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Intuition: Is it the highest form of Intelligence?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 17:19

Guest post by AIM Senior Research Fellow Dr Samantha Johnson

Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next. Jonas Salk

Are you intuitive? Or are you an intuition sceptic?  Or perhaps you’re not sure either way?

Is intuition the domain of women only?  Can men be intuitive? 

Is intuition worthwhile?

Should managers be intuitive at work?

Yes. Go for it.  Managers who use intuition fair very well. 

And no, intuition is not a woman’s domain.  While some people are more naturally intuitive than others, we can all learn to trust it and to use it to our benefit.

Studies of intuition date back as far as Aristotle.  

Psychologist Carl Jung wrote of its benefits.

In the 1930s it was linked to successful executive management.  And it still is.

Rather than being opposing forces, intuition and rational analysis are parallel systems of knowing.

Intuition and rationality are of equal value.  Neither one is superior to the other. 

The term intuition comes from the Latin word intueor meaning ‘to contemplate’ or to ‘look within’.

Intuition is about expertise and judgement. It reflects implicit learning, sensitivity and feelings.  It draws from deep thinking and pondering and creativity.

Intuition is hard to define but easy to recognise. It feels instinctive.  It’s a ‘gut-feeling’ and the feeling can be strong but difficult to explain. It should be difficult to explain.  This is how you differentiate between intuition and assumption.

Assumption is a rational process, intuition is not.  Assumptions cannot be factual and are often incorrect.  Assumptions must always be tested.

Intuition is powerful and accurate and gives us valuable and important information.

There are two types of intuition.  Expert intuition and novice intuition.  As managers in any profession or field, focus on developing your expert intuition.

Expert intuition is based in experience and expertise that has been built up over the years.  It is held in a mental map or schema and draws from long term memory and years of feedback and contemplation. 

The workplace can be a tough place for intuitive people.  If you can’t articulate or explain your intuition immediately – which if course, you can’t, that’s the very nature of intuition – then your intuition is often dismissed.

But intuition can be very accurate. 

For the most part, we should take heed of it and buy ourselves some time.  If your intuition tells you that something’s wrong or doesn’t feel right, buy some time and allow your intuition to unpack.  It’s quite true that your intuition will tell your rational mind where to look next and whether or not it’s safe to continue on in a particular direction or manner.

Many intuitive thoughts can be unpacked and explained rationally a short time after they’re experienced.

Avoid being pushed into explaining your intuition in the moment and don’t lose confidence in your intuition.  Listen to it, it will rarely do you harm. 

Those who find intuition uncomfortable and are dismissive of it are not reflecting higher intellect.  Although some might tell you that they are. They’re reflecting their discomfort.  A rational denial of intuition does not make intuition meaningless. It simply makes it misunderstood.

The most successful senior managers trust and rely on their intuition.

Here are some questions to identify if you are intuitive:

  1. Do you trust your hunches when confronted by an important decision?
  2. Do you feel in your body if a decision is right or wrong?
  3. Do you put a lot of faith in your initial feelings about people and situations?
  4. Do you put more emphasis on feelings than data when making a decision?
  5. Do you rely on your gut feelings when dealing with people?
  6. Do you trust your experience when arriving at the reasons for making a decision, even if you can’t explain why? 
  7. Does your intuition often turn out to be right all along?
  8. What is (or would be) the reaction in your organisation to decisions made on the basis that they felt right?
  9. Do you keep your intuitions close to your chest? If so, why?

Practice intuition.  Look inwards and learn to identify it.  It’s in there somewhere and if you’ve spent years rejecting it and questioning it, it’s time to give it new life. 

There’s a renewed focus on intuition as a valuable management skill. 

There’s a strong push for intuition to be taught in management education. 

Lead the way intuitive people.  It is a high level of intelligence. 

Reference: Eugene Sadler-Smith and Erella Shefy, (2001) The Intuitive Executive: understanding and applying ‘gut feel’ in decision-making. Academy of Management Executive. 18(4), 76-93