Turns out, it depends.
As leaders, we are expected to be rational and make our decisions based on facts. Good leaders need to be right a lot and are expected to ignore factors that are irrelevant to the matter at hand. However, it looks like it’s much easier said than done.
I came across this research done in 2011 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221897896_Extraneous_Factors_in_Judicial_Decisions) where parole judges were observed for have their decisions to grant parole or not. It turns out the decisions are affected by the judges’ own hunger level. We know that denying parole is the easier decision to make, since it takes less time to deliberate. According to the research, if a parole hearing takes place before meal or snack break, judges are more likely to deny paroles. In other words, judges tend to strongly favour the easier decision before meal breaks compared to after meal breaks. Of course, correlation is not causation.
Judges are some of the most rational and fact-based decision makers in the world. If the research results generalize, what does it mean in the business world?
What should we do?
I can think of the following:
- Promote a culture of making decisions consistently based on data and fact-based analysis, guided by agreed upon values shared in the organization. Share written material, proposal or presentation slides prior to meetings so that others can form their opinion with ample of time.
- Often when you have a proposal that you’re presenting to the leadership team, you will be scheduling a meeting. Instead of only considering people’s availability in your scheduling, also think about what time during the day you’re scheduling the meeting at.
- Instead of avoiding certain hours, such as the hour before lunch time, use this information to your advantage. If you have a proposal well supported by data and the business direction, have the meeting just before lunch — since it’s supposed to be an easy decision, it would be a quick meeting without dragging on. Of course, it can certainly backfire if it turns out it’s not an easy decision.
- If you have a proposal that requires a complex decision, schedule it after meal times. It has a much higher chance.