No, no! You’re not thinking, you’re just being logical.
–Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize winner in physics
To date, our collective approach to human intelligence often relies on outdated concepts. The misplaced expectations we place on the ability of instinct and intuition to guide us in life often obliterates their original contributions. We expect intuition and instinct to give us black and white answers that logic can evaluate. It is simply not their function. Yet this misunderstanding of intuition and instinct. which is evident in questions like “Can I trust my intuition to make the right decision?” or “Can I rely on my guts to do this?” is often encountered in business. This in turn limits our ability to better understand the breadth and depth of a situation and make decisions with a broader perspective, which is exactly what instinct and intuition are meant allow us to do.
It is necessary to better understand how our brain functions in order to better leverage its creative capacity for in-depth reflection, original thinking, and efficient and sustainable decision making. But with the exception of rare initiatives, business schools and educational institutions in general seem quite resistant to change in this field of interest. Our economy is highly complex and unpredictable. This makes traditional decision making, which is predominantly guided by the laws of logic, inoperative or plain dangerous. Therefore we need to better understand our mental life–and its larger potential, which is hidden to the conscious mind yet accessible to the newly educated and insightful individual; this is where intuition and instinct com into play to help us identify in the midst of complex systems the decisive piece of information that would have otherwise eluded our rational mind.
Instinctual aptitudes can be instrumental in business. People who employ instinct and intuition have a more and more decisive competitive advantage when navigating in the new economy. But what exactly is instinct? Here are some simple definitions to keep in mind:
– Instinct is our innate inclination toward a particular behavior (as opposed to a learned response)
– A gut feeling–or a hunch–is a sensation that appears quickly consciousness (noticeable enough to be acted on if one chooses to) without us being fully aware of the underlying reasons for its occurrence.
– Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the between the gap conscious and nonconscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.
In everyday language these three terms can at times be substituted for one another. Some people may also understand or define these words differently. But at The Human Company, these definitions reflect the specific meaning we attach to each.
Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011.