The use of intuition in business has been steadily gaining respectability over the past few years. The trend is poised to escalate for good reason. Too many CEOs and executives have gotten it wrong and are now asking how to get it right.
Softer skills, like intuition, are highly capable of creating better results in productivity, performance, cycle time, responsiveness to the business environment, adaptability to change and innovation. Each of these directly impacts profit, success and survival in the business arena. Companies should think about ways to develop intuitive competencies and build collaborative intuition into business processes.
Intuition goes beyond gender, role and culture as an attribute of higher integrative intelligence. Research in learning and cognition shows that intelligence has many different forms. Considering the abject failure of logic and reason to be solely and accurately predictive of accelerating whole-scale change, we gain a better appreciation for intuitive intelligence. To thrive in today’s globally competitive business environment, we must find better ways to recognize intuition and become skilled in responding to our insights.
Intuitive knowledge needs to be relevant, current and framed in the language and multiple contexts of the business environment. Although they may lack collective intuitive skills, the people in the organization are the only ones with the ability to apply and use information, and the know-how to achieve results.
Intuition is a fuzzy subject and more an art than a science. Most of us are better at deriving predictability through logic as a result of excessive schooling in learning to think like a machine, but intuition has an important place—in strategy, business intelligence, leadership, learning and performance, and in innovation, solving problems and making decisions.
In the past, most organizational breakthroughs occurred within the executive ranks. In the future, more breakthroughs will occur at an operations or implementation level. It’s time to position and place our evolving cognition and awareness in the right places. Speed is no longer enough if it is the byproduct of an outmoded thought process. Intuition is instant.
Intuition is typically information that arrives suddenly, without expectation or effort—an insight, sudden flash, an “aha” or a clear sense of knowing. Given the complex scenarios and interconnectedness of the issues that businesses face, the sense of intuition is often a superior cognitive sense. It binds results from several areas in a very rapid time frame and brings with it, when perceived correctly, a clear certainty about a favorable or unfavorable outcome at a future point in time.
There are two kinds of insights. One is purely intuitive, coming from unknown information. The other comes from experience. Experience in the evolving world is becoming less important than learning to adapt to the future. Greater development of the first kind of insight becomes more important as a competency.
The sense of intuition occurs at an individual level. This is a problem for some organizations because the histology of corporate development has evolved from a sense of collective purpose in which individual will is subservient. For intuition to work, a culture has to accept that the individual can contribute more to the collective, and that from this increased contribution, the collective learns more. In a sense, the nature of a group business mind will have to change because individuals are individuals. They evolve, learn and acquire skills at their own pace. While in a learning mode, individual perception becomes more important than group perception, until the group as a whole begins to integrate and think intuitively together. That will come later. In the beginning, you can expect to be much more experimental.
The top three competitive issues for all business—innovation, productivity and skills—all realize significant forward impact with a more pronounced intuitive competency. When you consider that foreign jurisdictions, like India, which has been experiencing high annual growth for several consecutive years now, use more holistic models for business and learning, the reality hits. Your global competition is already beginning to cultivate these skills.
Certainly there are organization and cultural factors that are prerequisite to developing collective intuitive skill. These include a high level of trust, a strong value for individuals, good communications and a culture that enables rather than suppresses risk-taking.
Getting intuition into your business doesn’t mean leaving everything else behind. It means bringing in some new and exceptionally valid forms of perception in ways that extend our capabilities. Here are some ways to get intuition into your business.
Vision & Strategy
A vision that is conceived only mentally falls short of its ability to move people. When strategy itself doesn’t fail a company, the rest of the failures happen on the next level—implementation.
Intuitive vision includes a bigger picture. It includes the emotion and passion factors. Vision must engage the heart and inspire. This drives commitment, which is the leverage factor in implementation. Before strategy is formulated, get quiet, take a step back, become reflective and feel this vision. Get it right at the vision stage, and you and your implementation team won’t have to strain to implement around what’s lacking. Results will be easier to achieve, and people will feel more energized along the way.
Assess your readiness:
- Is the executive level receptive to including intuitive cognition in putting together a vision?
- Is there acceptance that integrating some of the emotional information can make your vision more complete?
- Is there a clear picture of what you want to achieve and why?
- Are you willing to work on it until it feels complete with no exceptions?
- Do you believe that vision is the most important step?
- Do you trust each other?
