Fascinating new research into the way that the brain processes information suggests that the best way to improve decision-making is by utilizing the unconscious. Unconscious Thought Theory is based on research by social psychologists Ap Dijksterhuis and Loran Nordgren that shows the combination of rational or conscious decision-making is greatly enhanced by calling on intuitive or unconscious thinking.
The unconscious brain is far better at processing highly complex information such as weighing the relative advantages of options with many critieria. The conscious brain is best at gathering facts, figures, and other kinds of data. Working together, the unconcious mind can sort through the complexity of decision-making resulting in high-quality decisions we often feel are “only intuition”.
So, how do can you benefit from this research in your own work? Well, remember the nap? Dijksterhuis and Nordgren say that after undertaking the fact-finding and evaluation elements of strategic planning, for instance, it is best to take a break away from the work to give time for the unconscious thinking to occur. Whether you take a walk, have a meal, paint, or play an instrument, your unconscious mind will be at work sorting through the complexity so that your final decision will benefit from your brain’s rational and intuitive processes.
If you are responsible for organizing planning meetings or other complex kinds of decision-making, you can purposely design the process so that key decisions are made following an overnight break. This is will enhance the participants ability to use both the rational and intuitive brain processes for better decision-making the next day.
In other words, science agrees that if you have an important decision to make you should indeed “sleep on it!”