Honing your intuition is no longer optional. Most leaders
recognize this sobering reality. They know that intuition's
fallibility must be balanced with appropriate analysis. We
must nonetheless improve the quality of our intuition if we
wish to succeed. We begin 2016 with some thoughts on Intuitive
| Improve Your Intuitive
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.
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
Truly inspired decisions require a more sophisticated mechanism: cross-indexing.
The ability to see similar patterns in disparate fields elevates your
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.
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:
- We will often take unnecessary risks to recover a loss.
- We tend to see patterns where none exista phenomenon
statisticians call "over-fitting the data."
- We tend to be revisionists. We frequently remember when we
didn't trust our gut and should have, while conveniently forgetting
when we were fortunate to have ignored our instincts.
- We set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we hire or promote
someone, for instance, we consciously or subconsciously expend
extra effort to ensure the person's success, obscuring whether
our choice was actually a good one.
Certain characteristics define executives who outperform their peers
in intuitive decision-making.
- They're open to feelings and impulses.
- They seek continual learning experiences and are unafraid of
- They're inquisitive and keenly observant.
- They have a good sense of what will happen next.
- They can articulate how a current situation has developed.
- They're aware of their fallibility and are open to alternative
- They're confident when dealing with time pressures and uncertainties.
- They anticipate problems in time to avoid or defuse them.
- They aren't put off by unexpected events; they use them to
find new solutions.
- They understand their routines and are aware of system limitations
- They're self-aware and acknowledge potential biases.
| 10 Tips for Improving Intuitive
Professor Klein offers 10 critical tips for growing your intuitive
- Be the best. There's no guarantee you'll be an intuitive savant,
but this strategy is backed up by empirical evidence.
- Use analysis to support your intuition. Imagine which actions
your impulse suggests taking; then anticipate what could conceivably
- Put more energy into understanding the situation than into
deliberating over what to do.
- Don't confuse desire with intuition. Intensely wanting something
to happen is not a reason to ignore commonsense intuition.
- Override your intuition when it misleads you. Intuition
is fallible. Your mind excels at holding onto inaccurate beliefs
and faulty biases. Try forming an alternate story to get unstuck
from a stubborn mindset.
- Think ahead. Intuition helps us create expectations, connect
the dots, flag inconsistencies and warn us of potential problems.
A "pre-mortem" discussion helps teams run through
a strategy to see how it will play out. In short, learn to foresee
- Uncertainty adds excitement to decision-making. Intuition
helps manage this emotion.
- Use the right decision-making strategy. There's a time to
rely on intuition and a time to analyze all of the factors that
go into a decision. If the issues are complicated and no one
has good intuitions about the situation, analysis makes more
- Consult the experts. If you're in unfamiliar territory, learn
to trust the intuitions of experts with experience. Experts
will see cues you won't notice and will introduce options you
may never envision.
- Stay alert for intuition barriers. Red flags should go up
when everyone is expected to follow specific systems and procedures,
regardless of the situation at hand. Understand when to question
the data, and find out how parameters are acquired. You should
clarify each step of your organization's standard operating
procedures to understand their purpose.
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. If I can help please
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