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People who prefer to combine quick, intuitive decisions with analysis, make the best decisions in a crisis situation, a new study suggests. A researcher from BI Norwegian Business School in Norway studied what is needed to make good decisions in crisis situations. Bjorn T Bakken developed a simulator where test participants made decisions in different types of crises, such as natural disasters, major accidents and terrorist attacks. Each participant was placed in front of a computer in the laboratory. The monitor showed a map where various types of incidents pop up during the 30 minute test. The participants had different kinds of resources available to them, like planes, cars and other vehicles, which they had to use as best as they can. Decisions were to be made under time pressure and in critical situations. More than 300 students from BI Norwegian Business School and the Norwegian Military Academy tested their skills on the simulated crisis situations.
A further 500 participants solved various kinds of decision-making problems. Bakken looked at the connections between the participants' preferred decision style, how they made their decisions, what decisions they made, and the quality and outcome of their decisions. The preferred decision style of those who took part in experiments and problem-solving exercises was identified. "Those who normally prefer combining intuitive decisions with analysis made the best decisions in the crisis situations," Bakken concluded. Bakken distinguished between intuitive and analytical styles of decision-making. He described intuitive decision style as the ability to make quick decisions when time is short, based on previous experience. This does not mean decisions are made haphazardly, or merely on a gut feeling. An intuitive decision style is developed through experience. Analytical decision style was described as making decisions in a thorough, systematic manner by spending time reviewing all the details and making sure all decisions comply with formal guidelines and requirements. "In a real crisis, you simply don't have time to wait for sufficient information to build up a picture and analyse the situation," Bakken said. "You need to make the initial decisions quickly, based on your experience-based intuition. As you receive more information, you can analyse your way to adjustments and more decisions. "Those who make the best decisions in a crisis practice a flexible decision style that switches between intuition and analysis," he said.