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A “Gut Feeling” or Intelligence?

The Power of Intuition

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink has been out for over a decade now, but it remains an engaging look at how we make decisions seemingly in the “blink of an eye.”

Intuition is defined as the “ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning.”

In reality, intuition is the product of a lifetime of experiences and knowledge. You intuitively know that sitting on a ledge or railing is risky – a toddler does not. You intuitively know that rolling your current car loan in to your next car loan can’t be a sound financial strategy – a young college graduate with his / her heart set on a flashy new car does not. Gerd Gigerenzer, a German social psychologist, calls this “the intelligence of the unconscious,” (also the name of his most recent book.)

In some ways intuition flies in the face of what we’ve been taught in school for 12+ years – look at the facts, weigh the options, choose wisely and deliberately. Decision making is often thought of as a “well reasoned” approach. Gigerenzer says that in many instances this is over-analysis and too slow.  Gladwell says the trick to intuition is not to amass information but instead to discard it; essentially, to know when more information does not help the decision making process. There are many professions which are based on a “gut feeling” – scientific research, homicide investigations, and stock picking to name a few. Are these professionals making irrational decisions? No. They have honed their years of experience and knowledge to the point where they instinctively know the path to pursue.

According to Gladwell, just as we are able to teach ourselves to think logically and deliberately, so too we can teach ourselves to make better snap decisions. So how do we develop this split-second intelligence? Well, like most ways in which we teach thinking, it isn’t easy and it isn’t quick.  One way is to ask people to analyze and verbalize their learning after an event. What went well? What went poorly? Could you have changed the outcome? What variables played a role? Is there a way to make them less variable in the future? And more. Asking people to consciously process what they have learned is very helpful in developing intuition. As people become more adept at this processing, they can begin to contemplate these questions in parallel (rather than sequentially) or in-the-moment, rather than after the fact.

One reason to teach intuitive thinking is the highly complex world in which we live, today. It is impossible to consider all the information or options before us. Things are changing all the time, there are often contradictions and ambiguity. Having experience to guide us helps us to make better decisions in the “blink of an eye.”

Albert Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

We can help your people develop their gifts. Give us a call to find out how or learn more here.