Monday, December 5, 2011

Does Intuition Have A Place In The Business World?

Intuition is like finding a needle in a...wait...not one but 20 haystacks. A single needle. It will give you the direction you should search but until you actually have the needle in hand it's not as useful.

Similarly, intuition will give you ideas but business still operate on the principle that their sole purpose is to increase top line revenues while maintaining or widening the operating margins (as a percentage of revenues). Therefore, you need hard data to justify your intuition (or be able to absorb the risk to the business if you're wrong due to a lack of data).

As the idea in question becomes more strategic to the company, the risk / impact to the business of failure is proportionally greater so having hard data becomes similarly more important.

Weak business leaders wait until they have all the facts before making a decision.

However, in any worthwhile, often fast-moving, business opportunity, we never have all the facts, so weak business people wait and wait and wait, hoping that the next bit of information will allow them to make the "perfect" decision.

But as Voltaire said, "Perfect is the enemy of the good" and as George Patton said more recently "A good decision today is better than a great one made tomorrow."

Making good decisions necessarily relies on intuition because all the facts aren't yet known. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" largely defines intution as the sum total of all one's knowledge and experiences leading up to a decision. That is, you're not "winging it" but rather allowing your subsconcious mind to process at light speed a lot of disparate, often incomplete, information to make exactly the right decision most of the time.

So I would say that intuition not only has a place in the business world but is a core competency that needs only your trust in it to let it be a valuable guide in building value. After all, you can always make a new, different, good decision tomorrow. ;-)