It´s a gut feeling. You know, when you can´t put your finger on it, but the answer is right there before you. Something just isn´t right. You can´t explain it. Or, maybe, something is perfect. You just know it. You can´t back it up with anything solid like a statistic or a famous quote in the newspaper, but you´re convinced. Why? Because you just have this feeling.
It´s called intuition though most of us usually call it a gut decision. Jonas Salk, famous for his vaccination against polio, relied on it and now researchers from the University of Amsterdam have concluded that the more complicated a decision the less time one should spend thinking about it and simply trust one’s instincts, those signals that tell you what to do without pondering and reviewing the situation.
Sometimes in the workplace we simply don´t have enough time to get all the data we want to make a decision. As a leader you must show your employees how to make the best decisions they can with the information they have. One of the biggest obstacles for people, no matter where they are on the organizational chart, is their inability to make decisions. It doesn´t matter how brilliant or skilled you are; if you can´t make a decision then you´re stuck and, worse, you can bring a whole project to a standstill.
So how do you teach your people about intuition? Indeed, shouldn´t they just "get" it? After all, we´re talking about gut instincts here. Well, sure, on one level, you want them to just get it, but first you need to define what that means and then you need to let them know that it´s okay for them to rely on their instincts. That´s one of the great things about experience: you´ve been through something so many times that by the 133rd scenario you could write the script. So it´s not just about them trusting themselves; it´s about you trusting them.
Your objectors might dismiss instinct, gut, and intuition. If you can´t explain it, how can it be true? In many cases, explaining can simply take too long and then an opportunity is lost. Look around your company and think about how intuition plays into decision-making. Are people taking too long to make decisions? Are they collecting too much data before making a decision? Is there any wisdom to the notion that sometimes we need to sleep on a big decision before offering a final word? If a decision is made following a lengthy and even painful stretch of time, are people happy with the outcome or do they question their judgments?
Here´s what the lead researcher, Ap Dijksterhuis at the University of Amsterdam had to say about making snap decisions: "We found that when the choice was for something simple, such as purchasing oven gloves or shampoo, people made better decisions – ones that they remained happy with – if they consciously deliberated over the information . . . But once the decision was more complex such as for a house, too much thinking about it led people to make the wrong choice. Whereas, if their conscious mind was fully occupied on solving puzzles, their unconscious could freely consider all the information and they reached better decisions."
Next time: more about intuition in the workplace.