In a rapidly changing world trusting your ‘instincts’ may not always be the best option.

While I normally put great store by ‘human instinct’ I am increasingly aware that it is also my biggest challenge.  When coaching clients we find a comfortable spot and spend time talking through what’s important to them.  We make time to assess and evaluate  and then reflect and consider.  The resulting action plans, carefully crafted to prioritise the important, make great sense.  The real challenge they face however,is when they return to their hectic schedules and try to implement their plans – ‘life’ gets in the way.

At it’s heart Cognitive Bias is about the two sides of the human brain – the ‘automatic’ instinctive side and the higher level logical side.  The instinctive side has been around for millions of years and is what kept us safe from sabre tooth tigers – fight or flight.  The logical side is a more recent evolution and manages things like language and problem solving.  The instinctive side operates at a subconscious level and is very fast while the logical side is slow and deliberate, taking a great deal of energy.

For example – how many DVD do you have at home?  The logical side of your brain would say you no longer have a working DVD player you’ve seen the films already and they are available on your Netflix subscription – so the DVDs should go.  As you start to implement your plan the automatic side of your brain says you paid good money for them, you might want to watch them again and you could get a new DVD player – why not keep them ‘just in case’.

I often joke that, if the Second World War was to start again tomorrow, my in-laws would be incredibly well prepared.  And that’s the point – in a world that is rapidly evolving no war will be the same so being prepared for the last war is a waste of time.  We need to be aware of cognitive bias and work to prepare future generations for the world they will inherit.

As we face up to Brexit it is worth reflecting that in the 40 years the UK has been in the ‘European club’ the world population has almost doubled.  While Europe offers a market of 500 million people on our door-step, the global stage is now 14 times bigger than Europe.  As the country gears up to face the challenges of ‘tomorrow’, where should our focus be?