Make Better Decisions by Understanding the Brain

Neuroscience experts, practitioners, research and methods for making brain-friendly organizations and healthy individuals. Listen to Mind Your Noodles!

This is the 20th episode of the Mind Your Noodles podcast. In this episode, Tripp Babbitt discusses how the brain makes decisions, and how to make better decisions.
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Show Notes and Transcription

Mind Your Noodles Podcast – Episode 20

The 3-Layered Brain

The Triune Brain – A Myth to Neuroscientists

Review of Where We are

Want to Make Better Decisions?

4 Things to Understand to Make Better Decisions

Emotions Rule Decision-Making

Decisive – The Book

Step1 РMaking Good Decisions  Requires Knowledge of Reality

Step 2 – Multiple Ideas from a Diverse Group

Step 3 – Vetting Your Ideas

Conclusion and Upcoming Interviews




Tripp: [00:00:06] Take care of the brains that take care of you with the Mind your Noodles podcast will keep you up to date on the latest neuroscience research and practices to keep your brain healthy. And strategies to help your organization be brain friendly.


Tripp: [00:00:28] Hi, I’m Tripp Babbitt, host of the Mind Your Noodles podcast, and this week I want to talk about decisions and how they’re made and what influences decisions in our brain.


Tripp: [00:00:46] But before I get into the decision part of why I was doing research, I came across some very interesting information. Pretty much every interview I’ve done to this point, we’ve talked about the three brain parts, the basal ganglia, the reptilian brain, which the basal ganglia is supposedly the limbic system, which is a kind of primate brain and handles our emotions and the neocortex, which is the human brain. And from one class to Christine Combe referred to, pretty much everybody I’ve talked to this point, we’ve talked in terms of these three parts, a mass effect. I dedicated a whole podcast episode on the three parts of the brain.


Tripp: [00:01:34] But as I was doing the research, I came across an interesting article about the what is referenced as did try and Brain, which is spelled T R I U N E, and it was apparently something researched over a period of time by Dr. Paul McLean and. The interesting part is the blog that I read was from a gentleman by the name of Daniel Toker, who is in the process of getting his P HD in neuroscience, and he basically said, no, there are not three parts to the brain that were developed over time, one on top of the other that it’s a they all exist existed and the support for that. He referenced a guy by the name of Dr. Terrence Deacon. Now, I’ve reached out to Dr. Deacon to get him on the show.


Tripp: [00:02:47] We’re trying to negotiate a time where we can get him on the show to talk about this. But apparently everybody in the neuroscience world knows that the try and brain is kind of bad theory. And I so I want to get them on to be able to talk about the fact that the try and brain model is even though it’s been propagated throughout a lot of articles and people going out to the business community and talking about the brain. It isn’t the way exists now. How much that changes the individual pieces themselves. The fact they’re evolutionary. But I just wanted to say, you know, we didn’t develop the basal ganglia, the reptilian brain, and then later came this limbic system brain on top of that. And then this neocortex, as I believe for a long period of time. So I’m anxious to get Dr. Deacon on the show, because I’d like him to talk about how our brain actually works and that these three parts actually have always existed within the human brain. Okay. So that’s the part associated with something I came across and I just wanted to share with the audience.


Tripp: [00:04:06] Now I want to kind of go back the big picture talk in terms of what we’re building here. So we started with a lot of interviews about brain science, neuroscience and what we’re learning and what we can apply within our organizations and how I’m using it. And something I call the 95 method, which the 95 method is comprised primarily of five parts, which is the aim and narrative of your organization that that’s a requirement. A second part is the innovation piece, which we talked quite a bit about, the ventral stray item and how we’re wired to explore and be curious. And that innovation, even if we it’s innate in us and when we don’t get it, we get bored. And so we look for things that will actively engage our brain.


Tripp: [00:05:09] We have not talked about decisions which we’re going to be talking about today. We’re going. We have talked in terms of how do we design a good organization, beginning with how do we look at our organization from a customer in perspective so we can understand how we’re affecting their brain and how that can that interaction between a customer and the people dealing with the customer, how that can create cortisol and stress or it can be something very positive and creating endorphins and a whole bunch of good stuff associated if we have a good design, an organization. I haven’t gotten into how do we design a good organization, but that’s in essence what we have built to this point as a way to go in and look at our organizations to see how it’s performing in terms from a customer in perspective. Then the fifth piece, which I’m going to probably delay, but it fits into this decision making piece too is taking data and using it as knowledge. But I think there’s some base understanding associated with just decisions that we need to talk about before we start into deeper dives about innovation.


