Effective decision making


As human beings we are constantly involved in decision making.

Most decisions are unconscious, like driving a car, our non-verbal communication, what and how we eat, the way we behave around other people, etc.

About 10% of our decisions are conscious, for example, setting priorities: what will I do first?  Which route do I choose? These are professional decisions based on competence and experience. Over the years we have developed a routine, based on our knowledge, competence, education and values, to help us analyze the situation and make decisions that are socially acceptable.

But what happens when we are confronted with new and complex situations? Is it wise to leave our decision making to our unconscious mind or should the decision making process be based on experience and routine? In most situations neither of these two approaches will be desirable. To be effective it will be necessary to think out of the box, to be creative. This is where our adaptive intelligence, located in our prefrontal neocortex, comes in. Unfortunately this intelligence is largely unconscious. Bad luck? Is it hopeless? No, we have the ability to consciously and voluntarily switch to our adaptive intelligence!


2.    MENTAL SWITCH: from automatic to adaptive mode

While we make decisions, our brain processes information transforming it into output. How can we switch from an automatic to an adaptive mode?

In routine mode, where we operate based on our competence and information gathered from prior experiences, we deny dissonant information. We think: ‘This is not possible’ or ‘How is it possible to behave like this?’
Whereas in the curious mode we actively search for new information.  We think: ‘This does not fit with what I expected but I’m curious about whether this could be of some interest.’

Refusal mode is: refusal of disturbance, of the unforeseen, the non-control.  We persevere despite the obstacle or the failure. We defend principles and rules. We think for example ‘We will not deviate from this guideline!’
In the acceptance mode we look at reality “as such”, we have the ability to accept failure, we’re receptive to what is different. Example: ‘This is not the way I had expected things to happen but I’ll find a different way to cope with this situation.’

Dichotomy is: to have a trench vision often based on “judgments”: black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. Like: ‘This is bullshit, there is nothing new in this, I knew everything before’. Nuance is: a subtle vision designing a gradient, perception of complexity and continuity of things. Like: ‘This is not really new, it is only presented in another way; it highlights one aspect of a complex reality.’

Certainties are: the belief that the world is what we see of it, that our perceptions are “The reality”, the feeling that we have “the truth” on this subject or about ourselves. For example: ‘I’m absolutely sure that this is right, it has been proven scientifically!’
Relativity is: the awareness that each vision is but one of many; everyone has a look that is superficial and limited compared to the real infinity. For example: ‘This is what I know about the subject right now but further research might reveal other aspects and other people could have another representation of the same reality.’

Empirics are: The choice of the best known solution, the search for what is immediately applicable, for what has given proven results, reliability, and productivity. It is the aversion for complicated reflections. Example: ‘This is the way we do it. Its effectiveness has been proven through the high readers’ satisfaction and loyalty.’
Logical thinking is: a love for understanding, for rationalizing, for looking for the hidden logics and for searching for the causes of the symptoms. In this case, if something doesn’t work out for example, we think about what we could do differently.

Social image is: the concern of the eyes and judgments of others (image, rites, powers, rivalry); the receptivity to experiences of pride, shame, ridicule, guilt, claim, etc; the irrational perception of the group as a herd (judging or threatening). We think: ‘We better take this decision because it is conform to our rules and traditions.’ Personal opinion is: to assume a personal point of view: that consists of reason, intuition and risk taking, being open to the views and feelings of others (but not their judgments); perceiving the other as a similar being; perceiving a group as a set of individuals. Like: ‘This is my decision, I have weighed the pros and cons, considered the others’ opinion and I’m ready to face the consequences of my decision.’



Did you learn something?

Yes? Then this will help you make more effective decisions, to remain calm and serene when you are faced with new and complex situations. You will be more resistant to stress.

No? You find this ridiculous … Tough break! Whether you like it or not, your subconscious has picked it up, your neural circuits have forever been adapted and will help you to be and act more … appropriate!



Source:  « La Gestion des Modes Mentaux » p. 72-73 in « L’Intelligence du stress » written by Jacques Fradin. Goupe Eyrolles, 2008 ISBN : 978-2-212-54098-7

More info: Institut de Médecine Environnementale (IME), Institute of NeuroCognitivism

Image: INC, Institute of NeuroCognitivism


  • http://twitter.com/Applepie_70 Μαρια ξαμαμηνω

    This is really true. Great insights. Thanks and hope to read more in the future!

Author Spotlight

Pierre Cock

Pierre Cock


Civil Engineer in electro mechanics and systems regulation. University of Ghent

Postgraduate in Applied Economics. University of Antwerp

Master in Business Administration. University of Antwerp

Coach acc-level according to the International Coaching Federation. Leading & Coaching Academy – Brussels

Professional practitioner of the cognitive en behavioral approach. Institute of Neurocognitivism – Brussels

Professional experience:

25 years of management and executive management in business development, change management, commercial management for a Belgian multinational producing and marketing building materials.

My passion is to search for opportunities, analyze how the impossible can be realized, federate resources, identify and develop human potential to make the impossible possible.

Current position

As coach, trainer and consultant ... Read Full

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