s227 The conflict between intuition and cognition wastes time and decision quality

It is an illusion to believe, not to be able to decide. Experience has shown that good decisions made safely and promptly are rare and are almost never brought about. Thus, we are more than justified in posing the question of whether and to what extent people can bring about good decisions safely and promptly.

The answer is: yes, this is possible for you and for everyone. To understand how this goal can be achieved, the sequence of desirable adjectives should first be placed in the correct order: safe, timely and good. Second,  the meaning of the verb “to bring about” should be clarified.

In order to bring about good decisions safely and promptly, the human decision systems should be used in the order defined by evolution and clearly distinguished from the concept of the decision. 

KiE: Order Intuition-Cognition-Intuition
Figure 01: Order Intuition-Cognition-Intuition

The order:

  1. KiE intuition (unrequested)
  2. KiE cognition (with decision theories, models, concepts and tools)
  3. KiE intuition (requested)

Decision versus prioritization and the separation from the ideation

The decision (Fig.02: 5.1) as a choice between at least two options is both general and misleading. This description is misleading because the choice between two or more options (Fig.02: 2.1) would mean a prioritization (Fig.02: 3). A decision in the strict sense means to decide for or against a single option (Fig.02: 3.1) to initiate an action.

KiE-DecisionMaking (Fig.02: 0) distinguishes between individual decisions (Fig.02: 5.1), which are brought about by the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy (Fig.02: 4.1), and team decisions, which are brought about as a jointly supported decision (Fig.02: 5.2) within the commitment process (Fig.02: 4.2).

In fact, on closer examination, an individual decision also involves an inner choice between two options: that is, between intuition and cognition or, put in everyday terms, gut and head. For all those who have to cope with making choices between several options, please refer to the KiE prioritization process (Fig.02: 3) (Graf 2018).

KiE: Ideation and prioritization versus decision
Figure 02: Ideation and prioritization versus decision

If you have a problem or are faced with a challenge (Fig.02: 1) that needs to be overcome, you will want to work out possible solutions (Fig.02: 2.2). For this purpose, there is the Ideation Phase (Fig.02: 2), which lies in advance of the Decision Phase (Fig.02: 4.1 & 4.2). The ideation phase, like its subsequent implementation phase, depends upon further decision-making processes, pointing to another more cyclical and nested process, to be discussed in a future paper.

An illusion: You cannot decide

You will immediately object to this claim; still, what is the individual to do when feeling conflicted in the contradiction between head and gut, or when turning in circles on the carousel of thoughts? At this point, you have already entered cognition (head), as  a cycle is only possible here. A DecisionMaking process that allows a cycle to take place bears the risk of repetition of an indefinite duration. Countless guidebooks deal with this perhaps most common decision-making phenomenon. 

By this stage, you have already ventured outside the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy and should return quickly. The return to mindfulness and to the decision-making process works most effectively if you consciously inhale and exhale twelve times. You can, for example, also focus on your big toes. Not that secret decision-making powers rest in your toes. The focus on the body creates a new emotive-cognitive cycle and this thought cycle can be quickly completed. You can also use any other form of mindfulness exercise that helps you. I recommend breathing because breathing is available to you at any time and in any situation, and the relationship with your big toes can be tense at times.

With awareness and mindfulness exercises you can escape from blockages and cycles, but you still haven’t reached a good decision.

So how does a decision-making process become reliable and timely?

Reliable – with the intuitive decision and above all with KiE intuition, you have a form of decision making at your disposal with which you can make a reliable decision. As a conscious decision, you can consult the KiE-Intuition at any time and receive a guaranteed and selective answer on the KiE scale.

With KiE-Intuition, step01 and step03 can be effortlessly and reliably brought about. For the missing Step02 you need the cognitive system (Fig.04)

The KiE intuition - reliable, timely and effortless
Figure03: The KiE intuition – reliable, timely and effortless

The evaluation of the KiE intuition (Fig.03: 1) is available in a standardized and accepted form as the KiE scale.