Tripp: [00:06:27] How do we redesign our organization to be brain friendly to customers and people on the front line and all those types of things that we need to go deeper into? But I think we need some base understanding.


Tripp: [00:06:42] First, let’s start with a couple of. References that I want to make to a book. And actually there’s probably several books, but the two primary books or maybe three primary books and articles that I’m looking at are first of all, an Inc magazine article from. There’s no date. OK. Well, there’s an Inc article and I put a link to it. But in essence, it’s called. Want to make better decisions? Start by understanding your brain. Here’s how. Now, this gets into quite a bit of Charles Duhigg book on the power of habit that we’ve talked about before. And also, I’m going to start to talk about a book called Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, which is a very good book, too. And I draw from some of the things that they’ve done and there’s some things that I’ve learned that are beyond that. But what start with this are Inc article again called Want to Make Better Decisions? Start by understanding your brain. Here’s how.


Tripp: [00:07:57] And basically the author is Deborah Maldonado and she says that there are four things that you need to do to make better decisions. You need to understand your brain, need to assess your past pattern of choices. Don’t always trust your gut and focus on possibility and remain calm. It’s always going to be a good one. And in this article, she primarily focuses in on the fact that decisions are often made unconsciously by the circuitry in our brain. So your brain makes a decision 10 seconds before we’re even aware of it. So our brain is kind of on this autopilot thing. And this goes back to especially in psychology, you learn quite a bit about it. If you took psychology classes on conditioning that we’re preconditioned based on past decisions that we made based on the future and that the untrained brain focuses primarily on survival and not coming up with multiple options. And we have a tendency to repeat these old patterns.


Tripp: [00:09:16] Now, some of them could be very good. They may be things where you’re making very good decisions based on the decisions that you made in past, or they may be bad decisions regardless if they are pre-programmed into our brain. Now, the good news is we’ve talked probably briefly about neuroplasticity, meaning our brain can be retrained, that we can do things, especially Charles do head talks about ways to do that and the power of habit. But if we’re making bad decisions, there’s a number of things that may be at play. And there’s an emotional component to this, which is, you know, we may have been stressed. We may be tired, maybe overwhelmed.


Tripp: [00:09:55] We may be under pressure and desperate to get to a solution for some problem that we’re running into. So my takeaway from these from this article in Inc magazine is primarily that.


Tripp: [00:10:12] We’re conditioned, we’re pre-programmed in our brain about what work, what types of decisions that we’re going to make. And that emotion plays a very large part. And what the decision is going to be made. And I’m sure you’ve probably heard about how emotion plays a big role in those types of things.


Tripp: [00:10:33] But when we get to a method to mitigate how we can go about making good decisions in general, I think these are two factors that play a large role. So let’s talk a little bit about Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Decisive and primarily in their book. They’re talking about four things. Also one is this is that we have a tendency to narrow our decisions down to a dichotomy. So either we’re going to do this or we’re not going to do this. And that gives us a pretty narrow set of options. It doesn’t get in to what other options might be available. And so when we start to look at a solution, we’re going to need to find ways to force ourselves to be able to look at other options. Now, the other thing that Chip and Dan Heath talked about, decisive is comp confirmation or a second thing. And that is that we only when we’re looking at and making an analysis on a decision or a potential solution, that we have to make a decision on, that we have a tendency to only look for evidence that supports our belief. So if you’re biased toward a particular solution, guess what you’re going to do? You’re going to look for things that support the solution that you have.


Tripp: [00:12:08] The third area is you talk about is emotion drives decisions. So we’ve talked about this from the article and that, you know, for stressed, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into things. I don’t get into the marketing piece, at least at this juncture. Bob Cialdini. He’s been on 60 Minutes and some of the books that he’s written are excellent books. I talked about kind of the precondition thing of people and tendencies and things of that sort. I recommend that if you’re into marketing and how how what your tendencies are, how they fit into the brain, sometimes he has information, sometimes he doesn’t. But from observation and this gets back to Charles Green type, the trusted advisor, which is he thinks that we don’t need neuroscience. We can just observe and some of the things that we’re concluding are just redundant. But so that’s the third thing, is that emotion drives decisions. And then the fourth thing is overconfidence does that. You know, once we’ve made that decision, boy, we’re going to keep going on it. And one of the things from my interview or working with you, Rica ranch, is that when you make a decision that that shouldn’t be the final thing, that you may need to pivot from that idea.


Tripp: [00:13:32] You need to scrap that idea. You may need to modify the idea or the solution that you’re working on. And people, unfortunately, get into I’m going to make a decision and that’s it. And we’re going down that path.


