The intuitive workplace

One of the most valuable assets you can have as a leader/manager is your intuition. The organization is further enhanced if you can develop an organization of intuitive people.

In his book, “The Intuitive Manager,” author Roy Rowan writes, “Intuition is knowledge gained without rational thought … from some stratum of awareness just below the conscious level. New ideas spring from a mind that organizes experiences, facts and relationships to discern a path that has not been taken before.”

Most business leaders, at one time or another, have made a major decision based largely on their intuition — with no empirical data to support the decision. It just felt right. Even so, many organizations frown upon discussions of gut feelings and intuition when it comes to making business decisions.

Before a decision can be implemented, they reason, it must survive several rounds of intense market research, focus groups and internal committees, and pass several layers of the management team before it is considered “safe” enough to implement. By that time, of course, the competition may have completed its implementation and passed on to the next project.

I’m not suggesting that intuition replace analytical thinking. They both are important to good, effective decision making. While linear thinking tells us what has worked in the past, intuition helps factor in current conditions, timing and the decision’s relevance to the organization’s strategic initiatives.

Intuition is often critical to the innovative organization, which prides itself on its ability to adapt quickly to an ever-changing marketplace.

No doubt you can think of at least one occasion when you ran an idea past your staff without receiving any critical comments, only to hear, when it didn’t work that several people had reservations about the idea. They just “didn’t feel right.”

But failure to encourage the expression and examination of even intuitive concerns results in moving forward without the full advantage of both the intellectual and intuitive wisdom of the group.

Everyone should feel free to offer his or her input — especially when it comes to gut feelings. Here’s how to encourage intuitive thinking:

1. Ask. Before making a decision, think about how you feel about what you’re about to do. Does it “feel” right? When working with a group, encourage everyone to express their real feelings. Don’t hesitate to talk openly about the group’s intuition — even though it may not be supported by hard facts.

2. Be attentive. Often the first impression is important because it might be the most insightful. It’s critical to capture that first impression. It may be the first impression your customers will get — which may be an indication of how successful that new product or product change will be.

3. Keep track of intuitive impressions. Keep a journal of your personal intuitions. Encourage your people to pay more attention to their intuitive impressions as well — to record their own feelings and first impressions.

4. Take time to collect your thoughts. Begin meetings by asking people to take a few moments of silence to collect their thoughts and to focus their full attention on the agenda.

Intuition is not a product of education or years of experience. It has more to do with insight and awareness. I have seen a great number of people with little or no education who had tremendous insight and intuition about even complex problems related to their working environments.

As a leader/manager, invite your people to share their insights. In a short time, you’ll recognize the value of their intuitive powers.

William Armstrong, a management consultant for nearly 30 years, is president of Armstrong/Associates, a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm. Reach him at (412) 276-7396 or via e-mail at [email protected]