Wednesday July 19 2017

“I believe in intuition and inspiration…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.”
― Albert Einstein

It’s been a while coming, but I’ve finally got down to writing another blog. And it’s about something I’ve been learning to use increasingly during my coaching journey. It is while using this when it occurred to me whether business leaders use it too – and if not, whether they should. So, I decided to do a bit of research on the subject of intuition and whether it has any place in leaders making decisions.

Before we start, let us try and understand what intuition is (and isn’t). Intuition is not just a “gut feel” that arises out of nowhere – this “gut feel” arises because it is an accumulation of all the experiences we have had, an amalgam of all the books we have read, a combination of all the people we have met, and (somewhat counter-intuitively!) all the facts and data we have collected – so it is not as if a different body part is telling you what to do – it is very much the brain, but perhaps the sub-conscious part of the brain.

Decision making has become extremely complex in recent times. The sheer volume of information we process as business leaders is mind-boggling. In a recent UCLA study, it turns out we process 174 newspapers worth of information daily – and this is five times more than we did 20 years back. And we’ve been educated to rely on this data when taking decisions. Yet, when we’ve reviewed this data repeatedly, tried asking others for their opinion, we often find ourselves relying on our gut to move forward. To have faith in this “voice within” does not come very easily to most of us – and relying upon it makes us feel uncomfortable. So how do we address this, especially in an environment where, if you have to arrive at a decision which is purely data driven, you can rely on an algorithm to do it for you – using intuition to make decisions, therefore, almost becomes an attempt for leaders to remain relevant in the decision-making process!

So, when should intuition form part of the decision-making process? Here are 5 areas I’ve come across in my career when this happens:

  1. We live in a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA). There just isn’t enough relevant data to rely upon to use as a predictor for future events. Yet, decisions have to be made. Political leaders use their intuition and experience much more, purely because of the nature of the decisions they need to make – business leaders have traditionally used this less, but as the business world becomes increasingly VUCA, using intuition to guide your decision making is inevitable.
  2. When leadership actions are not driven by external goals but by inner vision. This powerful shift cultivates an expanded consciousness that enables leaders to see and apply often ground-breaking solutions where others cannot.
  3. Where following others is simply not how leaders operate. Creating approaches and products which are transformative is what empowers these intuitive leaders.
  4. When “it cannot be done” acts as a powerful catalyst. Intuition is critical when others have given up trying to resolve a problem and there is an opportunity to shine by adopting a more maverick approach.
  5. When questions such as “How can we be a better example of a sustainable enterprise” take precedence over “How can we meet our quarterly targets” – empowered questions lead to empowered answers which in turn generates beneficial results.

Using intuition to serve you in powerful ways is a natural ability, in life and in business. When we acknowledge this, our intuitive intelligence becomes active and guides and directs us to outcomes that serve us more holistically, personally and professionally. I recently saw a documentary called InnSæi which captures this beautifully – watch it, if you can.

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”
Kahlil Gibran