Use neuroscience to make better decisions at work

Understand the default preferences all humans have and what drives biases to help improve your decision making and leadership skills.

Using a basic understanding of neuroscience, the default preferences all humans have, and what drives biases can help you as a leader improve your decision making–and shift you from your default way of operating.

Being mindful and taking the time to 'think slow' can lead to better outcomes, for you and your team.

Here are six tips to understanding basic neuroscience and some common pitfalls to help you make better decisions:

  1. Be aware of your emotions – we are not saying that you should be unemotional in decision making, but it is important to be aware of the emotions you attach to experiences, and how this can influence the way you make decisions.
  2. Use facts and analysis – you can't remove all risk by using facts and analysis of information however, taking the time to look at the information you have helps you avoid snap decisions based on your biases.
  3. Don't accept the first thought – (unless it is multiple choice, where research shows your first answer is usually the correct one). Otherwise give your first thought a quick challenge to ensure you are on the right path, do you need to change your decision.
  4. Be aware of anchoring – Anchoring, is a cognitive bias where you rely too heavily on an initial piece of information that is offered to you when making decision. It's when, during decision making you use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgements. A perfect example is a guide price in real estate. Take time to ask yourself if the anchoring is limiting or clouding your decision.
  5. Clear your mind – mindfulness, meditation and wellbeing. Even 30 seconds in the day be conscious, centre yourself which is amazing how you can clear your mind before you go onto making big decisions. A good way to clear your mind at work is to choose any object nearby (e.g. a pencil or your computer mouse) and really focus on it for one minute. Pretend you're seeing it for the first time. Pay close attention to its shape, texture, and construction. This can help you clear your mind and reconnect with those everyday objects that surround you.
  6. Be purposeful and less automated – when you operate on ‘auto-pilot’ you increase your chances of making poor decisions. Take the time to understand what drives you and those around you, as well as influences that can derail good decision making.

For a great read to understand these tips, check out Thinking fast and slow–by Daniel Kahneman or this quick Fight Mediocrity YouTube video if that's more your learning style.

Use the Queensland Government’s leadership competencies for Queensland to help identify and develop the skills and behaviours you need to be a leader.

Find out about career development opportunities in the Queensland public sector.

Article adapted from a public sector masterclass with David Bowser, Neuroscientist and Director of Curio.