- Are your executives unlikely to use intuition as a way to force their personal opinion on others?
- Can they work with this openly and willingly?
Take the following steps:
- Get your vision clearly, completely and distinctly before you determine your strategy.
- Encourage your executive team to deliberately suspend intellectual cognition for a specified time—go for the felt sense, the meaning, how compelling the vision feels, its visceral attractiveness. Allow time for individual reflection, then come back together as a team and bring the insights to the group without argument or evaluation. Only allow questions and discussion that are directed toward understanding. Then, disengage to reflect again for a day or two before returning to the group and making a decision. You will likely be in a much better place to determine strategy.
- Invite people on the next level or two down to try your vision and see how it feels to them, and listen to their insights. If it’s not compelling enough, go back to the drawing board and work on the missing pieces until you can see clearly where and how you want to be.
- Articulate your vision in the present tense.
- Once you decide strategy, determine if it has legs. Is it mobilizing to your leaders and implementation group? How does the energy commitment feel? Does it feel fast, exciting, sluggish, difficult? If the energy isn’t right, change the strategy until it feels right. Once a strategy has legs, give it running shoes—an implementation team.
Business Intelligence Processes
Formally include intuitive information as a feedback loop in all forms of intelligence—environmental, market, competitive and organizational. As an information parameter, this can act as a high-value adjunct to other data. Keeping intuitive data separate gives it significance. Include processes that differentiate purely intuitive information, which is valuable, from other forms of emotional feedback that are not, such as fear-based responses or discomforts like inexperience, resource or skill deficits. Be attentive to your communication processes.
Assess your readiness:
- Does your organization or executive board believe in doing this?
- Have they prepared a spoken or written commitment to include intuitive feedback as a valid feedback source?
- Has the organization communicated the business reasons for doing this?
- Has the development of intuitive skill been included in your training plan?
Take the following steps:
- Build a formal intuitive feedback loop into each business intelligence process, either as a dedicated meeting or as data and documentation input. The type needed will vary between organizations and types of intelligence-gathering processes.
- Help people learn to listen to, cultivate and discern their own intuitive feedback.
- Whether in groups or individually, ensure that the business environment for intuitive feedback be stress-, pressure- and distraction-free during those times.
- Give enough organizational time so that this mode of sensing is thoroughly experienced, especially when building up skill capacity.
People & Performance
When you invite people to become more intuitive at work, you are initiating an open change with regard to their whole involvement with your company. Rather than valuing employees only for performing tasks on behalf of your company, you are inviting them to become more personally involved, to leverage their pride and care for your corporate vision and results. In order to do this, they must find your work personally meaningful and understand the larger cause. While this clearly imposes a potential change in your commitment to your staff, it also opens the door for worthwhile mutual gains, better performance and emotional intelligence.
Assess your readiness:
- Is your vision compelling enough to motivate your staff personally?
- Have you identified and clearly articulated the human values and the results that the work brings and who benefits?
- Do you deliberately create opportunities for people to grow and learn?
- Do you provide training and other types of learning or development to your staff?
- Do you have a healthy, functional and positive work environment and relationships?
- Does your company deal productively and openly with conflict?
- Have you defined intuition as both an individual and organizational competency?
Take the following steps:
- Cultivate appropriate language and value for people who use good intuitive sense.
- Let leaders and managers be seen attempting to use intuition in their transactions and communications.
- Provide training in how to develop and listen to intuition and use it to communicate better.
- Include communication with case examples about how intuition is valued in company newsletters or other formal processes.
- Include good use of intuition as a feedback attribute in performance.
- Showcase positive results.
- Use intuition to help identify current and future leaders in your organization.
Benefits of Intuition
When used in innovation intuition becomes part of an applied creativity process, among other necessary components, like imagination or creative idea-generation. It contributes to having an innovation strategy and training plan.
Individuals who use intuition in decision-making can achieve far better results than those who use facts and logic alone. Highly integrated individuals are able to do both well. Specific learning processes can be used to train people on intuitive decision-making.
Intuitive people have a better chance at recognizing the symptoms of stress and can take the steps required for better self-care and reducing burnout. This improves productivity while reducing losses and absenteeism due to stress.
Arupa Tesolin, owner of Intuita Training and its On-Line Learning Institute, is a consultant, speaker, seminar leader and author of “The Intuita 3-Minute Solutions for Innovation, Intuition, Vision & Stress.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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