Managing Complex Crises through the Lens of Intuitive Expertise: A Naturalistic Decision-Making Perspective

Justin Okoli, A Hatami-Marbini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This theoretical paper draws extensively on the extant literature to examine the role of expert intuition in the management of non-routine crises within a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. It follows a theoretically driven inductive design to explore the construct of intuitive expertise, with a specific focus on high-risk domains. Methodically, the paper builds on the naturalistic decision-making (NDM) theory to explore how experienced crisis managers perform complex tasks with the aid of their tacit and intuitive knowledge. Evidence suggests that experienced decision-makers are more likely to solve time-pressured tasks using their intuitive mode as the default strategy, only switching to a deliberative mode when the proposed course(s) of action require some form of justification or where pattern recognition has proven insufficient. The paper also develops a four-dimensional framework that describes both individual and situational factors that generally influence decision-making dynamics in a VUCA crisis environment. A synthesis of the literature results in the emergence of four theoretical propositions, with implications discussed for crisis and emergency practice. A key recommendation is to integrate the NDM sub-discipline into the field of crisis management, with suggestions that such integration may lead to significant improvements in crisis response effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-416
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Mass Emergencies & Disasters
Issue number3
Early online date1 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


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