Why You Should Stop Overestimating Logic

UPDATED: May 27, 2024
PUBLISHED: June 22, 2017

We often rely heavily on logic to achieve professional success. We believe it should drive the formulation and execution of our business strategies, and we would not feel confident making any high-level decisions without using it as our guide.

As helpful as logic can sometimes be, extensive scientific research now illustrates that it isn’t as pivotal to our success as we might think.

Related: 5 Reasons You Aren’t Successful

The Folly of Logic

In 2002, psychologist Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize in economic sciences for work that exposed the folly of supposed logic. He found that our seemingly logical decisions are often fraught with multiple biases.

For example, a team that has fallen in love with its own recommendation might go out of its way to unconsciously justify this decision with handpicked evidence. Perhaps it will choose to dismiss data that contradicts its theory, or it will make faulty comparisons to other business cases that don’t actually relate to the endeavor. Unfortunately, because the team is blissfully unaware of the subjective biases underlying its decisions, it seems as if this thought process is perfectly logical.


Given that logic is limited, how should we proceed?


In my own professional endeavors, I, too, have found myself misled by what appears to be “logical” decisions. For example, split-testing marketing messages has led me on wild goose chases to raise awareness for products I offer, often resulting in wasted money. I would have been better served by thinking more deeply about who truly needed what I was offering and realizing my budget did not allow for a valid sample size to justify any conclusions.

Given that logic is limited, how should we proceed? In my opinion, the answer is to learn and apply “unfocus” techniques, which I write about in Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind.

Learning to “Unfocus”

If you want more of your innate intelligence to be involved in your decisions, drop the focus and put your mind in discovery mode. When we stop focusing, our brains collect vastly different information because we call on parts of ourselves that are typically trapped underneath biases.

Learning to unfocus might seem challenging at first, but there are numerous proven ways to metaphorically light up this vital brain circuit.

If you’re trying to decide between two opposing strategies, stop weighing the pros and cons, and instead ask, Which option would help me achieve a purpose that’s aligned with who I am? By undergoing this perspective change, you are transforming horizontal conflict into vertical conflict—a strategy popularized by Polish psychiatrist Kazimierz Dąbrowksi to help you make more congruent decisions.


Such flexible thinking is key to success, and you can train yourself to think in similar ways.


When I wanted to launch a company to help business leaders connect their brains to their businesses, every entrepreneurial expert I spoke with told me brain science had no place in leadership development. These conversations occurred in 2010, and back then, their opinions seemed to be sound. There was no data to suggest companies would be interested in brain science. But I started the company, anyway. Why? Because I have a passion for spreading the word on why the brain is awesome. I strongly believe this is my higher purpose, and now, seven years later, the field of applying brain science to business insights is rapidly on the rise.

Similarly, Jeff Bezos provocatively undervalues consistency of thought. He advocates for research, experimentation and discovery, but he also encourages flexibility in thinking. For example, though he found that TV advertising resulted in a bump in Amazon’s sales, he chose to avoid that and invest those dollars in cutting customer costs. Such flexible thinking is key to success, and you can train yourself to think in similar ways.

Related: How Incredibly Successful People Think

Imaginative Strategies

When you’re looking to enhance your thinking—or “unthinking”—toolbox, the following techniques will be useful to consider.

1. Imagine what you’re searching for.

Don’t let today’s “realities” steer your ship. Instead, imagine how you can revolutionize the future. For example, if you’re launching a business that sells sunglasses, don’t solely rely on data that illuminates current hot trends in the sunglass world. You might be better off imagining new and innovative markets for sunglasses, such as a line of stylish frames intended for people who live in less sunny areas. When you imagine, you make a mental movie of your intended outcome, which stimulates action centers in the brain that open up new possibilities.

2. Don’t be afraid to daydream.

Positive constructive daydreaming is a great way to activate your creative brain. Twice a week, set aside time in your day to shift your attention inward and allow your mind to explore the vast possibilities of the world. Lose yourself in the meanderings of your own brain, letting subconscious priorities guide your thoughts. This passive, relaxing strategy will surely unlock innovation and productivity in your professional life.

3. Ask yourself questions.

Your brain doesn’t automatically identify all the logical factors impacting your performance. You must overtly bring its attention to these things. Take conscious question breaks to get your brain to function in agile mode. For example, ask yourself, What one thing stands between me and greater success right now? Even if the answer is obvious, consciously acknowledging this fact could spur you to adjust your current strategy rather than scrap it altogether.

Logic might be a way to make sense of the past, but it’s not always the best way to drive yourself forward to achieve success. Take a step out of your typical thought process and allow your creativity to flow.

Related: A 4-Question Guide to Unlock Your Creativity

Srini Pillay, M.D., is the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and the award-winning author of numerous books, including Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind, Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, and Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders. He also serves as a part-time assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. Recently, Srini created a series of videos on “Managing Depression in the Workplace” for LinkedIn Learning.