Man has made many machines, complex and cunning but which of them indeed rivals the workings of his heart? – Pablo Casals

When I wrote Chapter 7: Understanding Intuitive Decision Making for Decision Making for Dummies I discovered that the heart is still viewed as just a ‘pump’ – a physical device for moving blood around. The notion that empathy, deep connection and cognitive functioning is directly related to the state of the heart’s coherence, is apparently not common knowledge. Nor was the research conducted by the HeartMath Institute. So when the heart’s role in decision making was questioned, I called the research scientist at the HeartMath Institute, Dr. Rollin McCraty, who took the time to help. He forwarded the scientific papers describing that the heart not only transmits emotional data to the brain via the vagus nerve, it sends more to the brain than the brain sends to it. Anatomy 101 as it turns out.

Imagine your body as a massive sensing device picking up emotional and social information 24/7 that tells you whether you are safe or at risk. That data runs through the heart to the brain where auto-decisions are made to determine whether you need to protect yourself or if it is safe to grow. Scientifically it is known as ‘epigenetics’.

Intuitive decisions are based on that data mashed up with the 150 cognitive biases that distort perception. The more aware you are the more you appreciate the influence on decisions and can design decisions to mitigate the effect. Crowd sourced forecasting is one way as  Karl Mattingly explains.  Gaining mastery of your intuition and energy field is another as Dr. Lesley Phillips explains. For executive decision makers, understanding the role of empathy is key to working in complex systems. Over simplifying complexity makes a mess and creates plenty of unintended and mostly negative consequences.

Jeremy Rifkin in a talk to the RSA from his book The  Empathic Civilization notes:

Empathy is the invisible hand. Empathy is what allows us to stretch our sensibility with another so that we can cohere in larger social units. To empathise is to civilise; to civilise is to empathise.

He concluded his talk with:

So here’s the news – 6.8 billion people at various stages of consciousness, theological, ideological, psychological, dramaturgical we’re all fighting with each other with different ideas about the world, and guess what – we all came from two people – the Bible got this one right, we could have come from many – but the point is we have to begin thinking as an extended family, we have to broaden our sense of identity. We don’t lose the old identities that nationhood and our religious identities, and even our blood ties. But we extend our identities so we can think of the human race as our fellow sojourners and our other creatures here as part of our evolutionary family and the biosphere as our community.

Now more than ever empathy is needed to accelerate accuracy in decision-making, to create beneficial results that honour the ‘oneness’ that unites each of us into a unified field of consciousness. And it all starts with the heart. On page 78 of Decision Making for Dummies you’ll find HeartMath’s Quick Coherence technique.  It is a great way to improve your cognitive functioning and better decisions by paying attention to your emotional state of well-being.

Dinosaurs existed on this earth for about 175 million years. Our ancestors have existed on earth for about 6 million years but in modern form only about 200,000 years. Unless we evolve consciousness and empathy we will be the architects of our own extinction.


Contact me to talk about updating decision making to consider what it means to be human and living in a complex world. 



The global and business issues we face today require full employee engagement and a different thinking. Dawna loves to work collaboratively to evolve and transform workplaces to be more ‘fit’, agile and inspiring. By shifting perspective to expose the invisible elements creating routine results, clients gain the strength and clarity needed to remove barriers to growth. Intelligent and intuitive insights strengthen leadership capacity to use complexity fluently and grow beyond the limitations of profit to achieve greater prosperity and value. To activate a quantum leap in leadership, Dawna started the Evolutionary Provocateur podcast in 2008. Author of Decision Making for Dummies, a speaker and a tad nomadic, Dawna is currently working on using Virtual and Augmented Reality to accelerate business culture change and human potential. An original thinker, she brings personal experience with resilience and transformation to her leadership.


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