Eyeballed it

In the film ‘Sully’ when the captain is interrogated about what measurements he made that made him decide to ditch the plane in the river instead of taking it to the airport, he responds by saying ‘I eyeballed it‘. This has been written about by many authors like in ‘Hare brain and tortoise mind’, ‘Thinking fast and slow’, ‘Blink’ etc. It is hard to prove as a ton of processing happens completely subconscious.

I also happened to read about this in the book ‘Maverick’ by Ricardo Semler, who was the CEO of Semco. Semco is one of the most unique workplaces that had piloted very radical ideas in the 1980’s when management by the book was in its peak. It was very successful for the political environment that was in Brazil at that time and that company’s model has been studied by many people. Semler has an habit of throwing detailed reports in the dustbins and ask for headline summaries from his managers. He also says in another book that many of the times that his managers’ headlines seems to be right about forecast and prediction than those that were backed by solid research and numbers. He practically asks everyone to eyeball the situation.

Eyeballing is not easy, it comes with years of dedicated practice in an area. It is not possible to ask a football striker to explain how did that person know that the goal keeper is going dive to the right. They just eyeball it, that skill gets improved with tons of feedback and dedicated effort to improve.

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At desk work also many times these situations happen, people will develop muscle memory (otherwise eyeballing skills). They will know just by a glance that something is wrong, it will be hard to prove but letting them make a call based on their hunch and giving them space to learn from their action will improve the effectiveness multifold. We have been conditioned that we can be wrong as long as we are backed by reports and numbers, but I learnt that there is no substitute for experience and gut feel.

The innate laziness of our mind will make us very efficient in heading towards right decisions. We can train this by creating mental models (some examples here) deliberately that will keep improving our eyeballing ability.