Timely – the KiE intuition (Fig03: 2) reacts, both unrequested and requested, after about 350 milliseconds (Libet 1983). Since the unrequested intuition is always run through, the decision time caused by the requested intuition adds up to just under one second. For many decision situations the KiE intuition is sufficient as a conscious decision. If you want to or have to or are able to justify your decision and are willing to invest time, you should (consciously) insert a cognitive decision. For important decisions, especially for business and project decisions, you have a wide range of methods at your disposal: e.g.  rational calculation, statistics, best practices, rational choice adapted with Prospect Theory-weighted decision matrices, SWOT analyses, risk and chances, opportunity costs, simulations and business war games, artificial intelligence, other decision formats as well as the possible engagement of consulting companies (Fig.04: 2).

Since the rational decision does not exist, you are ‘freed’ to search for the best possible decision in endless loops (Simon 1965 & 1993). You can limit the cognitive phase with timeboxes (based on agile methods) (Fig.04: 3), which are oriented towards the need for decision making.

KiE: KiE cognition safely and promptly through timeboxes
Figure04: KiE cognition safely and promptly through timeboxes

The evaluation of KiE cognition is available in a standardized and accepted form as the KiE scale (Fig.04: 1).

How does the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy work?

In the first step01, the emotive-cognitive cycle is deliberately and innovatively interrupted  and the unrequested KiE intuition is recorded with the KiE scale (Fig.03: 1 and Fig.05: S1). As a second step02, the cognitive evaluation is determined (fig.04: 1 as well as fig.05: S2). In the third step03, the KiE intuition is consciously requested (fig.03: 2 and fig.05: S3) and ends with a safe decision (fig.05:E), which is followed by a committed measure of action. The examination of the requested intuition (fig.05: S3) is essential to ensure that the decision is not boycotted by the inseparability of the decision systems on the way to implementation.

The evaluation of the 3 steps is available in a standardized and accepted form as the KiE scale (Fig.05: S1, S2 & S3).

KiE: The KiE DecisionMaking Strategy
Figure 05: The KiE DecisionMaking Strategy

The evaluation with the KiE number (Fig.05: S1, S2 & S3) determines how to proceed in the 3 steps referred to as Intuition-Cognition-Intuition:

  • KiE number: (8) to (10) – The decision is rated good, very good or excellent on the KiE scale (Fig.05: S1, S2 and S3) and the next step can be carried out (Go).
  • KiE number: (6) to (7) – The decision is evaluated as only good enough with additional resources and must be transformed into a jointly supported decision with KiE-DecisionMaking processes and a Commitment Process.
  • KiE number (1) to (5) – The decision is not good enough and is discarded (exit). Those responsible must be transferred into a renewed ideation phase to prepare a better decision. The necessary quality, prioritization, and Commitment Processes (Fig. 02) can be safely worked out both individually and in a team with predefined timeboxes (Fig. 03: 3), see below and in the KiE Content Center

If in all three steps (Fig.05: S1, S2 & S3) the traffic lights turn green (KiE number=8,9,10), the decision (Fig.05: E) can be decisively implemented as a final step (Fig.05: H).

Why does the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy work?

The human decision process is the design specification for three easy to learn process steps. The sequence is based on the inseparability of emotions(E), intuition(i) and cognition(K), the KiE trilogy. In this way, the decision systems react and map their evaluation in a KiE number, which is used for reliable process execution.

The early identification of the intuition in the first step01 ensures a documented starting point that can be verified with the cognitive results and thus feeds the intuition with new insights. Important decisions should be slept on for at least one night so that the neuronal emotional structures can adapt. This prevents intuition from distorting the cognitive decision (cognitive biases) afterwards (Kahneman 2011).

The use of the normalized and accepted KiE scale ensures that intuition, which is considered incompatible, can be merged with cognition. This consistency in the evaluation of the different decision systems is necessary to lead to a reliable decision.   

Due to the practice-proven process design, the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy can be applied by both women and men and always leads to a secure goal. If you get lost along the way, the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy’s clear, automatically generated documentation allows you to set up a safe decision again and again.

All 3 steps, Intuition-Cognition-Intuition are determined in their time; thus, they can be planned. This means that you can make reliable decisions in a given time.

The whole DecisionMaking process, especially the last step03 with the KiE-Intuition, ensures that a good decision is reached.

Why does the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy lead to a good decision?

Good decisions are characterized by a solid decision-making process, which reacts robustly to obstacles, can be interrupted at will and can be reliably resumed. With the KiE DecisionMaking process decisions are not taken, but are safely brought about in a process. 

