Researchers at Cornell University once estimated that people make over 200 decisions a day about food alone.
The workplace is nothing but a succession of choices, a few big and many small: what to prioritise, when to intervene, whom to avoid in the lifts and, now, where to work each day.
To take one example, when your inbox brims with new emails at the start of a new day, there is absolutely no way to read them all carefully.
Intuition is what helps you decide which ones to answer and which to delete or leave unopened.
Emails that are part of existing threads: open.
Messages from people directly above and below you: open.
Reminders from the chief information officer that cyber-security really, really matters: delete.
Instinct is also at work on those occasions when people have completely zoned out.
They might be working on something else during a Zoom call, or playing chess on their phones, or simply admiring the ceiling pattern.
Suddenly they are aware of a silence, and realise that they have been asked something or are expected to make a contribution.
This is the office equivalent of coming face to face with a lion.
Those who are fit to survive will say something plausible like “I’d like to understand how we are measuring success,” prompting murmurs of agreement from everyone else who hasn’t been paying attention but senses this might be a good answer.
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