The challenges companies and organisations are now facing are complex. Disruptive ideas, change-making, radical decisions and brilliant strategies are required. New tools and competences are to be taken into use in order to bring competitive edge amongst companies.
At this moment in time, changes happening in the external environment socially, economically and especially in technology are moving very fast, but on the other hand change will never again be as slow as it is now. The challenges companies and organisations are facing are complex. They are dealing with additional dimensions in a way which we haven’t seen before. All these factors are constantly challenging us to go beyond the knowledge and skills we have on hand at the moment. Disruptive ideas, change-making, radical decisions and brilliant strategies are required, and they require clear, fast and comprehensive decision making, innovative ideas and problem solving. New tools and competences are to be taken into use in order to bring competitive edge amongst companies.
AI, data analytics, robotics and supercomputers perform better than humans in activities based on logic, rules, or any kind of analysis that requires mechanical deduction, reasoning and calculation. What remains is complex and multidimensional problem solving, and identification of even subtle and vague signals from surroundings in intelligent and creative way. For that purpose, the human mind possesses huge potential which is by far not fully utilised at the moment.
Human thinking is based on two different thinking modalities, conscious reasoning and intuition. Rapid decision-making is usually based on intuitive, non-conscious processes including associations, memory, habits and different feelings. Yet especially in the business context the impression on conscious reasoning is the more, or sometimes the only valued form of decision-making or problem-solving. The traditional education system emphasises conscious reasoning whereas intuition is ignored and thus its potential is by far unexploited at the moment.
Capacity for reasoning and intuitive thinking are remarkably different both in terms of quantity and quality. Intuition processes information around 300,000 times faster than reasoning faculties. Reasoning is strong when there’s a need for focus, analysis and comparison. These are processes intuitive thinking cannot manage. But intuition excels in scanning the environment, picking up signals, perceptions and clues which might have a meaning. Intuition is at its best when there is a lack of information – or an overload of it. Intuitive thinking builds bridges over these gaps, or it can pick up the relevant signals amongst vast masses. These two different thinking faculties ultimately work together. Intuition scans the vast amount of information surrounding us constantly, doing it naturally and effortlessly. It sends observations to our reasoning faculty for further processing. Intuition supports deductive thinking, acting as pre-processor.
WHAT EXACTLY IS INTUITION?
The concept of intuition is versatile, and does not have common or widely recognised terminology. The human tendency to concentrate on spoken language and external communication is so strong that other communication systems are usually bypassed or ignored. Intuitive thinking is based on perceptions and presence and it is also strongly stimulus bound.
Every human is intuitive, whether or not a person is aware of this as the nature of the human brain is inherently intuitive. It is the very core of being a human – being able to think flexibly and to create and innovatively invent ideas and solutions. However, intuition is individual and distinctive for each person; every individual has a unique internal way of perceiving and processing of information. Intuition manifests itself in different forms and feelings. The research and studies are ongoing, but are not fully ready to build a taxonomy into all dimensions under this concept yet. That is possibly one reason why deliberate utilisation of intuitive thinking is only now beginning, and not yet widespread, for example in organisations. Yet the lack of scientific understanding of this phenomenon does not prevent individuals exploring and developing their own intuition!
The umbrella term intuition includes at least the following aspects:
- Different forms of knowing: instinct, feeling, subconscious knowing, bodily knowing
- Processes: associations, automation, non-verbal communication, non-verbal sensing
- Outcomes: insights, realization, ideas, vision, message, embodied sensations: Goosebumps, “gut feeling”, cold shivers
WHY IS INTUITION OFTEN DISMISSED?
Albert Einstein said,
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
In the past, intuitive knowledge was trusted and utilised, for example in the context of healing, but with the rise of western science it has become marginal and thus been lost. In modern times there has been a strong trust in the ideal of objectivity and science. A rapid and linear increase in technological development has been limiting people from acknowledging, seizing or trusting intuition. A strong and unilateral belief in the idea of “technology will set us free” limits us and limits our thinking, and is therefore setting boundaries to the development of new innovations.
Science has certainly played a very important role in researching, testing, verifying and building the best possible collective and objective understanding. However, as the environment is rapidly changing in all aspects, the paradigm of materialistic science is breaking. The surrounding phenomena are not mechanical, don’t proceed in a linear fashion and cannot always be logically explained.
