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The Emotions Behind Decision Making

October 27, 2008

The decisions you make, including which software to buy, the commitment to learn a software, and then the commitment to use a software as part of your new suite of tools (each is different by the way, and not necessarily overlapping), all involve a back-drop of emotions.

Actually the emotions are more of a door-way to the decision making room. You have to go through the doorway to get to the mental space in your brain where decisions or commitments are made.

If you try and move yourself or others to a decision without first going through the emotional doorway, and by the way there are roughly three possible doorways to go through, you will find it tough going, and the results you anticipate won’t be forth coming.

I’m going to cover the the theme of the differences between buying, learning and adopting, as well as the three different emotional doorways in upcoming blogs.

But let me focus briefly on why it’s so important to understand the emotional connection to decision making, and the fact that emotions precede the intellectual aspect of decision making.

Here’s a construct I use and you can too:

1. Emotions precede cognition – don’t get this reversed. Richard Cytowic’s book, The Man Who Tasted Shapes, is one of the most interesting reads on this topic, but you can find much more if you research decision making.

Bottom line, we feel first, then engage logic to form a decision.

Albert Einstein even eluded to it, as he described the pursuit of some of the most rigorous intellectual thinking and logic, beginning with emotion. “The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart” Albert Einstein

It starts with the heart.  Even logic and decision making starts with emotions as a precursor and context for the effort.  The implication is that if you need people to think differently, can I say “logically”, including making a decision such as buying-in to software adoption, you first need to help them walk through one of three emotional doorways (and sometimes all three). Notice I didn’t say present them with the facts.

Those three doorways look like the following to me:

1. The Door way of Positive Emotions; something that pulls or attracts us, e.g. I’ll use it because I like it, it’s clever, it’s cool, it’s attractive…
2. The Door way of Fearful Emotions; something that helps me avoid what I’m afraid of, e.g. if we don’t use it the bad guys will get us, we’ll lose, I’ll look behind, foolish, unprepared, etc.
3. The Door way of Frustration/Defeat Emotions, e.g. We need something to help us not have another embarrassing mistake, miss a deadline, over-run the budget, have details slip through the cracks… (all involving coming to a point of frustration with the existing system).

There’s a lot more to say about how to help people through each of the different doorways, plus some important things you need to know when working with people who are entrenched with the past… and therefore not inclined to follow you or your decision into the future. Keep tuned, I’ll write more frequently to walk you through these topics this week. Be sure to leave me your thoughts and questions.

Bottom Line: The decisions involved in buying, learning and adopting software always start with emotions, one of three emotional groups in fact. Ignoring the emotions, tends to result in a flawed, or unsupported decision making process


Finding the Pain before you Ask for a Decision

2 Comments. Leave new

The Role of Attraction in Software Adoption
October 28, 2008 6:24 pm

[…] The Emotions Behind Decision Making […]

Software Adoption; The Under-Estimating Hurdle that Trips up Executives and Business Managers
November 8, 2008 3:09 pm

[…] The Emotions Behind Decision Making […]


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