There’s a post on the HBR blog – Tell Your Gut to Please Shut Up – by Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, in which he denounces the current trend about intuition as the key to quick, effective, successful decision-making.
Although Schrage’s argument seems to make perfect sense, and his ideas are well articulated, I think this is just another false debate about intuition.
To be intuitive does not necessarily make any one a better decision-maker, as much as having access to a lot of data is in and of itself not enough to make a good decision.
Schrage’s view is a common misrepresentation of intuition.
In reality, intuition is not about being right or wrong. Instead, intuition is a human aptitude that allows us to take in information that is not obvious to the conscious part of our mind that responds to logic. In other words, you may perceive something or feel a certain way about someone or a situation, and this perception and/or feeling may seem very real and yet simply does not make sense from the point of view of logic. But the fact that it does not make sense logically does NOT mean that it does not have any value… far from that, actually.
This phenomenon is often the foundation for many meaningful scientific breakthroughs. It is also the reason for great art, and even successful medical diagnoses!
What do you do in the face of information that does not seem to make any sense yet keeps your attention?
This is when your imagination and your capacity for induction as well as your sense of discrimination, your analytical mind, and your experience are all at once put to test.
Our analytical mind and our instinct work together to make successful choices.
Let’s remember that a few years ago research at MIT Picower Center for Memory and Learning showed that parts of our reptilian brain (or instinctual brain) participate in sophisticated decision making: simply put there is intelligence in our gut instinct.
For this to occur, we need a medium to exchange data between the conscious and the non conscious planes of our mind. This is the function of intuition: to inform (not to decide). And this is why Intuitive Intelligence is defined as the ability for our analytical mind and our instinct to function in synergy thanks to our intuition
Now why is Intuitive Intelligence a fundamental concept in business today? And why is intuition an important subject that must be well understood, not misrepresented? Why? Because logic alone cannot bring the level of creativity and reinvention we need to innovate and win in the global economy. Breakthrough ideas can only come from our unconscious mind (otherwise they would not be new ideas!) so we need to access the part of us that is beyond our conscious mind. And what’s beyond our conscious mind does not respond to logic!
Every entrepreneur who launched a successful business would tell you that at some point he or she made a critical decision based on gut instinct, because when you create something meaningful that does not have any existing equivalent you will have to rely on your own judgement beyond any logical framework of reference. That’s the difficulty of launching a new business. You have to step in the unknown.
So to answer Michael Starge’s question at the end of his HBR article: “So did I write that based on empirical observation? Or because I’m trusting my gut?
My answer is loud and clear: hopefully, both! Otherwise – with all due respect – “that” runs a high risk of being just another platitude.