Nature does not work like a clockwork. Cutting-edge science is currently researching different phenomena that clearly exist, but which the traditional scientific approach cannot yet explain.
When it comes to intuition, even today, to be taken seriously as a person, one needs to have impressive rational arguments to convince others, whereas intuitive information tends to be kept hidden and only rational explanations are accepted. Intuition is more likely considered to be an unreliable and questionable form of knowledge than a form of reliable knowledge, such as rational arguments. Extraordinary experiences are not shared openly, or even denied due to a fear of appearing unprofessional. Often in such cases, where intuition is used, one needs to mask it since the justifications have to be based on reasoning. Our rationally trained minds often get confused as using intuition reverses the time and causality; we know before we know, but we don’t know why we know.
Intuition in multidimensional knowledge, which is not always easy to crasp with words. Vague, ambiguous and partly weak intuitive information is hard to fit into the current logical, linear and technologically oriented environment we live in. This hinders the active exploitation of intuition in a business context. Cultural distrust towards intuition creates a tendency to lean more towards process and technology. Creative fields, like design, are already open to the concept of active nourishment of creativity and the benefits of versatile intelligence. However, in the business and technology world, lots of different opportunities come by simultaneously and very quickly.
Thorough analysis processes and conscious decision making is too elaborate or time consuming. Sometimes there are situations where there’s a need to surpass traditional reasoning, analyze totally new business areas, or invest in something completely new and disruptive, which does not rely on algorithms, calculations or analysis. Human intuition is the best tool for when something needs to be traced from vague and tacit signals, or signals which would not even leave a trace on a database.
Sometimes the foundation of intuition is embedded in expertise-based tacit knowledge. Subject matter experts have a massive nonconscious database they’ve gathered over the years or decades. This database produces experience-based knowledge and ideas when required, somewhat automatically. Yet, intuition can be visionary when it is surpassing the mentioned experience-based expertise. It gives ability to innovate outside the boundaries completely beyond gained experience. In extreme cases, this is true for example with e.g. Nobel laureates or creators of very disruptive businesses. Those individuals dare to approach and search for something completely new. Radical visionaries have the ability and courage to see things with fresh eyes and new angles, and question themselves and the current knowledge. In this case intuition is not based on expertise, experience or education and studies, but breaches the boundaries giving access to something completely new.
Rapid development and technological, social, economic and environmental change surrounding us possesses huge potential for businesses, and competitive edge that could be capitalised on. However, the potential might conflict with our current thinking models and beliefs, and seem too weird and peculiar from our current position. In such situations, rational-based decision-making does not always bring the best results. Reasoned processes and models create order and routines avoiding chaos, but also support traditional or already known solutions. The potential for ground-breaking creativity and innovation becomes more difficult to realise.
HOW TO DELIBERATELY BENEFIT FROM INTUITION INTELLIGENTLY?
Intelligent intuition would be a very powerful tool and method for any leader wanting to build an organisation possessing and actively and deliberately utilizing this capacity. Unfortunately, there is very little research about intuition being actively managed in organisations, at least on a widely recognised level. There are no readily available tools or methods on applying intuition in the daily operations of an organisation. Individual business leaders worldwide (e.g. Jack Welch, Steve Jobs) and nationally (Mikael Jungner, Ari Lahti) have mentioned actively benefiting from and trusting their intuition. However, we cannot yet say the same for any well-known organisation out in the open. Scientists and researchers researching intuition related fields are working to define the concept further, and to provide methods and tools to be able to use that yet unleashed part of human potential more efficiently.
What is already known, is that a profound prerequisite for unleashing the internal potential we all have is to unlearn old ways and methods. For example with design students, it has been noticed that when helping students to develop their intuition and creativity, the majority of the time and effort is spent dropping false and limiting beliefs, removing different locks from thinking. Usually people have unconscious beliefs which block and limits creativity and the possibility for utilization of the mind’s capacity.
For deliberate usage of intelligent intuition 5 steps can be identified:
BENEFITTING REASONING AND INTUITION, WHICH ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINKING SYSTEMS WORKING IN DIFFERENT WAYS
Intuition is not just a random revelation. It is possible to use intuition intentionally, and search information and knowledge via it. It is essential to understand that intuition is a human skill that can be developed.
