Understanding why people think the way they do
At every stage of the construction process, decisions are taken that dictate the success of a project and either put people in danger or help keep them safe.
In an ideal world, everything would be black and white – every time we’re faced with a choice, there would be a right and wrong way to act.
But most of the time particularly when it comes to complex construction projects – decisions and thought processes are not clean-cut.
That’s why understanding what makes us reach particular decisions and think in a particular way, can help us think differently to make better decisions to ultimately achieve the best outcome.
So what factors have a bearing on our thought process?
The type of person you are has a major bearing on the way that you think and make decisions. It’s often said that more imaginative and creative people are better at seeing ‘the bigger picture’, but pay less attention to detail. And the more outgoing and spontaneous you are, the less inclined you’ll be to careful planning. For instance, we all know someone at work who likes to diarise and plan all their tasks and activities and others who prefer to go with the flow and work more flexibly.
Likewise, certain people prefer to solve problems on their own in a quieter, more reflective environment. As opposed to others, who find it easier to reach a solution by discussing issues in large groups.
Your thought process itself will also be heavily influenced by the way you approach problems.
At one end of the scale you have objective thinkers – like mathematicians and scientists for instance – who will commonly look for solutions that are embedded in analysis and logic. They’ll try to find an outcome that makes sense and then justify it later. Whereas subjective problem solvers will start with a solution that might be more ‘accepted’ and work on justifying. Designers, social workers and people in the clergy might fall into this bracket.
But external factors also influence how we think.
Generally, the more decisions we have to make, the lazier our brains become and the less time we spend making any decisions. This has been described as ‘decision-fatigue’ and has obvious consequences for the quality of thinking that goes into making a decision.
High CO2 levels have also been linked to decreased cognitive performance, which is why it’s often recommended for work spaces to be well ventilated and have plants dotted around as they absorb carbon dioxide.
Also, studies have found that we tend to make more informed and risk-averse decisions in the morning because this is when our serotonin levels are at their highest. Similarly, being hungry has been shown to produce more risky decision making. It’s thought this stems from a primal need to take more chances to find food more quickly.
Developing a better understanding of what affects the way we think and act is the cornerstone of Osborne’s Stop Think! programme.
This initiative encourages everyone in our organisation to think differently and therefore, make better decisions at every level of a construction project.
The aim is to coach people to have a ‘Stop Think! moment’ and make sure they’re acting as safely as possible to minimise risk to themselves and others. Aside from the safety considerations, Stop Think! also helps prevent problems, which could have a major bearing on the ultimate success of the project.