I have conversations with that have no vision, goals or strategies for their lives. They show great promise and they have undeniable potential.

However, without development they will die with their dreams still in them.

Everything that has been destined for your life must be incubated and converted to become realities born to time. 

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

You must give expression to that which is not yet born to time

When you think about a matrix or a prophetic incubation process, you have to understand that potential is often unrealized and untapped. In other words, your potential is in raw form and your potential cannot serve you as long as it is untapped.

The thing that makes me valuable is that I have the ability to convert potential into power. I have done it in my own life and I have empowered leaders around the world to do the same. How do you convert potential into power?

First, it is important to note that you have to perceive potential. If you cannot perceive your potential then you can never cultivate your potential. In addition, you must take the time to cultivate your potential. We often get excited about our capabilities; however, we never expand our capacity in order to realize our greatest potential.

In other words, the strength of your potential is only discovered through your willingness to stretch. The more we are challenged the more we are empowered to expand our capacity for greatness. Most of all, you must begin to express your potential. The expression of potential is different for every person.

For example, the expression of my potential is best demonstrated through the thoughts, ideas, products, services, books, etc.

For another person the expression of potential may look like a screenplay, artwork, sports, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, etc.

Regardless of the form of expression, I know that you will live empty and unfulfilled until you make the decision to express your potential. The expression of your potential gives voice to your dreams, life to your vision, significance to your moments and activates your true power.

You must manifest your greatness

As a revolutionary thinker and leader, my work has impacted people around the world. I am grateful that my life is a source of empowerment to so many people. However, before anyone could ever benefit from my life, I had to make a non-negotiable decision to become who I was born to be.

I wish I could tell you that this journey is easy and that you will get there overnight. However, in a world that celebrates us for doing we are often criticized for being. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to be who other people wanted me to be instead of being who I was born to be.

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity. It is through our bravery to be vulnerable that we ultimately manifest our greatness. We do not bless the world by being a duplicate. We bless the world when we honor our difference. When you honor your difference you honor your potential.

Ultimately, your difference is how you manifest your greatness.

When you present anything but your authentic self to the world, you are playing small and you are robbing the world of your significance. Manifesting your greatness requires you to master your gifts.

Continue Reading