Strategy in large corporations is a necessity, an effective way to ensure teams are clear on the various components of a project. There is an often unquestioned requirement to map the logical route from idea to end product, know exactly why certain actions are being taken and spot any indicators predictive of missed deadlines, negative cost implications or client dissatisfaction. In corporations, second-guessing is built into the framework of how business operates. It’s safe; managers like it, new starters like it, people who enjoy covering their backs take comfort in it. But what if your total reliance on analytics is killing your true business potential? In a study performed by Harvard Business Review, intuition was found to be a major or determining factor in 85% of thirty-six major CEO decisions (Maidique, 2011).
Firstly, what is intuition?
Intuition is not, contrary to what you have been lead to believe, the sole domain of women and mothers. It is in fact available and accessible to anyone with even a fleeting connection to their own body. Think back to the time your usual shortcut through a dark street felt like a bad choice, even when logic tried to convince you it was okay, it has been fine every other time. Or, when you decided to drive extra slow on that familiar stretch of road, only to discover a group of cyclists on the next bend. Intuition is so innate to the human experience that the majority of time we barely recognise it, let alone acknowledge it as a viable business tool. We are so extraordinarily fast to shut it down, rationalise it, or favour logic and other people’s opinion, that in most scenarios it stands little chance of being heard.
Why is it important in business?
There are some businesses more overtly reliant on intuition than others; think traders, enforcement officers, journalists. These are people who reference their “gut” or “hunches”, an inner knowing that regardless of risk sends them in one direction rather than another. Not following their intuition can waste time, cost money or even lives, and so when they get the signal they make their move. This doesn’t mean intuition is exclusive and can’t be used by entrepreneurs or those in private practice, on the contrary, it can be the difference between working with needy clients who undervalue you, selling out your principles for cash, or hiring the wrong team members as you expand.
How can I apply this to my business?
Before you think about applying intuition to the way you work, you have to know how to identify and trust it.
Your very first step is to recognise when it’s speaking to you, to get familiar with how it feels and sounds, how it moves inside your physical body. You can practice this with decisions you make on a daily basis. Is your intuition telling you to have a healthier breakfast, whilst your brain dictates how little time you have? Is it telling you to take a break after 6 hours at your desk, before you burn out, as your brain is negotiating writing just one last email? It is in the everyday that we form a relationship with intuition.
The second step is to look at the strategy you have developed for ignoring your intuition and identifying what overrides naturally surface. What ranks higher than your gut feeling, in the precise moment your brain is planning a counter-intuitive action? Do you begin to rationalise or justify your choices, fear failure or the opinion of others? Know your enemy, so at least you understand what you are working with.
The third step when applying intuition to your business is to actually trust and follow the information you receive from yourself, to go all-in and take the required inspired action. It’s important with this to realise that results may not, and often do not, happen how you might expect them to. But once you see how it all pans out, you will either be called to make a strategy out of your original intuitive action, or realise your intuition is better than anything that can be logically replicated.
Leaning into your in-built intuition, as with any new enterprise, takes practice and effort, for most people. The more time you spend with it however, the more appreciative you will become of your own innate wisdoms and the unnecessary time you spend doubting your ability to run your business. Intuition will become clearer, show up faster and speak louder as you pay more attention to it. You have an internal compass, get to know it.