In his bestselling “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Nobel Prize winner in Economics Daniel Kahneman proposes a model for human thought based on two systems of thinking. “System 1” is defined as fast, instinctive and emotional. Whereas “System 2” is slow, deliberative, and more logical.
Most importantly, “System 2” is lazy and doesn’t even bother showing up to the thinking process unless it has too. In reference to study after study, Kahneman builds a case that people tend to make intuitive decisions, based only on the information available. They use “System 1” because “System 2” is hard – when you use “System 2” you can feel the strain of thinking.
What’s more, when “System 1” is used to make decisions we are confident of the answer even when a lack of evidence exists. They are typically internally consistent decisions based on a number of heuristics that make thinking easier – i.e. less mental strain. Never does “System 1” seek out additional information.
Kahneman proposes that “System 1” operates in What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI) mode. When asked to answer a question people tend not to incorporate information that isn’t already right in front of them. They rarely think about the sort of information they would require to make an effective decision; but rather think of what decision can be made with the information they have.
As information management consultants, this “System 1” / “System 2” model of thinking about how individuals made decisions can be applied to organisations as a whole.
“System 1” is the way decisions are made with no explicit investment in information management. “System 2” takes more effort, because it must begin with an investment in understanding the information assets you have, the decisions you need to make, and whether there is sufficient available evidence to make an effective decision.
General management devotees make a great fuss about the importance of being decisive – in making the best decision with the available information. And there is certainly value in this approach where no alternative exists. But an alternative does exist.
Creating a systemic approach to delivering the right information, to the right people, to make the critical decisions at the heart of your operating model, is making an investment to build a “System 2” thought process for your organisation. It might be hard work – you’ll feel the strain of thinking – but it’s worthwhile.