“The real challenge is not whether to trust intuition, but how to strengthen it to make it more trustworthy.” ~ Gary Klein, PhD, The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut to Make Better Decisions at Work (Crown Business, 2004)
Many executives will tell you that decisions should be based solely on a thorough analysis of data. But a new breed aims to achieve breakthroughs by harnessing the power of intuition.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, leaders must make complex decisions quickly, even when faced with uncertainty. Data and numbers rarely provide a complete picture. Making sound decisions in a chaotic climate requires us to strengthen our intuitive thinking. Refining our intuition ensures more accurate and innovative insights.
The more experiences we have, the stronger our intuition becomes. Repetition (practice) sets the stage for competency. Intuitive decision-making improves when we acquire more patterns, recognize how they play out and develop a larger repertoire of strategies.
Repeated experiences are unconsciously linked to form patterns. A pattern is a set of connected cues. When you spot a few of the cues, you can expect to find others.
As we gain experience at work, we assemble a catalog of recognizable patterns. Over time, it becomes easier to match a situation with a previous pattern.
Patterns include routines for responding, known as “action scripts.” If we see a situation as typical, then we can recognize the typical action to take. We develop hunches about what’s really going on and how we should respond.
Using our intuition, we translate our experiences into judgments and action responses. When intuitive leaders see familiar patterns, their response is usually obvious.
Professor Klein offers the following diagram to explain the pattern-recognition process behind intuitive decision-making:
Pattern recognition occurs instantaneously, without conscious thought. We make intuitive judgments so quickly that they seem mysterious. Professor Klein’s diagram demonstrates the science behind these judgments. Situations generate recognizable cues, and patterns trigger typical action responses that, in turn, affect the situation.
The Role of Analysis
Analysis has a proper role as a supporting tool for making intuitive decisions. Not all situations and experiences are the same, obviously. The extent to which we apply previous action scripts or devise new ones depends on our ability to analyze projected consequences.
Professor Klein recommends using “pre-mortems”: discussions that imagine scenarios with various applied actions and consequences. Intuition helps us decide how to react, and analysis ensures our intuition won’t mislead us.
Intuitive thinkers admit their instincts are often plain wrong. They understand that human nature can cloud decision-making. For example:
Certain characteristics define executives who outperform their peers in intuitive decision-making.
10 Tips for Improving Intuitive Decisions
Professor Klein offers 10 critical tips for growing your intuitive abilities:
Practice and feedback are the secrets to developing skilled intuition. Work on noticing situations, recognizing patterns and discerning best possible actions. You’ll eventually enjoy the rewards of sound intuitive-thinking skills. If you struggle with this aspect of leadership, consider seeking help from a trusted mentor or executive coach. Practice and feedback are the secrets to developing skilled intuition. Work on noticing situations, recognizing patterns and discerning best possible actions. You’ll eventually enjoy the rewards of sound intuitive-thinking skills.
If you struggle with this aspect of leadership, consider seeking help from a trusted mentor or executive coach.
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