Tripp: [00:13:47] And then confirmation bias sets in and we start to look for things to support the decision that we’ve made as opposed to keeping our minds open, to making better decisions by looking at ways that we may need to pivot from the idea.


Tripp: [00:14:03] And are we learning? And as we get into innovation, you’ll learn more about how you need to go to do that using the work of W. Edwards stemming and actually Walter Shue Hart before that in the shoe heart cycle, which is planned do study act. And then we get out of that, we take some of the emotion out of it as opposed to to keeping emotion in. And there’s methods to go about being able to cheat, did not make emotional decisions and be analytical about it. Now, keep in mind, if you’re in a selling situation, you want people to be emotional state, right?


Tripp: [00:14:48] So if youre making a decision and then you got a salesperson there, you got to keep in mind. And this goes back to Oren claps interview. The first interview they did the second episode where he talked about, you know, we want people to kind of be in that emotional state. And once they get into analytical, they’re going to start to shut down the emotional piece. And so there’s this kind of.


Tripp: [00:15:13] Tug towards trying to keep you in an in an emotional state. And we need to mitigate that if we’re going to make good decisions within organizations and realize what our habits are, our tendencies are, how we’re preconditioned in our brain to make decisions in a certain way.


Tripp: [00:15:33] So what I’ve created in The 95 Method four for a method to make decisions. I start with the place that we’ve already begun, that we look at things customer in what I find in organizations is executives do not and I won’t repeat this, do not understand their organizations and there’s a combination of reasons for that.


Tripp: [00:16:00] Even if they started the company, it was small potentially. And you know, they were involved kind of in what was going on. They had pretty much full knowledge of some of the activities that were happening with customers and things of that sort. But as time goes by and companies grow. Executives have a tendency to not be involved in what’s happening at the front lines. So they’re they’re starting without knowledge. They don’t have the knowledge that they need to be able to make good decisions. Now.


Tripp: [00:16:41] Personally, I think the place to start for executives is to study their their own organization, which is the thing that I outlined in previous episodes about how you go about doing that.


Tripp: [00:16:54] Coming up with looking at the organization “customer-in” and now you you’re you’re getting knowledge and probably not everything you need to know, but you’re certainly more sensitive to what’s actually happening as opposed to what you think is happening in the organization. Now, there is a whole history of things that are going on that I could use as historical references. One is General Reynolds during the Civil War, I just went to Gettysburg recently. So this is fresh in my mind. But on the first day at Gettysburg was a three day battle. And General Reynolds and Essence rides in and General Buford is on Seminary Ridge and he’s holding off the Confederates with the Black Hats, which are a division from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. And they’re fighting furiously to keep the keep the Confederates at bay and not overrun the town until John Reynolds gets there. And what’s General Reynolds gets there? The first thing he does, and true to his belief is that as a general, you could not just. Lead from behind that you had to be out there seeing what was happening in the organization. Now the good news is unlike, General Reynolds, you aren’t putting yourself in harm’s way in most organizations. You know, he went out and essence and so is happening on the battlefield. And unfortunately, John, General Reynolds was shot and killed on the spot. Actually, it’s Mark to Gettysburg on the first day as he urged his men forward to hold off the Confederates. Now, eventually, the end of the day, the Confederates overran them on the first day. And then we got Pickett’s Charge on the third day. I’m not going to go through all the history associated with that.


Tripp: [00:18:57] But the important point to remember is that when we look at developing an aim or purpose of an organization or developing a narrative, you have to have some knowledge of what is actually happening, not what you think is happening.


Tripp: [00:19:14] And going through the exercises I laid out in the PDR downloads that I offered earlier about looking at your customer, at your organization, customer in allows you that ability to look at things kind of from a customer perspective, listening to phone calls and things of that sort and talking to people on the front line that actually deal with customers on a daily basis.


Tripp: [00:19:42] So to me, these are these develop what the Keystone problems are in the organization, what are the pivot points and understanding your organization that you need to address? Because if it’s related to the customer, it most likely is going to be something that you need to address. If you’re failing continually and the only way to see that is to go look for yourself. So that’s kind of the first step. Well, that is the first step.


Tripp: [00:20:13] And the second step is being able to what you have identified the problem and developed in what Maggie Nichols called in our interview a couple weeks ago, the blue card, which is the narrative behind it. Why do we need to fix this or why do we need to improve or why do we need to innovate and to get people excited about it? You develop this narrative that Park Howell talked about in our episode to how how do we communicate in such a way that people get behind it and having a greater good associated with the business and all those wonderful things as part of the aim. But we need to develop multiple ideas that may mitigate this problem on narrow framing of decision making. And you do that by pulling dive, a diverse group of people together to come up with a decision. Now, in the old days, they used to have a thing that you would do, an exercise that you would do with executive groups where you were going to you are stranded in the desert and it gives you a list of items and which items are you you need the most of.


