Is there room for intuition in business? Yes, most definitely. Decades ago, I may have thought differently. Over the years I have changed my opinion and believe that intuition can be another tool in the business tool belt. 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”.
The Intuits’ Intuition
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, the intuits developed the skill to quickly assemble the facts, analyze the data, and predict probabilities based on their field of expertise. The book was science fiction. However, it made a statement that resonated with me. It said something that flies in the face of the definition above. It said intuits trained for many years in very specific fields and that it wasn’t an instinctual understanding of an issue but 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 be this amassed knowledge applied rapidly. 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 predominantly 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.