How you can make decisions like the experts.

Peter Burke, PhD returns in an interview that covers core competencies that experts use to create winning decisions and productive actions required for business and family situations. Peter provides thoughtful insights on his decision making process that uses and balances Action, Thinking, Feeling (ATF) in appropriate ways. The results lead to winning actions that rests on understanding the problem, its solution, and controlling the underlining feelings that impact making clear judgements.

Inside this episode is on how experts know how to make good decisions. Specifically, not about making good decisions on the road to success, but the how. The how experts are able to consistently make wise choices time after time. How and why experts approach problems and goals differently than most people, and that… makes them experts.

Peter Burke’s “Decision Making Process that uses Action, Thinking, Feeling (ATF) in Appropriate Ways”.


Show Notes

This approach is important because ATF is biological, predating the internet era, yet it impacts our decisions making. If we don’t recognize it, we are likely to make the wrong decision.

ATF—Action, Thinking, Feeling…three essential elements that need to be in balance for making the best choices and decisions. Where a person starts depends on their personality. There is no particular order or starting place, but all three elements need to be present. However, this holistic approach includes the intuition and the insight on how experts size up situations and make decisions.

Peter mentions Theory U, but only at a very high level. It is a process to make change and decisions. You can look online or at books on the details, which is quite extensive, deep, and has many applications in the business world.

Peter found that Theory U is extensive to his liking and he has, thankfully, simplified it to be easier to apply to our situations and problems.  Let’s picture a big U, the letter U, in your mind. On the top left of the U is the past actions that led to, let’s say a problem. Now we go half-way down the left side of the U to a place called Thinking, where we understanding the problem and its complexities, then we go to the bottom, and explore and identify feelings. Is there fear? Our bias? Over optimism? After that, we climb the right side, going mid-way to a Thinking step. What is the options we have? What is the solutions available? Then to the top with action that rests on understanding the problem, its solution, and the underlining feeling that impact clear judgements.

  • Curiosity is a core competency.
  • Balancing your Actions, Thinking, Feelings is a core competency.
  • Starting with intent is a core competency.

12:42 Starts with intent… and needs a procedure or protocol to carry out.

  • Just declaring an intent is an action…
  • Intent should be inflexible, but the follow-on actions should be flexible.
  • At the end of the ATF, you will be smarter, so you may want to change your intent.

16:30 Go beyond just linear thinking

  • Quote: “Stay hungry, stay foolish” Steve Jobs
  • Without curiosity, you lose your ability to play.
  •  If in hunker down mode, your brain works differently.

18:50  Values Clarification exercise

  • Peter’s values: Capability, Curiosity, Connection
  • Connections are important…

20:10 Feeling

  • If we don’t understand underlining emotion, we become reactive instead of pro-active under stress.
  • Emotions can inspire you, strengthen you, or anger or annoy you,
  • In the business world, expressing is bound by politeness,  fear, ambition,  you protect yourself…

21:54 Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Self-Awareness

  • Aware with others.
  • Aware with yourself.
  • Emotions change brain state of thinking.
  • Must recognize emotions in yourself.
  • Dealing with Fear… first must recognize it.

23:38  Thinking Part of ATF

  • Need to be in touch with the right tools, for the right problem.
  • Don’t avoid the problems… don’t numb.
  • Procrastination is the drug of choice for many.

24:48 What is a tool?

  • A process that helps clarify the situation and next steps
  • Use what’s been around… don’t reinvent.
  • Learn how to use these tools.


  •  25:34 Gary Cline…. Experts make decisions by just knowing
  •  How do you just know?
  •  5,000 to 10,000 hours of expertise in a field
  • Choice of vocabulary is a challenge…what do we mean by intuition?
  • Peter’s definition: The experience from 5000 hours… you just know.
  • 27:50 Two stories:   Field Scientist in Alaska
  • 28:28 Ralph Stanley’s answer to a questions
  • Like muscle memory…

29:30  How do you build up the needed hours?

  •  Use the ATF approach and pay attention to yourself and actions…
  •  Theory U approach: declare on intent, act, gather relevant information, work on your non-verbal capabilities (3 min quiet the mind, by sketching,  etc. then 3-10 min to listen to your body)

31:40  What Action tools are available to reach Expert Level?

  • Thinking about the problem is not the same as working on the problem, working on the problem is acting. Pencil and paper, programing computers, etc.
  • Aligning your thinking and feelings with actions…with skills
  • 32:40  Quote from Gerta Germany poet… “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

34:14 Ready-Fire-Aim

  •  Just do something to see what happens, gain information and knowledge.

35:10  Final words of Wisdom

  •  Be curious and have fun, your brain will work better.



HP = Hewlett Packard, where Peter worked at.
Peter was a mentor for SCORE. They provide business advice and mentoring at SCORE

Wikipedia link to Jaak Panksepp

Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U”

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