Questioning our own confidence and intuition was the unifying theme for my two sessions at MIT Sloan.

As Professor Dumbledore said, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

While making decisions is one of the key elements that executives are paid to do, most of us are self-taught as ‘intuitive’ decision-makers, having shown success by coming this far in our careers. However, decision coaches can help us ‘natural athletes’ by:

  • seeing things you cannot or do not have enough time to see
  • observing many decision makers and find tendencies and patterns
  • devising better techniques.

John Carroll gave us several live demonstrations of our overconfidence and resulting vulnerability to errors. We talked about our tendency to work within our own ‘frames’ and the risks of ‘group think’ due to seeking affirmation and supporting evidence rather than divergence and challenge.

Successful decisions need both analysis and intuition:

  • Analysis: systematic, rational, convergent, cause-effect, analytical, objective, impersonal
  • Intuition: imaginative, playful, divergent, rule breaking, integrative, patterns, subjective, personal.

The afternoon session took an ethnological eye to the organisation and explored the structural power of networks and social capital.

John van Maanen told us about work to map the networks or political landscape within organisations through the lenses of advice, friendship and daily contact.

Managers are generally surprised to find who the true powerhouses are within organisations -- which people have the most allies? Whose absence will have the greatest impact if they are gone?

The advice network in an organisation reveals the power of getting things done in the routines, while the affect (or friendship) network reveals the power of getting things done in the face of crises or major changes.

Power accrues to those who are central to the network. It also accrues to those who understand the network.

The key lesson I took from this is the need to seek to understand the networks in our organisations. We should be applying our social capital and emotional intelligence in the workplace, in order to lead better, achieve goals and accomplish change initiatives.

Diagram 'The advice network reveals the experts'   Diagram: But when it comes to trust ...