What is Intuition and should we really be using it in Business?
Many of the world’s top CEOs (e.g. Branson, Alan Sugar and the late Steve Jobs) might admit to using intuition to help them make decisions and yet for many it may still seem to be a bit “flaky” and that a serious business person should rely on facts and figures. So is there a place in business for intuition?
Let’s start by defining intuition. The dictionary definition would be “the ability to understand something without the need for conscious reasoning”. Perhaps this describes the connection with a deeper soul or a higher consciousness that is guiding your life or perhaps something altogether more mundane going on.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not dismissing that deeper spiritual understanding and connection with your soul’s purpose is, just that much of what we see as intuition seems to me to be about allowing us to connect with our unconscious processes. If I choose to interpret the word as “in”, as in internal, and “tuition” as in teaching and learning, the definition becomes one of “internal teaching and learning”.
Right from the day we are born we learn to read expressions and body language, long before we understand verbal language. So much so that, unbeknownst to most of us, we are experts in this field. As our language skills increase, we tend to ignore or deny this expertise so that, even if our gut feeling is one of incongruence between the words and expressions of another person, our conscious mind overrides these feelings so that we go with what is being said rather than unspoken communications. I’ve often felt that my level of intuition is directly related to my capacity to let go of these conscious thoughts and trust my natural ability to read these minimal cues.
The same can be said for the knowledge and experience you gain throughout your life. All that knowledge is packed into the neurons of your brain, stored in the unconscious memories. Even if you can’t pull into conscious thought the connections you’re making, your unconscious mind can make thousands of these connections at any one time. Intuition, the act of unconsciously drawing from this knowledge, is perhaps one of our oldest and most useful survival skills. That sense of knowing that a thunderstorm is coming, even if you couldn’t pinpoint exactly how you know, may have been a matter of life death in a distant past. Trying too hard to intellectualise can mean that you miss these primal messages. Intuition has survived the test of time and therefore can be very primitive in its message.
Of course, we must consider that sometimes these connections are incorrectly programmed which is why, I suspect, that research has shown that we shouldn’t always go with our gut instinct on meeting a new person; sometimes we are reacting to them as if they were someone else we have met in the past because of similarities perhaps in a name, an accent or the way they look.
When Einstein said “The only real valuable thing is intuition” I believe he was pointing us to allowing our unconscious processes to make the links our conscious mind might take far longer to achieve. The conscious mind can process about four thoughts any one time whereas the unconscious can process hundreds of thousands and I’m a great believer in making your natural neurology and physiology work for you!