An increased amount of attention has been brought back to the decision-making field of research with the release of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Blink”. Gladwell’s book focuses on the power of the subconscious and tacit knowledge in decision-making processes (while conscious). The book is available here at the bookstore at the business school at INSEAD, and his other book, "The Tipping Point" is part of the reading material for one of the courses on organizations (similar to how positioned at the University of Chicago business school to my understanding).
Completing the "Blink" book made me remember a book I read many years ago on dream interpretation (note Gladwell's book did not cover deep sleep dreaming, daydreaming, nor spontaneous thoughts that appear during the day). A key motivator for the book was this ... wouldn’t it be powerful if one could gain additional benefits from the activity that we spend one-third of our lives doing, i.e., sleeping?
The book was not Freud-style dream interpretation, where Freud advocates (to my understanding) literal interpretation of dreams. Instead, the book I read offers up the notion to the effect of that each person has their own data dictionary – dreams are a way of the subconscious communicating with the conscious mind using images. The meaning of images in a dream (which are frequently severely exaggerated) can best be understood by reflecting upon the dream as a whole and the feelings the dream imparts and then determining what feels right and comfortable as an explanation.
As an example, a woman described a dream where she was murdering her husband by bludgeoning him over the head with a vacuum cleaner. Also noteworthy was the fact that the husband appeared as an animal in the dream – specifically a pig.
Freud might argue the dream literally - that the woman was at risk of murdering her husband. Reminds me of the Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report”.
The book I read offered a different explanation. The exaggerated nature of the dream was simply an artifact of dreams trying to communicate with us. Here, the woman had some hard feelings toward her husband because she felt he was restricting her in the home. The vacuum cleaner represented “domesticity,” and the pig reflected feelings towards the husband as a “chauvinist pig”. Murdering only meant that there were strong feelings that the woman and husband should try to resolve (before things got out of hand).
When working with the executive team at my prior employer to bring in a corporate venture capital round, I recall many tense discussions surrounding negotiating terms for the new investor class with respect to angel investors. I would dream about some of the issues during my sleep, and I would wake up with the tenuous items popping into my head. Sometimes these cues would trigger me to go back and talk with an angel investor or founder on specific points. At other times, dreams simply reflected anxiety or feelings of happiness as to how a client project for me was going. Much like a subconscious reminder that pops into one’s head during the day that you should call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile, pursue someone for a job opportunity or project, etc., I would sometimes find subconscious cues important to prioritizing personal action items, raising my sensitivity to other parties, and recognizing my own feelings better.