How Much Thought Goes Into The Decision?

I read an interesting book over Xmas. The first was called “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinkingâ€? and is by Malcolm Gladwell. It was an easy read although it took 200 pages to say what could have been said in a white paper. This apart, the basic concept of the book is worth our consideration.

Gladwell argues that many decisions are made intuitively. We assemble information over time in the subliminal store of our mind. This is then processed in such a way that we don’t always realise how. In fact, he thinks that we make decisions in the blink of an eye. This gets complicated because we don’t like to admit to this and so everything gets rationalised.

It is rather like meeting a tiger while walking down the high street. You don’t switch on the computer and start doing a few “what ifsâ€? – you belt into the nearest door and lock it. Your decision is made in a split second as if without thinking.

This concept of “a decision in a blinkâ€? is something that we could begin to think about in business to business marketing. We are forever asking buyers and specifiers to tell us how they arrived at their choice of supplier. And of course, they tell us. They say it was price, quality, delivery – all the usual suspects. We get them to spend points on different issues to try to measure how important each factor is in this weighty decision.

But what if the decision is strongly emotional and intuitive? What if the respondent can’t tell us why he or she chose a certain supplier because frankly they don’t really know themselves? All they do know is that they have been using them for years and they feel very happy with their choice, so they will tell us it is price, delivery and what have you.

What it may be telling us is that we need to be more imaginative in the way we ask questions about decision making. Maybe we would do better to concentrate on issues such as the buyers’ behaviour rather than their rationalised account of why they do something. At least we would then have some believable data that we could analyse and use to explain the underlying reasons for the decision.

Paul Hague

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