A Place for Intuition in Business?

 

About 10 years ago, I used to work for a company who, on their bi-annual personal development form (i.e. the form staff members were expected to fill out to evaluate their own performance), had this question concerning intellect vs. intuition. The question enquired of employees:

You always use intellect over intuition to make important business decisions.

And an employee had to rate themselves 1 to 5 about how strongly they agreed or disagreed with that statement.

Now, I used to hate that question… for several different reasons, including:

Reason One… In this particular company, the men in charge (and yes, it was all men), didn’t even use intellect to make the important business decisions, let alone intuition. Important projects were initiated, and business decisions made, based on the individual egos and personal whims of certain Company Directors, and millions of pounds were wasted as a result… and eventually people lower down were made redundant (‘severance’ in the US) to cover up for the managerial incompetence of men at the top.

Reason Two… Personally, I am a very intuitive person, and for someone to say that intuition is inferior to intellect is like authority figures in schools, down through the ages, forcing left-handed kids to write right-handed. It’s just so wrong… there is a place for both.

Reason Three… Over the coming decades, I think the role and importance of intuition within business is only set to increase, and the individuals who can successfully use and apply their intuition will fair best amidst the turbulent social and business changes which will continue to accelerate all around us…

Why and how have I come to such a standout conclusion?

Let me explain.

I have a good friend who was starting up her small business back in the early 1990s in the South West of England, having recently moved out of London and the South East.

She decided to follow her intuition, and set up a new business, based on her intuitive hunch about what would work… only to be told by the 10 and more proper, qualified business people she met that what she was doing was wrong, would never work, and she was bound to fail.

But she decided to stay true to her intuitive feelings never the less, and continued to develop her own business in the way she felt was right… no matter what other people might say or think.

Anyway, close on 30 years later, she is the only one who is still in business, while all the others who told her that she was wrong have since gone bankrupt, given up, or fallen by the wayside.

It would appear then that for this lady, listening to her intuition, put her in a better position to weather the business conditions of the 90s and 00s then all the other rational business people, who told her that she was plain wrong. She has survived… they have not.

Now, whenever there is an election, or referendum, you often hear people say that they want to hear all the facts before making a decision. Now, putting to one side the fact that politicians can never to trusted to give you the facts, only what they want you to believe… in reality, it isn’t facts which allow us to make a final decision. Science has recently discovered that it is feeling, a feeling around what feels best or right for us, which allows us to make a final decision, choose a course of action. We come to decisions based on our emotions.

And feeling and intuition are very close friends indeed.

So an individual who is in touch with their intuition, whatever we decide that to be, is actually in a much stronger position to arrive at a final decision about what works for them, then if they relied on pure logic alone.

Now it has been noted that the pace of change in business, society and technology is increasing… and is set to accelerate even more as we move deeper into the 21st Century.

Paradoxically, the more information we can access, the more we are prone to information overload, and so the more we tend to delay making decisions, and so committing ourselves to a course of action… afraid that the next byte of information might be vital, and so we delay… and delay… and delay. The simple truth is amassing more and more information for our rational minds to process does not lead to effective decision making.

So in the 21st Century, as the tsunami of information grows higher and higher, and the pace of change grows faster and faster… it is perhaps those individuals who can rely on a strong and effective intuition, who have been trained to use their intuition wisely (and aren’t just listening to random voices in their head), who are probably the ones most likely to succeed and win out.

That’s not say that there is no longer a place for reason and intellect… I mean, often it is good to think through our decisions, and ensure they make good, solid sense, you need to be discerning… and you also need to be able to talk to all those rational men in suits… and I have my MBA from one of the top business schools in the UK just like the suits do (yep, kept the one quiet, didn’t I).

But intellect cannot process information as lightning fast as intuition, and I believe that fact is going to be very important in the future which lies just around the corner.

Just as our computers and mobile devices are getting smarter and faster… so, in order to survive and thrive, your average human individual is going to have to upgrade their mental software.

And for that, better use of intuition is the key.

For any future business, I humbly suggest that it is best to have your feet firmly planted on both sides of the road – left and right – intellect and intuition. But within our Western societies, to achieve that, we first need to strengthen the role of intuition within our lives, we need start listening to that quiet voice within.

Note: Yes… for those who are asking, I used to vote in favor of intuition, and not against, whenever I had to fill in said questionnaire. Not exactly Martin Luther nailing his famous proclamation to the doors of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg back in the 16th Century… but I like to feel I did my bit.

(c) Brian Parsons, February 2016

 

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