Is there room for intuition in business? Yes, most definitely. Decades ago, I may not have thought that, but over the years I have changed my opinion and believe that intuition can be another tool in the business toolbelt.
The definition of intuition is the “direct perception of truth or facts, independent of any reasoning process; it is an immediate apprehension; or a keen and quick insight into something.”
Years ago, I read a science fiction book that talked about “intuits;” people in their society who seemed to understand things instinctually. Intuits were thought to have this incredible ability to have immediate cognition of a situation. But the truth was that the intuits developed the skill to quickly assemble the facts, analyze the data, and predict probabilities based on their field of expertise.
Yes, the book was science fiction but it made a statement that really resonated with me. It said something that totally flies in the face of the definition above. It said that intuits trained for many years in very specific fields and that it wasn’t an instinctual understanding of an issue but in fact it was about quickly using reasoning given their amassed understanding of particular issues. In the real world, that’s basically what predictive analytics do using computers today.
Having reconsidered my opinion on instincts, I noticed that as I acquired more experience in my field, I found myself better at assessing issues quickly and having a “gut feeling” about the direction I should go. What I had presumed was instinct, was – at least in part, quickly assessing the situation given my amassed knowledge of a particular subject.
What some people think of as “instinct” might in fact be this amassed knowledge applied rapidly. In fact, I recently had someone drop me a note about a particular challenge he was having. I gave him some advice and in an email response discussing the resolution of the issue, he said I had assessed a particular problem accurately and concluded by saying, “ your gut instinct is amazing!” Truth be told, it was partly intuition but substantially my years and years of seeing situations like this and quickly assessing the problem and offering a solution. In my very own narrow field – I looked like an intuit.
As I acquired more experience, I learned to follow my intuition or “gut” more and more. Trust me when I say it is not infallible but I no longer take it for granted. I listen to the gut feeling far more today than I did when I was in my 20’s or 30’s.
Haven’t we all been in situations where we had a feeling we should do something but we didn’t. When that creates a problem, we look back on it and we clearly see why we should have followed our intuition.
Our intuition, at least in part, is probably related to the experiences we’ve had and what we are doing is quickly processing an interpretation to a situation based on those experiences. On the other hand, I suppose it could be a heightened sense of ESP but I’m thinking it’s the former.
By Ivan Misner, founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI