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May 2, 2007

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Trust Gut Instincts and Intuition

Trust Gut Instincts and Intuition

Are decisions made by gut feelings good? Business writer
Malcolm Gladwell seemed to think so. In his bestselling book
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, he presented
cogent arguments on how decisions made in an instant, almost
without thinking, stood up better than decisions made after
analytical considerations. Dotted with examples like how a
fire-fighter suddenly knows when to leave a blazing building and
how a marriage analyst instinctively knows whether a couple will
have a successful marriage, the basis for his “thinking without
thinking” approach was that our mind could gauge what is
important from a narrow period of experience. This
phenomenon was what he termed as “thin slicing”.

Is there no merit in traditional thinking that haste makes waste?
Should we not look before we leap, or stop and think? In
Gladwell's example, if you should walk on the street and
suddenly see a truck bearing down on you, do you have time to
think through all your options? In his view, human species has
survived for so long because of this ability to make “very quick
judgments based on very little information.”

Story:

The Dog, the Cock, and the Fox

Trust Gut Instincts and Intuition

(Illus by Milo Winter)

A Dog and a Cock, who were the best of friends, wished very
much to see something of the world. So they decided to
leave the farmyard and to set out into the world along the
road that led to the woods. The two comrades traveled along
in the very best of spirits and without meeting any adventure
to speak of.

At nightfall the Cock, looking for a place to roost, as was his
custom, spied nearby a hollow tree that he thought would do
very nicely for a night's lodging. The Dog could creep inside
and the Cock would fly up on one of the branches. So said, so
done, and both slept very comfortably.

With the first glimmer of dawn the Cock awoke. For the
moment he forgot just where he was. He thought he was still
in the farmyard where it had been his duty to arouse the
household at daybreak. So standing on tip-toes he flapped his
wings and crowed lustily. But instead of awakening the farmer,
he awakened a Fox not far off in the wood. The Fox
immediately had rosy visions of a very delicious breakfast.
Hurrying to the tree where the Cock was roosting, he said
very politely:

"A hearty welcome to our woods, honored sir. I cannot tell
you how glad I am to see you here. I am quite sure we shall
become the closest of friends."

"I feel highly flattered, kind sir," replied the Cock slyly. "If
you will please go around to the door of my house at the foot
of the tree, my porter will let you in."

The hungry but unsuspecting Fox, went around the tree as he
was told, and in a twinkling the Dog had seized him.

Moral:

Those who try to deceive may expect to be paid in their own
coin.

Those who try to entrap others are often caught by their own
schemes.

Quotable Quotes:

“The only real valuable thing is intuition. The
intellect has little to do on the road to discovery.”
... Albert Einstein

“When it's time to make a decision about a person
or problem ... trust your intuition ... act.”
... Bud Hadfield

“Some of the greatest investors I have ever known
invest by instinct, rather than research, study, or
hard work. If you look back over history, this is the
way the greatest fortunes have been built.”
... Donald J. Trump

“Start with your own money and value your intuition.
It's all about endurance in the beginning. Your
dream and passion to succeed must be stronger than
your fear of failure.” ... Terri Bowersock

“The crazier the times are, the more important it is
for leaders to develop and to trust their intuition.”
... Tom Peters

“One of our greatest gifts is our intuition. It is a sixth
sense we all have - we just need to learn to tap into
and trust it.” ... Donna Karan

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

If the innocent cock had not relied on its instincts in disbelieving
the fox, it could have lost its life.

The UK Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism ad campaign
carried the message: “Terrorism. If you suspect it, report it.” It
is essentially a call to the public to trust their instincts and save
lives by reporting any suspicious activity they may see.

It is said that the late Masaru Ibuka, Japanese co-founder of
Sony Corporation, drank herbal tea before every deal and if he
had indigestion out of it, the deal would be called off. He quipped
that he trusted his guts more than his mind.

Many top executives have attributed their successes to their
“gut instincts”, “hunch”, “inner voice”, “intuition”, and words
that sound as vague as the feelings they had when they made
those critical career decisions. Robert Lutz rolled out the
revolutionary Dodge Viper when he was president of Chrysler
(now Daimler-Chrysler) despite unfavorable market forecast.
He just had a gut instinct that the high-end car would be a
success. Founder of the reality TV show American Idol,
Simon Cowell, had his first successful hunch at BMG, producing
albums with WWF Superstars, Teletubbies and Power Rangers
themes which many thought was a crazy idea. Later, his gut
instincts told him that reality TV shows would be a growing
trend and, together with producer Simon Fuller, created the
new Pop Idol reality show which saw instant success.

Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric,
was credited with re-inventing the company into the world’s
most valuable corporation. In his books Jack: Straight from
the Gut and Winning, he stressed that people should not be
afraid of making business decisions when there is a lack of data
and research. In his definition, gut instinct is “pattern
recognition” based on past experience.

Broadly-speaking, gut should be used in deal-making and
business transactions. When you are presented with a deal
proposal, the numbers usually look good because they are
couched in the best possible light. Executives should look
beyond these numbers to consider the intangible aspects of
the deal.

When it comes to working with people, gut should be used less.
For instance, when hiring people, there is a tendency for
potential employers to use their gut instincts to assess
interviewees. Since there can be emotions attached to the
stories that the interviewees tell, employers should avoid
making these decisions based on gut feelings but rely instead on
strong references and qualitative information.

On this point though, we think that instincts do play an important
part even in human relations. We may see colleagues going about
their work and somehow feel that they are not 'cut out for the job'.
We could sense from the way the bosses treat us that our career
with the company will be short-lived. We bump into people in
the lift and know instantly that we have found our soulmates.
We lunch with our business partners and conclude that they are
not people we want to do business with. Back home, we see our
kids turning very reserved and we can tell that something is not
right; or they being very respectful and we can guess that they
have a favor to ask or bad school grades to show. Although these
gut feelings cannot be explained in rational terms, we take the
necessary instinctive actions anyway and are often proved to
be doing the right thing.

How can you develop this intuition for decision-making? When
should you trust your guts? There is no definite formula, but we
would advocate that you follow some general guidelines:-

1. Whether you are overloaded with or are lacking in data and
statistics, do not read too much into them. The figures may be
accurate but the manner in which they are presented is usually
biased.

2. If you have the luxury of time, step back from the problem
and come back to it later. Often, when your mind is not focused
on the problem, you are better able to look at the problem
afresh and view it from different perspectives.

3. Before casting your decision in stone, run a subjective
question through your mind. Ask yourself how you view the
new deal, the business partners, the employees, or the company.
Recently, we were shown a short clip about a major land-banking
company. It started with a shot on the signboard displaying the
building name of their upmarket office premises, followed by
one on the high-tech lift system of the premises. Ordinarily we
would be impressed, but because they tried so hard to paint that
big-time corporate profile, our gut feelings told us otherwise.
Upon further questioning, they admitted that the company did
not own that building and merely rented units in it. So much for
the 'big-time' profile.

4. When all your trusted aides give you differing opinions, it
means that the decision goes beyond rational thinking and calls
for a creative solution. Let your instincts guide you.

5. Do not ignore the physical signs like feeling uneasy, having
goose pimples, knot in stomach or sour taste in mouth, weak
knees, sweaty palms, or insomnia. Sometimes, the best solution
is not to make any decision, but to wait for an opportune moment
or a change in circumstances.

6. Pictures speak volumes. Go through mentally what you saw. A
real estate agent may show you a vacant property, yet you recall
seeing laundry hung somewhere. There could be squatters on the
property. If a foreign property is touted to reap huge investment
gains, but the locals don't seem to be interested in buying into that
area, there could be a history behind the property that you are not
aware of.

7. Finally, while it is good to trust your gut instincts, we cannot do
away with rational thinking altogether. Try to achieve a good
balance between the two.

Related Articles:

Leaders must be decisive
Problem Solving: Define Problem
Turn Adversity into Opportunity

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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1 comment:

Peter Haslam said...

Good pro and con arguments and usage. Obviously looking at our results and how we made decisions leads to making better decisions

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVES

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