Developing Intuition for Leaders

In today’s world, according to a UCLA study, we are processing the equivalent of 174 newspapers daily. This is five times more information than just 20 years ago. This tsunami of information coming at us through emails and meetings is overwhelming the capacity of our brains to process.

We also have more complicated problems to solve today at work. And the number of variables to consider for any decision is higher . With just two or three factors most of us can usually solve problems pretty neatly. But with five or six moving parts, the ability for most of us to keep them all in working memory as we analyze alternatives is limited. This can result in an exhausting process of thinking and re-thinking. Most of us consistently deal with that feeling of being overwhelmed. What can we do about it?

Successful business leaders like Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs have proven to be strong in complex decision making. As Jobs once said, “I began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis.”  Imagine the complex decisions these leaders have been faced with! These thought leaders consciously develop their Intuition. It helps them synthesize a significant amount of data and make a call based on some extra-sensory process (some say going with their gut). This is Intuition at play.

The intuitive process involves accessing information on many levels and beyond the obvious. The predominant orientation most of us have to the world is to gather information via the five senses. We learn to trust only that which we can hear, touch, smell, see or taste and all of these senses are connected to our brain which analyzes, calculates, sorts and categorizes everything so that we know how to operate and move. The problem with this is that too much emphasis has been placed on Intellect as the relevant mode of synthesizing and working through problems in our world, and not enough on our Intuition. What is Intuition and how does it fit in with quality decision making?

Each of us has three inherent components to the way that we are able to process information. We have our Instincts. These instincts operate in the reptilian brain and are activated by fear. Instincts operate below the level of our consciousness and we are often not at all aware of how our emotions are directly linked to how that subconscious part of our brain reacts to the world.

The second component is our Intellect, the dominant mode of operating for most of us. The Knowledge economy has put our intellects into over-drive. We see things logically. We analyze. We seek solutions. We explain decisions based on rationale. In business and indeed in the world, we are expected to explain ourselves with the order of logic as the base.

The third part of the basic make-up of each human being is the Intuition. This is “standard equipment” for all of but for the most part we either don’t use it or over-ride it with explanations that come from the Intellect. But Intuition works at a higher level than logic/intellect. Most people can recall a time when they have been hit with the insight of an intuitive moment. Usually, it is the perfect answer that was sitting there all along and we are surprised that we are so blind that we didn’t see it!

The challenge is that the Intellect and the Intuition speak different languages and part of developing the Intuition is actually having our Intellects learn the language of the Intuition. And to learn how to quiet the Intellect (and our Instincts) so that we can better access the Intuition. Without this learning, the rational brain will be frustrated and we will continue to do what is logical.

What are the benefits of developing intuition?

Leaders who learn to develop their Intuition are able to:

  • Reduce stress and as a result take actions that are not as reactive
  • Get to solutions faster and see problems with more clarity
  • Access greater creativity and innovation because their mental agility is improved
  • Engage people’s hearts, spirits and minds – not just their intellects
  • Help others develop their intuition and thereby tap into the collective intuition where the possibilities are endless
  • Continue to be given more responsibility to match their increased capability

The process of accessing Intuition involves developing the capability to be quiet and learning to hear “the voice within”. Intuition speaks to us in ways that are different than the usual thoughts. It is a “meta” communication mode, meaning that significant information is packed densely into images, feelings or awareness. It is more abstract. Our usual rational mind which formulates thoughts cannot easily grasp this meta communication without disciplined development.

Intuition in the business world is as a skill that is little discussed. Yet it can be developed and each one of us can learn to use this capability on demand.

Here are a few tips to develop our intuition

  1. Practice being quiet. Mentally, emotionally and physically. The intuition cannot be heard over the freight train of thinking in our heads. This is tough in our busy world! A daily mindfulness practice or meditation routine can makes a big difference. Even if it is for 10 minutes. The ability to clear the head and manage the emotions when in a difficult situation is a critical skill. The ability to be “here and now” is necessary to tap into our intuition.
  1. Learn to hear and understand how your Intuition speaks to you. Each one of us is unique and the process of grasping abstract messages from your Intuition and translating that accurately into a mental idea is something that requires practice.
  1. Engage the abstract or creative mind to help sharpen our mental agility. Again, each of us has unique proclivities so this can include activities like reading or discussing philosophy, practicing yoga or other creative pursuits like song-writing, singing, painting, etc.

At 1-degree we are motivated to teach and develop the skill of Intuition. We believe that everyone has this capability. Workplaces that invoke and nurture intuition are less likely to be places activated by fear.

2017-10-19T10:42:12+00:00