BrainsA recent article in McKinsey Quarterly, confronts the critical decision points that arise for us all and, in particular, the conflict between ‘feelings’ and ‘reasons’ that may develop when we decide to address these issues.

As it turns out, the article is on to something. Humans do have a separate nervous system to the brain, with its own dopamine production and transmission mechanism, located, you guessed it, somewhere in the lower gut.Guts

This enteric nervous system (ENS), though still deeply interconnected to the autonomic nervous system, is capable of autonomous actions: one notable observable response relates to the high levels of dopamine within this area.

So Brains or Guts?

Campbell and Whitehead propose four quick rules of thumbs to double-check your feelings whilst not ignoring their stimuli. After all, this stimuli might have been conditioned from positive experiences, however, they note that it is important to review how these were formed and whether such conditioned responses remain applicable to the current situation:

1. The familiarity test: Have we frequently experienced identical or similar situations?

2. The feedback test: Did we get reliable feedback in past situations?

3. The measured-emotions test: Are the emotions we have experienced in similar or related situations measured?

4. The independence test: Are we likely to be influenced by any inappropriate personal interests or attachments?

The article sets these four tests within some business specific scenarios to assist in understanding the challenges that should be met and answered. Interestingly enough, the article seems to suggest that ‘following your gut’ can be quite beneficial. But there is a question of when to do so and by how much. Have your guts ever rewarded you or your brains overridden a gut feeling positively? As always, I look forward to your comments.

Background Links:
How to test your decision-making instincts by McKinsey
A brain in the head, and one in the gut
The Enteric Nervous System
The Autonomic Nervous System
The Human Brain

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