Instinct or insight – decision making in a crisis

Some years ago, I did a personality test that assigns colours to your behaviours. This particular test showed the difference between how you tend to operate in ideal circumstances versus under stress. In ideal circumstances, I tend to the green / analytical and structured thinker approach. When crises hit and stress levels soar, my tendencies veer strongly towards red / get stuff done approaches.

However, hasty execution without any decision making structure leaves me uncomfortable. My preference is to have simple structures such as a 2×2 matrix I can call on in crisis mode. But is this practical in a full blown, lives and reputations on the line crisis?

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Instinct or Insight – Decision Making in a Crisis discussion to learn from the panel if this or any other tool makes a difference in the heat of the moment.

Sarah Christman, Risk Director; Data & Analytics company


Football and risk management, not two commonly linked themes, however there are some fundamental similarities that risk managers in all disciplines could learn from. An elite footballer is put in a position where they make multiple decisions every minute. The consequences of making a poor decision where every action is subject to scrutiny from multiple camera angles and where the cost of not being in the top leagues can be measured in the millions of pounds means football managers are continually searching for how they can ensure consistent and correct decisions from their team.

In an interview in April 2015 the Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker spoke about how they look to develop ‘automatisms’ in training. The constant drilling of the same actions to the point where each player has the situational awareness to make instinctive, unconscious, decisions a split second faster gives them the competitive advantage. The question it raises is how can companies leverage their existing approaches (scenario analysis, playbooks, war gaming) to build these ‘automatisms’ so that when crises occur the response is instinctive, but informed by frameworks driven by the organizations intellect.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Instinct or Insight – Decision Making in a Crisis discussion to understand how a variety of disciplines enable good decision making in times of crisis.

Oliver Breen, Risk Manager; Retail Banking


In my everyday work, I tend to veer towards theoretical rational approaches to decision making that usually boil down to analyzing the situation, deciding on the choices and then making a decision. What I always find interesting is how the framing of situations colours your interpretation of the choices and then your final decision. Also, that old instinctive fight or flight reactions is where intuition comes into play.

I remember from when I was a little boy, my mum was in a house and burglars were trying to kick in a door to a room with a rear exit. The rational choice might have been to stay in the room and barricade the door, but intuition kicked in and although it seemed like a terrifying choice for her at the time, exiting the rear door and making it to the neighbours turned out to be the right choice given the burglars eventually got through the door.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Instinct or Insight – Decision Making in a Crisis discussion to hear whether we always default to instinct in difficult situation or do rational approaches have their place.

Darius Mayhew, Head of Finance Risk; Motor, Home and Small Business Insurance


When it comes to decision making, as a risk management professional, I always advise my clients to consider all options. From performing risk assessments at the start of making a decision to undertaking ongoing analysis throughout a scenario, it is vital to weigh the pros and the cons before choosing a course of action.

But what if that decision has to be made in a crisis? Can the same set of rules truly apply? Do we even have time to think and determine what our course of action will be?  Sometimes as humans, we have to act on instinct and just do what we feel is right. No doubt we have all been in situations where our mind tells us one thing, and our gut tells us another.

Although this maybe the case is a crisis event such as the ones our panel are about to speak about during the upcoming IRM SIG event, this can also be equally applied to crisis in business where a crucial decision could determine the course or life of a company.

I will be listening with great interest at the upcoming Instinct or Insight – Decision Making in a Crisis event when the panel speaks about how they have acted in a crisis and hope to be able to take away some learnings of how some of this can be applied to the life of a company.

Nousheen Hassan, CEO, Innovative Risk & Audit Solutions.


What worries me the most? As a risk manager in the bank I get up and question everything. I know through my intellect that operational resilience is key to managing the conduct of the organisation. I would not know through my intellect that a situation is arising today that will create a domino effect and let the roller coaster ride begin. My instinct will judge the incidents and my brain will quickly drive the actions.

A right balance between instinct and intellect helps to draft simple tools and plans to manage the catastrophic situations arising in the organisation. We must not forget every institute has its own appetite that drives what is a crisis for that organisation and then its severity rating. Our focus for managing a crisis is not ignoring the early warning indicator and trigger plans. Our plans must be workable and part of a strong risk culture in the organisation.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Instinct or Insight – Decision Making in a Crisis discussion to understand how helpful desk top reviews and exercises are to understanding a crisis scenario and to executing plans.

Ipsita Pradhan, Deputy Manager; International Banking


The two most critical parts of decision making required in a crisis situation are (1) as much information as possible in the short span of time and (b) distilling that information to the most important actions required to prevent loss of life and protection of all the key assets. This has always been critical in the crisis situations I have faced.

When you turn off the switch to the company’s systems, will they all come back on again in exactly the space you left them at?  And secondly, how well-informed are your early warning indicators or risk appetite framework metrics? The first question addresses the operations resilience and the second how smart and confident is the risk management framework.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming discussions in the event organised by the Banking SIG titled Instinct or Intellect – Decision Making in a Crisis to answer these questions. What I would like to hear from our experts is how efficient and effective was the information made available to them for them to react.

Raza SadiqRisk Practitioner Banking/Insurance sector and Advisor to the SIG


I used to work at Dementia Research Centre at UCL as a researcher and model developer for detecting Alzheimer’s disease in early stages through image processing. Sometimes I needed to attend MRI and other scanning sessions with clinicians. In these sessions, I observed how they managed critical situations and made quick decision when incidents happened with patients whose behavior was sometimes absolutely difficult to predict. I am not sure if all these skills were written in their medical books or taught at universities but surely I could see their professionalism in handling the situations. Later, I became familiar with “Deliberate Practice”. Also, the culture was another fascinating part when all staff from nurses to radiographers helped to deal with critical situations.

As an Operational risk manager in the bank, I believe deliberate practice for decision making in crises and experience could be so beneficial for any risk manager especially for front liners who deal with situation like Cyber-attacks.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Instinct or Intellect – Decision Making in a Crisis discussion to understand how deliberate practice and culture can enable good decision making in times of crisis.

Shiva Keihaninejad, Operational Risk Manager; Retail Banking