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Emotions vs. Information in Business Decision Making

Shayna Marks
Shayna Marks

Which do you rely on to make important choices?

In the age of big data and ever-present infographics, it’s clear that numbers and analytics are playing a bigger part in business decision making than ever before. The post-recession professional landscape has created a need for hard stats and numbers to help businesses justify where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Though our reliance on data has grown, there is an ever-present element in business decision making that’s nearly impossible to quantify: emotion.

Only Human, a recent study by global creative agency gyro and The Fortune Knowledge Group, set out to prove that emotion plays a huge part in executive decision making. After surveying 720 senior-level executives in the spring of 2014, Only Human found that “nearly two-thirds (65%) of executives say subjective factors that can’t be quantified (including company culture and corporate values) increasingly make a difference when evaluating competing proposals. Only 16% disagree.” 

Factors such as reputation, trust, and down-right gut instinct also play a huge part in choices when partnering with other businesses. Though numbers help, they are not deciding factors, Only Human discovered: “work risks are personal risks. This is why although hard facts inform or color our decisions, we are ultimately influenced by emotion and won over through our hearts, not by data.”

Though the notion of emotional decision making in business may go against what we’ve always been told about business, the reality is that we are in fact, only human. Neuroscience business expert Janet Crawford and her firm Casadance have been utilizing their scientific findings about the brain in order to help Fortune 500 companies and start-ups in Silicon Valley maximize productivity and innovation. In an interview with Forbes, Crawford explains why human nature matters in business:

Business is best when the people providing goods and services feel passion and commitment to what they are producing and their customers feel they’ve received value. The operative word here is “feel.” When we use the term “rational” in business, we usually mean dispassionately data driven and informed by explicit measurable criteria.

The key findings in Only Human clearly show that emotions trump data, but it’s also true that both need to be present in order to make a truly informed business decision. Though emotions are the power player come decision-making time, data lends a big hand in that it helps the decision-maker to feel as though they have all of the information they need in order to make said decision. As Christoph Becker, ceo/cco of gyro, put it: “business decisions are made emotionally and justified rationally.”

Becker goes on to say that given these findings, it’s imperative that businesses looking to appeal to other decision-makers must focus on the pure idea of their business, and make them feel. The desire to connect, and truly feel like they’re forming a long-lasting partnership, is the end-goal for your potential clients and colleagues. Contrary to everything we’ve always been told, business is personal.

In order to apply these findings to your own business practices, it’s important to start with your relationships. Networking and connections will eventually lead to future clients, if these relationships are fostered in a way that grows trust and builds a positive reputation.

Keep passion behind everything you do, and build your company culture around values your clients respect. Though your results will be an essential factor for potential clients, your relationship skills, reputation, and relationship skills will be the end game.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Shayna Marks
Shayna Marks Staff
Shayna Marks is the founder and principal at Citrine Marketing, a boutique marketing studio that utilizes content marketing and social media for brilliant brand storytelling. Prior to launching Citrine, Shayna built her career by creating engaging, educational content on behalf of influential brands on digital mediums. Shayna Marks has a degree in Literary Journalism from UC Irvine, where she learned rich storytelling skills to later pair with her love of new media and technology.