I have suspected for some time that one of the traits common to successful entrepreneurs is the willingness to trust their “hunches”. Merriam Webster Online defines a hunch as “a strong intuitive feeling concerning especially a future event or result”. If you get a hunch that a new business idea will be successful, business school grads will tell you to research and analyze it before moving forward.
In “Blink“, author Malcolm Gladwell proposes that we can often instantaneously recognize subtleties in events that we can’t describe but that nonetheless are accurate. He cites example after example of research that show that this spontaneous grasp of facts is valid. It is why sometimes art experts can immediately spot a fake, why firefighters sometimes sense when the fire crew is in danger, and why some salespeople can immediately intuit the needs and emotions of potential customers.
Gladwell also offers several cautionary notes:
— In one example describing a “war game” exericise by the U.S. military, the team that gathered intelligence and analyzed it thoroughly came up the loser against a team that “played it by ear” (my phrase).
— Citing a police shooting of an innocent man, Gladwell allso warns that stress and fear can sometimes subvert one’s ability to make good quick judgments.
Stress, fear and overanalyzing the situation are the foes of good hunches. If you know from experience that you can trust your own judgment, then don’t be afraid to trust your hunches if you’re not under stress. That won’t get you money from an investor, but it may allow you to be first to market with an innovative new idea!