A good decision is ultimately revealed by the effect it achieves. The more often you apply the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy, the more confident you will become and your personal skills will develop naturally. This applies to both successful and unsuccessful decisions because you can refer to the process.

The emotion system and the cognitive system are aligned, which is why head and gut no longer block each other or lead into stressful thought cycles. This fact does not only apply to the decision-making process itself, but increasingly to the implementation of the decision, especially when adversity threatens. The belief that there is a best possible decision is also an illusion [link 251]. The KiE DecisionMaking Strategy always leads to a good decision because it has a chance of successful implementation.

The decision systems no longer block each other and you no longer lose yourself in uncontrolled loops.

If you  think at this point that the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy is too complicated and will take too long, please note that intuition only needs about 350 milliseconds to manifest itself. This can delay the decision by about only one second. Interrupted brooding and unpredictable decision-making processes, transformed into reliable and timely decisions, are worth the effort many times over. 

An analysis I conducted in 2005 with 17 German entrepreneurs (Graf 2018) on their internal decision strategy revealed a consistent structure that corresponds to the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy.

Why ‘head or belly’ is the wrong question?

The age-old question of “head or gut?” is completely resolved with the KiE DecisionMaking Strategy. Conscious decisions do not follow a linear process, as the phrase “making decisions” suggests. The temptation to decide between head or gut is strong but can be both misleading and fatal:

  1. Decisions are formed in emotive-cognitive cycles, in which intuition (gut) is always integrated. The question of either-or (head or gut) is never open. 
  2. The order is predetermined: first intuition (gut) and then cognition (head).
  3. The inner emotive-cognitive cycles can become the problem if they are not consciously controlled by a decision-making process. If there are too few thought cycles, a “reckless” decision may often result. If there are too many, the thought carousel might start again. 
  4. The inner thought cycles can be extended to external feedback loops of action and their resulting effects.
  5. In the end, intuition always acts, even if you are not always consciously aware of it.

The KiE DecisionMaking Strategy removes the separation between head and gut and replaces it with a reliable decision-making process: Intuition-Cognition-Intuition.

Individual and team decisions

The KiE DecisionMaking Strategy aims at the individual application for any kind of decision. However, it also serves as a design template for team processes.

With the individual decision strategy, managers such as agile team members as well as Scrum Masters and Product Owners can make decisions quickly and reliably. The distorting influence of the emotion system can be reduced and the conscious use of intuition successfully integrated. In the traditional as well as the agile worlds, – the deficiencies individual decisions carry with them are generally known. For this reason, further decision-making processes for agile methods, and even more so for the traditional world, are absolutely necessary for the tasks to succeed and for group competence to be integrated.

KiE-DecisionMaking processes
Figure 06: KiE-DecisionMaking processes

More about the series of KiE-DecisionMaking Tools

Further articles about the different human decision forms can be found after the source below under tag „Article series KiE-DecisionMaking Tools“.

More about the series Artificial Intelligence

More articles about artificial intelligence and how it can be extended with KiE can be found after the sources below at tag “Artificial Intelligence“.


May 2020, Richard and Elsa

„It is an illusion to believe, not to be able to decide.” Richard Graf


GRAF, Richard. Die neue Entscheidungskultur: Mit gemeinsam getragenen Entscheidungen zum Erfolg. Carl Hanser Verlag München, 2018.

DE SHAZER, Steve. Worte waren ursprünglich Zauber, 1996

Graf, Richard: Die neue Entscheidungskultur. Mit gemeinsam getragenen Entscheidungen zum Erfolg. Carl Hanser Verlag, 2018

Damásio, Antonio R.: Descartes’ Irrtum: Fühlen – Denken und das menschliche Gehirn, List, 1994

Joseph E. LeDoux: The Emotional Brain, Simon and Schuster, New York (1996)

Kahneman, Daniel: Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan, 2011

Libet, Benjamin, et al: Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential). Neurophysiology of Consciousness. Birkhäuser, Boston, MA, 1983. 249-268.

Simon, A. Herbert: Administrative Behavior. A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organization…. Macmillan, 1965

Simon, H. A. (1993). Homo rationalis: die Vernunft im menschlichen Leben. Campus-Verlag

DE SHAZER, Steve. Worte waren ursprünglich Zauber, 1996

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