Let me ask you this: Do you trust your intuitive thinking? Or do you rely more on data and analyses? Here’s some information that might shift your decision making process.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, leaders must make complex decisions quickly, even when faced with uncertainty. Data and numbers rarely provide a complete picture. Making sound decisions in a chaotic climate requires us to strengthen our intuitive thinking. Recent research is pointing out that refining our natural abilities of intuition leads to more accurate and innovative insights.

The instinctive genius that enables a CEO to craft the perfect strategy could require an uncanny ability to detect patterns that other people either overlook or mistake for random noise.” ~ Alden M. Hayashi, “When to Trust Your Gut,” Harvard Business Review, February 2001

Some business experts caution leaders to beware of faulty reasoning and inherent biases. Traditionally, experts 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 intuitive thinking.

The fact is that most organizations no longer have time for a slow process of committee hearings and review. Decisions often cannot be tabled. We have to make them quickly by:

  1. Processing the best available information
  2. Inferring from it
  3. Using intuition to act

Over the years, various management studies have found that executives routinely rely on their intuition to solve complex problems when logical methods (such as cost-benefit analyses) simply won’t do. The higher you climb within an organization, the greater your need for intuition, notes Hayashi, a senior editor at the MIT Sloan Management Review, in his aforementioned Harvard Business Review article.

After conversations with many CEOs and executive teams, most agree that honing your intuitive thinking 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.

Yet, in the coaching conversations I have with people, few understand how intuition really works and when to trust it and when to be wary. In this series of posts, I’ll start with a clear definition of intuition, analyze how it works and outline steps for improving your intuitive skills.

I’m curious about your own experience using intuitive thinking in your work. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here or on LinkedIn. Let’s talk!