- Highly Intelligent People Avoid Making Bad Decisions By Doing 6 Things, According to Psychology
- 1. Make high-priority decisions at high-energy times
- 2. Excel at getting input from everyone
- 3. Resist multi-tasking
- 4. Avoid analysis paralysis
- 5. Never evaluate while emotional
- 6. Unplug from the information onslaught to clear your mind
- Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?
Highly Intelligent People Avoid Making Bad Decisions By Doing 6 Things, According to Psychology
Decisions, decisions. You make them all day long, big and small. It's hard enough to make the right call when you have the time, support, and resources you need, which rarely happens. Much more common are traps that get us caught into making bad decisions–conditions we get ourselves into or behaviors we choose to engage in.
West Point assistant professor of leadership and psychology, Mike Erwin, recently shared in Harvard Business Review his research findings on the mindset traps we can get caught in when making decisions.
High IQ and EQ people are instinctively on alert for these traps and are wise enough to avoid them. You can too, by doing these six things.
1. Make high-priority decisions at high-energy times
This avoids the trap of decision fatigue, which is when you're mentally worn down from a long day of making decisions, and just make the call with far less thought.
Erwin cites a famous example of decision fatigue, a 2011 Princeton University study that showed prisoners were more ly to have parole successfully granted if their parole meeting was in the morning versus the afternoon.
I've certainly experienced this fatigue and so started a habit of scheduling major meetings with big decisions to happen in the morning, when I'm at my sharpest.
2. Excel at getting input from everyone
Decisions just aren't as good when all stakeholders and qualified minds can't input on them. Erwin makes anecdotal mention of a Northwestern University study that showed in the average meeting, 70 percent of the talking is done by three people (which matches my experience).
High IQ and EQ leaders are able to give everyone, especially introverts, a chance to give their input into a decision by consciously keeping the “overbearing three” in check and by proactively seeking the input of everyone around the table. They also send out a meeting agenda 24 hours in advance detailing the decision to be made so people who process more slowly or to think longer will be ready and comfortable inputting their point of view.
3. Resist multi-tasking
For certain, easier said than done. But a necessity to avoid making distracted decisions. In his book, The Organized Mind, neuroscientist Daniel Levitan says that we lose 40 percent of our effectiveness (including decision making) when we multi-task.
In my book Find the Fire I shared a powerful trick; I write down simple reminders to stay present in the moment (usually at the top of a meeting agenda) “Don't zone out, zone in,” or “Run your mind, don't let it run you,” and my favorite, “What has my attention right now?”
4. Avoid analysis paralysis
The managers I've experienced that were the worst at making decisions (made poor ones or took way too long to make one at all) hid behind reams of data, leveraging it almost as a security blanket. Or more an insecurity blanket because that's what they were really covering up; a lack of confidence or a debilitating habit of perfectionism.
On the other hand, the best decision-makers I've worked with used the 60/40 rule: 60 percent gut, 40 percent data to make a decision. They'd temper their gut with input from those who complemented their strengths and who filled in their knowledge gaps. And they'd foster a decision-making culture of debate-decide-commit. So can you.
5. Never evaluate while emotional
Think back to the last really good decision you made when you were royally pissed off.
The highest EQ leaders never let their emotions get the better of them, and certainly not while in the midst of making an important decision. It starts by being aware of your emotions and not letting them hijack the decision-making process.
By the way, no one said you can't go with your heart or a bit of emotion as a tiebreaker for making the call. It's just important to keep the heart balanced with the head in deciding.
6. Unplug from the information onslaught to clear your mind
Erwin says that the constant access and flow of information today forces us to “live in a continuous state of distraction and struggle to focus.” He's right.
This point isn't even about choosing to multi-task or getting bogged down in analyzing all the information, this is just about trying to focus with the constant flow of email, social feeds, and data reports that cross your desk. Erwin says it's critical to make time to step back and unplug from it all.
I found that when I had to make the biggest decisions, for the few hours leading up to that apex, I'd squirrel away somewhere to think things through, free of tech and other distractions.
Net: smart people don't make dumb decisions that often because they use intentionality along with intelligence.
Published on: Aug 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?
We all probably know someone who is intelligent but does surprisingly stupid things. My family delights in pointing out times when I (a professor) make really dumb mistakes.
What does it mean to be smart or intelligent? Our everyday use of the term is meant to describe someone who is knowledgeable and makes wise decisions, but this definition is at odds with how intelligence is traditionally measured.
The most widely known measure of intelligence is the intelligence quotient, more commonly known as the IQ test, which includes visuospatial puzzles, math problems, pattern recognition, vocabulary questions and visual searches.
The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more ly to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more ly to be successful at work. And they are less ly to get into trouble (for example, commit crimes) as adolescents.
Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being.
You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large-scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity.
University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people do “dumb” things.
The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence.
Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics.
They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all kinds of cognitive biases (for instance, hindsight bias or confirmation bias).
Critical thinking predicts a wide range of life events. In a series of studies, conducted in the U.S. and abroad, my colleagues and I have found that critical thinkers experience fewer bad things in life.
We asked people to complete an inventory of life events and take a critical thinking assessment (the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment).
The critical thinking assessment measures five components of critical thinking skills, including verbal reasoning, argument analysis, hypothesis testing, probability and uncertainty, decision-making and problem-solving.
The inventory of negative life events captures different domains of life such as academic (for example, “I forgot about an exam”), health (“I contracted a sexually transmitted infection because I did not wear a condom”), legal (“I was arrested for driving under the influence”), interpersonal (“I cheated on my romantic partner who I had been with for more than a year”), financial (“I have over $5,000 of credit-card debt”), and so on. Repeatedly, we found that critical thinkers experience fewer negative life events. This is an important finding because there is plenty of evidence that critical thinking can be taught and improved.
Is it better to be a critical thinker or to be intelligent? My latest research pitted critical thinking and intelligence against each other to see which was associated with fewer negative life events. People who were strong on either intelligence or critical thinking experienced fewer negative events, but critical thinkers did better.
Intelligence and improving intelligence are hot topics that receive a lot of attention. It is time for critical thinking to receive a little more of that attention. Keith E. Stanovich wrote an entire book in 2009 about What Intelligence Tests Miss.
Reasoning and rationality more closely resemble what we mean when we say a person is smart rather than spatial skills and math ability. Furthermore, improving intelligence is difficult. Intelligence is largely determined by genetics. Critical thinking, though, can improve with training, and the benefits have been shown to persist over time.
Anyone can improve their critical thinking skills. Doing so, we can say with certainty, is a smart thing to do.