Heart or Head?
How do we make decisions? With the head, or heart? Many of us in business might like to think we’re rational human beings and that hard data and evidence based facts are what we turn to when making strategic decisions. But psychologists suggest our hearts, and gut feelings, rule over our heads far more than we might care to admit. In a heart-wrenchingly honest talk, Rebecca reveals how we can allow our hearts to rule even if it costs us our lives.
Rebecca shares how, when it was her turn to decide whether or not to make a bid for Everest’s summit and climb into the ‘Death Zone’, above 8,000m, where the air is too thin to sustain human life, that rationally the answer would have been ‘no’. There was a storm in the valley, the forecast on the mountain was for high winds, and she was weak – this was her second attempt. And yet she said ‘yes’ for a host of emotional reasons. There was the magnetism of the summit, so close after four years’ effort. There was what leading Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman calls ‘optimism bias’, which allows us to believe fate will treat us kindly (even if five people died in the last week, doing exactly what we are about to do). There was ignorance, never done this before; and a false sense of security – the slopes looked gentle and you can’t see how few oxygen molecules there are in the air. And there was rivalry – three other climbers were giving it a go, so Rebecca would, too.
Rebecca acknowledges she was in an ‘emotional bubble’, and that she was lucky – the weather held. But not all of us are lucky, at least not all of the time. Rebecca draws examples from other mountaineering tales – most notably the Everest disaster of 1996 told eloquently in Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, in which three commercial guides and five clients were caught in a blizzard and died – and draws examples of the human condition, so described, into the wider world, most notably the financial crash of 2008. This is a talk that awakens all of us to the need to be more self-aware, and to listen to the quiet voice of rationality, within ourselves and other members of our team.