Mumbai: Two Lincoln University researchers have been examining how farmers make their decisions, the role intuition plays, and how it can be improved.
Dr. Peter Nuthall and Dr. Kevin Old, from the Department of Land Management and Systems, have had their analysis of farmers’ intuitive decision making published in the international rural research journal Rural Studies*.
Data was gathered from over 700 farmers.
“Farmer intuition has never been analyzed to this extent before,” Dr. Nuthall said.
Research has shown farmers make the majority of decisions using their intuition. They do not formally analyses each decision, but use their mental powers to decide on what action to take.
“Sometimes the decision is instantaneous, but in others a range of thought levels are brought to bear before acting. Good decision intuition is not a mysterious process,” Dr. Nuthall said.
“Profit and other assessments show some farmers are good intuitive decision makers, others not so good.”
Farmers with little experience, whether they have good potential intuition or not, find it difficult to make good decisions.
Dr. Nuthall said the intuition process often uses what is called ‘pattern matching’, where the brain uses experience to match up past events with the current decision problem.
“The farmer’s intuition then comes up with what the brain believes to be the correct action.”
However, intuition is more than just pattern matching, he said.
“Intuition develops with a farmer’s thought process, self-criticism and review.”
The new research showed how farmers can improve their intuition.
“Obviously the farmers’ technical farming knowledge is important as a forerunner. But equally is the attention to carefully observing the state of the farm and the relevant markets,” Dr. Nuthall said.
“Observations must be accurate and cover all the issues important to any decision. And the farmer must be good at anticipating the path ahead — looking ahead skills are critical in assessing alternative actions to solve any decision problem. These all tend to be inbuilt skills”
He said these skills can be improved with attention and practice.
“A farmer should analyze all past decisions and take on board any lessons on offer. Discussing past actions with colleagues and family helps improve mind held patterns and produce good solutions.”
As an aid to improve intuition Dr. Nuthall has produced a novel ‘The intuitive farmer … inspiring management success’ which tells the story of a group of farmers and their meetings covering a range of management challenges and skills associated with intuition. Guided by meeting facilitators, the farmers sort out each other’s decision problems, learning and taking on board the lessons. A new novel is being prepared to guide farmers through the process of modifying their ‘management style’. The novel is available through most international online book sellers, including 5M the publishers.