DEVELOP PERCEPTION SKILLS
When encountering intuitive signals, it is important to be able to identify even the weakest of them and recognise the smallest clues amongst many thoughts and sensations. Sometimes the signals might at the beginning seem so insane that we ignore them, don’t even “hear or see” them and thus let them pass. It is essential to be open minded towards such signals. Self-knowledge is essential for individuals developing their ways to sense signals, may they be heard, felt or seen, or be an emotional reaction.
DEVELOP DISCERNMENT SKILLS
When intuitive signals appear, the next step is to determine how to define and identify which one of them is relevant. A large amount of the thoughts, ideas and information our minds process, aren’t necessarily good ones. Minds flow with fears, prejudices and subconscious hopes. People may think they are relying on intuition, even though their decisions might be based on fears or wishful thinking. The key to intelligent intuition is how to distinguish the relevant ones from the mass of thoughts.
All top achievers face impossible problems or at least the problems seem that way at first. Instead of giving up against impossible odds, high performers focus on the belief that there is a solution, and they will find it. That’s when intuition may start to provide solutions.
WIDEN YOUR MIND AND THINKING
Some of the solution proposals will make no sense or seem insane. Yet behind the seeming insanity there might lie a new solution, invention or innovation. That is why it’s essential to train the mind to be open to something yet unformed and have the courage and trust for meaningfulness. Let go of the locks and limiting beliefs and blocks; “but it can’t happen this way” or “this is not possible”. Critical analysis of accuracy of the intuitive sensation is naturally required, but retaining emotional belief for possibility and meaningfulness of such experiences is essential.
As in any case, intuition development can fail and mistakes happen. They are an important part of the learning process. Experiencing one’s own biases allows to assimilate them and understand more about own thinking methods. In case of failure, the process can be restarted. In optimal cases, intuitions and insights lead to new knowledge, practices or even disrupting innovations. In all cases they lead to further learning.
The objective is not to distinguish between rational and intuitive thinking, but to have them cooperate. Development of intuition is about developing the cooperation of two different thinking systems, about how we allow intuitive observations enter our conscious minds. These are the touchpoints where rational and intuitive minds are communicating with each other. Intuition has to be heard and taken into account before it can become part of our understanding.
Intelligent intuition is personal and unique. Key to deliberately utilizing intuition is to understand it first at an individual level. In the context of business benefits, organisations cannot be intuitive without individuals who are aware of its existence, have an open mind to recognise and receive such information, and be able to further process it in an intelligent and objective way. They must be very familiar with their own thinking process and aware of their own biases in thinking, sensing and interpretation. This self-knowledge sets the cornerstone for intelligent intuitive thinking and needs to exist at an individual level, before it can be widely spread. When surrounded with like-minded people, team or community, group intuition could be a very powerful tool. It enables analysis of the current and future environment, surpassing the limits of expertise and going beyond the ordinary in solving problems and making decisions.
Identification of weak signals from the vast amount of surrounding information can lead to success. Traditional organisational or business development models or methods cannot identify those vague indications in a coordinated and managed way. It is not yet defined how intuition utilization should be set up in companies and their management structure. Instead it depends on how open-minded and willing leaders are now and in the future. Intuitively intelligent companies most likely exist already, but they just aren’t visible or don’t state it openly. That could be a way to distinguish themselves from competitors and deliberately attract creative, intuitive and innovative personnel. Actively making room for new kinds of thinking, showing courage to actively capitalise on various forms of intelligences, incorporating this in organisational structures, culture and values, gives companies a leading edge and powerful tools – unleashing human potential. The ability to act intelligently at the interface of rational data and not-processed tacit knowledge will generate potential and possibilities which have not been seen before.
- Intuition is highly personal and unique feature. Benefit from intelligent intuition by attempting a structured approach with heightened self-awareness and continual questioning, testing, unlearning and re-learning.
- Recognise and nurture the atmosphere of trust and acceptance. That allows individuals to value and utilise their intuition and intuitive decision making to benefit from the potential it can release to generate radical new solutions or a step change in your organisation.
- Rational approaches obviously have a purpose and a role in any organisation but intuition could play a complimentary role if it’s value is recognised and developed appropriately.
The author is Virpi Tuukkanen.