Decisions based on intuition and instinct

Business is going through an era of advanced scientific and information technology incorporating huge databases, complex spreadsheets with charts depicting trend lines, optimum values, failure and tolerance levels besides many other matrices that greatly facilitate well calculated and rational decision making. Therefore, some people reject outright any decisions based on instinct and intuition as only freak happenings that at best only bring some lucky strikes now and then. This works fine when all the variables affecting a situation together with their respective weights or extent of impact are known for certainty. However, where information is incomplete, ambiguous or inconsistent and where uncertainties creep in to an equation like in risk mitigation making scientific and logical evaluation difficult, instinct and intuition play important roles in influencing your final decision.

For our ancestors living in the bush, a sudden movement or the slightest sound at close quarters often meant death from predators or other lurking dangers. Such signals left no time for logical reasoning; but called for immediate reactions for sheer survival. These feelings and reactions that spring forth from the gut, or your inner self, we call instinct. It has not died off with time. Sportsmen/women, fire fighters and trauma physicians and the like often make the most unpredictable and seemingly suicidal moves dictated by their instincts and intuitions to completely turnaround hopeless situations in their favor and clinch ultimate glory and victory. It is true that instinctive behavior springs involuntarily and instantaneously to a given stimuli without recourse to rational thinking; but intuition is more developed and refined instinct. Prolonged periods of exposure and constructive observation combined with knowledge derived externally leads to an area of expertise where intuitional skills operate with increasing familiarity, regularity, confidence and certainty.

Successful entrepreneurs including traders in stocks and foreign currencies especially in the short term rely on their instinct, observations and intuition rather than on university degrees, management consultants, sophisticated spreadsheets, or even Monte Carlo simulations in making all the big moves that reap in millions of dollars in takings. Their intuition motivates them to buy instead of sell or enter into a deal or even go “against the wind” disregarding trend indicators and conventional procedures at times. Hunches pay off for some with more uncanny regularity than for others. On the flip side, those who play according to their hunches, gut feelings or instincts without adequate supportive exposure or knowledge, may lose heavily in a matter of seconds.

If you were to ask or read the biographies of those at the helm of most successful organizations that have made major breakthroughs in the business world like Bill Gates, Walt Disney, KFC or Oprah Winfrey; you will find that a hunch or an intuition at some stage of their development had been instrumental in catapulting them to those undreamt of dizzy heights to make them what they are today.

Constant or regular exposure to similar situations where initially you react purely by instinct, get registered in databases within your inner self so that with time, your instincts mature into intuition. Unknown to you, your inner self prompts suitable actions and solutions based on its information from the data inputs of real experiences, facts learned and combined with logical reasoning. Intuition can be developed naturally as well as academically, and it is a tremendous asset to possess. In drawing a line between instinct and intuition, birds, fish and other animals that migrate seasonally can be said to be doing so by intuition rather than instinct.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios had this to say about his tremendous success in the course of a commencement address delivered to graduates at the Stanford University on June 12, 2005: “I never graduated from college…. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out….  So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made…..”. Later he went to Reed College where he studied Calligraphy that he found fascinating. Of this, he said, “I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”

Here’s a quote from Camarda, the Deputy Director for Advanced Projects for NASA’s Safety and Engineering Center at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He played the key role in troubleshooting the cause of the Columbia space shuttle disaster in February 2003 and helped develop the technology to ensure the safety of astronauts and future shuttle flights, “Yes, you’ll look at the answers you are getting through (a lot of) computer codes, but you should also use your intuition,” .

With more practice, trusting your instincts should come easily and naturally to you. By playing the game rationally, you can continue to prosper as an entrepreneur; but you will find that your big dream always stays just out of your reach!  However, I would like to conclude with this note of caution from Malcolm Gladwell: “Intuition and instinct are by no means always right. But, they are powerful tools in your decision-making,”

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