Using Data Responsibly and Intuition Intelligently

Intuition: noun in·tu·i·tion | in-tü-ˈi-shən, -tyü- |

Intuition is a crucial component of our human cognitive capacity, both professionally and personally. It gets an unconvincing rap in the professional world for being more linked to a person's spirituality than real world requirement. However, we see this competence frequently employed by professionals in the medical, military, financial and other versatile sectors. It is no coincidence that more funding is deployed in search of cognitive excellence and the role of intuition in decision making processes. The benefits from employing intuitional guidance in a professional capacity is gaining more fame than the conventionally deployed data analytics approach.

What is the difference between the two cognitive thought systems – rational vs intuition?

Rational approach uses intentional and calculated analysis to study information and weigh options, in hopes of achieving an outcome best suited for the occasion. Here, the reliance is on immediately available external information to the evaluator, for making sense of everything surrounding the situation. Technically, this should remove emotions and feelings from this process, as one looks at the information at hand, objectively.

Intuition is derived from experientially exposed learning. A sort of “street wisdom”, if you will, where the intellect has subconsciously collected and compiled an individual’s actions, successes and failures, including the emotions and feelings that were triggered during those events, as a mapping guidance for future patterns in life. Simply put, rational approach can be linked to the “school of academic learning”, while intuition aligns to “the school of hard knocks”.

It is easy to misconstrue that one is imperative than the other. In truth, we humans naturally fidget between the continuum of rationality and intuition on a routine basis.

Take the stock market world, for instance. It relies on making predictions of global events and market developments. In today’s socio-economic environment, pouring through market models and analyses is becoming unreliable. It is not possible or plausible, to explore possibilities without also relying on intuitive competence. In fact, studies have shown that experienced investment professionals predict more accurately when employing intuition than when relying on data analysis, as time is of essence for them.

So, what is Intuition:

In every language, the meaning is poignant:

The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

Call it a hunch or an inkling. This inexplicable sense is gaining momentum as a core discipline in business management.

So, what is intuition?

When you make a decision, or choose an option subconsciously without actively analyzing alternatives, you are employing intuition. It can be evoked in situations as simple as going to the grocer without an idea of what to cook and relying on an inner knowledge. Or it can be the quick thinking that helps you avoid an accident.

Intuition refers to the capability to make a deduction by unconsciously tapping into a deep seeded reservoir of wisdom, without using rational thought process of weighing pros and cons.

The drawback of intuition is that it is not consistent, flawless or reliable. Hence, it is not looked upon as a beneficial component of business competencies. This is because intuition is hardly a conscious effort. It depends on factors like time limitations, riskiness of the situation and how dominant is rationalization in the decision-making environment. If it’s not conscious, how can you tell it’s tangible? If it disregards external sources of information or circumstantial evidence, we tend to ignore this presage and follow the superficial leads for an answer.

Intuition is not a pink fluffy feeling:

True Intuition is a powerful latent skill, that can be trained like a muscle. Built on experience, it can transcend immediate information, go beyond existing knowledge and grow over time.

Intuitive Intelligence / Yours naturally

Traditional business management practice relies on in-depth information analysis to drive decision making. Acceleration in technology and access to massive data sets, makes this operating model convoluted, costly and time consuming. Researchers show that leading companies are successfully using a balanced intuitive approach to disrupt industries and introduce blue ocean strategies. How do you keep your competition guessing? You employ a weapon that is uniquely yours to promote creative thinking and revolutionary decision making.

Limitations of a rational mind:

Firstly, assuming we are 100% rational is a fallacy that is well known in Psychology. For one, 100% rationality requires an unlimited cognitive ability. We are physically limited in our cognitive structure to absorb and process all of the multi-faceted information of any complex business and societal condition, on a timely basis. Secondly, we face external challenges of ever changing circumstances, a tsunami of data that is unfeasible to be current all of the time and the nebulous socio-economic vibes of human conditions, to make sense of everything. Before we analyze and understand what is at hand, the issue becomes yesterday’s news replaced by a new one. We are merely playing catch-up.

How does intuition make up for gaps in rationality?

Efficient successful professionals work within the limits of rational thinking while making up for the gap in information and limited time with intuitive intelligence. This allows them to develop a core competence to cope with surprises, unexpected turn of events or new challenges – the epitome of today’s professional life.

Numerous studies from as early as the 70s, are showing positive correlation between intuitive decision tendencies and overall company performance. The ability to employ quick thinking process to attain the appropriate results, leads to availing resources to other important activities, and thereby increasing efficiency and productivity.

The key here is to use intuition, intelligently, while using data responsibly.

What does this mean to an organization?

Essentially, there are two operating systems of business management. The rationally dominated, heavy analytical thinking is most lauded by big consulting companies.  The least thought of modality is one of non-reflective processes, using experience and instinctive thinking. Words like “data analytics” and “big data” are thrown around fashionably as a path to clear decision making. If this was the case, we’d see a trend of a company’s robust performance against data amplified decision-making. Data alone cannot predict the irrational world. It is needed, and it should be used to make calculated assumptions, but responsibly. Data, too, can be a victim of false representation and framing biases. Here is where the power of intuition can feed the gaps where data fails, while critical reasoning takes over where intuition is contaminated with perceptual biases.

Studies point to a company’s operational competency riding along a continuum between these two operating methodologies – conscious brain (RATIONAL) and the unconscious thoughts (INTUITION). Expertise is usually described as one’s accumulation of experience and ability to operate on “auto-pilot” thereby differentiating them from a novice.

Research conducted on level of brain activity between amateur and expert card players reveals that experts have a higher control over their emotions and a balanced reliance on both intuition and logic, as can be seen by the MRI screening during a card game.

Many expertise models depict the highest-level of competence from a novice to an expert level as embracing intuitive actions.

Herein lies the conundrum of traditional performance management and policy making habits. If Intuition is an important supplement of expertise, how then can you recognize and reward these efforts? If instincts can facilitate spontaneous recognition of repetitive circumstances and rapidly respond to developing situations, how then can intuition be encouraged in decision-making approach?

Dreyfus and Dreyfus Five Stages of Skills Acquisition Model

Intuition is not a magical trait. It is a cognitive ability that is vastly studied by scientist, psychologist, philosophers and academics. Intuition is not devoid of rational thinking. In fact, it is a natural intellect that has learnt to recognize patterns, events and create templates to address future patterns of various nature. This highly versatile knowledge can be tapped into responsibly with a guided process such as that offered by Leading Lotus.  Leading Lotus methodology pursues a flushing out process to harmonize instinctive knowledge with rational data, balancing percepts, emotions, biases and intellect.

The spectrum to use intuitive thought process is enormous, limitless and ever accessible.