Tripp: [00:21:27] And if you’ve never been stranded before, you probably don’t know what would be things that you need and what you don’t need. And but if you’ve gone through some survival training, then obviously you’ve got an expert or somebody that understands the things that become important. So you prioritize things like water and tools and all different types of things. And what you discover is you go through the exercise and you rank these things individually and then you in your group, you talk about it and then you come up and you read rank them based upon people talking about the different types of things that that you need to prioritize of, things that that you need. And inevitably, unless you’ve had some survival training, the best way to go is to use the diversity of experiences. And almost always would the group score higher than the individual as far as do the right things. The right tools, the right objects that you needed in order to survive in the desert if you’re stranded. And I used to use that to have probably 25 years ago. But in essence, using that kind of reinforces this whole idea.


Tripp: [00:22:52] That diversity that Maggie Nichols talked about and then is used in innovation is that we can get broader ideas and broader solutions, more innovative things based upon the people that are coming up with the ideas as well as. The experiences now I just did a. Point thirteen of Dr. Deming is 14 points was, in essence, how to continue gain knowledge in organizations, and that’s why I’m an advocate of people within organizations being trained in other areas. If somebody wants to be a massage therapist or has interest in learning about that, then I think it’s important for organizations to support that and for them to get knowledge and people will go, well. Why is that done having to do with their job? But it does has to do with this diversity of thinking. And the more experiences they have, the the more broadly you can come up with looking at things from a different viewpoint as well as coming up with new ideas. And then the next thing is coming up with a way to vet these ideas. How do we go about and determine which ideas we want to when to go? So in Maggie Nichols world, we talked about the blue card and then the yellow card, the blue card being the aim, kind of the narrative behind what we want ideas on.


Tripp: [00:24:26] And then the yellow card being the ideas themselves and we take them through. In essence, this plan do study act cycle where as I talked about before, do we want to kid you? We make a decision, we start to bounce it off what’s happening out there, but we have to be prepared to scrap it.


Tripp: [00:24:50] You can’t have overconfidence and constantly looking to see if oh yeah, people love it and look for people who love it and ignore the people who don’t love it. Because we we we we need actual feedback from folks on an idea, on an innovation, on a solution in order to see how it’s working. And I think so often in organizations, what I see is people making decisions sitting on it. And then there’s no pivot, there’s no follow up. There is no doubt things get better. Answering very simple questions associated with being able to propel an organization forward. It’s all about. I made the decision and I’m wiping my hands clean now of that decision. Now I’ll move on to the next decision. And that is something that that I believe really inhibits organizations for the reasons that we’ve talked about that were too narrow and the framing were too precondition to maybe making bad decision, maybe making good decisions. But we’re not looking at all options that are out there. And then this reconditioning and also looking into conferee confirmation bias, only looking for things that support the idea that we’ve come up with.


Tripp: [00:26:20] So I know this is a lot from a standpoint of laying the groundwork for what needs to happen in decision making. But I may modify this as we move forward from everything I’ve learned about how we go about making decisions. I’m looking for ways to mitigate the emotions that we have and this narrow framing and only looking for things that support what idea that I have as a solution and the overconfidence that we have associated with it. And I think that by virtue of the fact of eliminating some of these things or even just knowing about them will help us make better decisions and understand that our brain is in this preconditioned mode, that it’s on autopilot, it’s subconsciously making needs decisions before you even pulled the trigger based on previous decisions that you’ve made.


Tripp: [00:27:21] So that concludes this week’s Mind Your Noodles on decision making. I am looking forward to having. Hopefully things will work out. Dr. Terrence Deacon on I also have scheduled Loretta Breuning, who us who wrote a book on emotions. She runs something called the Inner Mammal Institute.


Tripp: [00:27:49] And so I’m looking forward to having her on and talking about emotions and how things happen in humans with regards to emotion. I’m interviewing her, I believe, at the end of September so we can look for that one in October. So that’s it this week for decision making.


Tripp: [00:28:09] And I look forward to talking to you next week. Probably, dive a little bit deeper into innovation.


Tripp: [00:28:18] Thank you for being a listener of the Mind YourNoodles podcast, if you’d like to learn more or sign up for our newsletter or upcoming podcasts, go to


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