I once worked for a leader who had a keen sense of intuition. Most people described him as street smart, and he was extremely successful as a result. The reason is because he simply followed his instincts. He didn’t overanalyze things, he didn’t try to make things more complex than they needed to be, and he didn’t follow any prewritten book of business rules. He just knew what needed to be done, and he did it. In short, he was confident enough to trust his own gut.
Traditional methods of learning tend to rely on mastering tools and theories that have already been established. A great example of this can be seen with classically trained musicians who work their entire lives to master the works of the great composers who have come before them. In return, they are able to play each piece of music with a level of precision, accuracy, and feeling that can hardly be matched by the casual student. But this is not necessarily the same skill that will be required to compose an original piece of music. For that, our virtuosos may need to let go of a little of what they were taught and make some room for their own observations and instincts to shine through.
The same thought process can be applied to business. Knowing what other successful companies have already done and exactly how they did it is certainly valuable information to possess. But any company that becomes overly dependent on this knowledge may find itself chasing and imitating its competitors rather than helping to shape a future that has yet to be envisioned. Once again, leaving some room for original action and intuitive thought will certainly go a long way.
Roughly speaking, intuition is defined as having knowledge without the benefit of reason. This means that the intuitive person will automatically know something to be true without having any proof that it really is. One of the defining characteristics of intuition (and what generally separates it from having a belief) is that it will ultimately be proven to be either right or wrong. In this way, intuition can be used to help you foresee a future that others may not – and if you can get that future right, you might just be able to stay one step ahead of your competitors instead of being one step behind them.
With that said, there are three basic factors that will be required in order for intuition to exist: experience, awareness, and trust.
Experience will guide you to be able to make quick judgments of most any situation
Awareness will enable you to pick up on those little clues that other people aren’t likely to see
Trust will allow you to have enough confidence in your own knowledge without having to lean on excessive reasoning to help back it up
It is the combination of these three attributes that makes intuition such a rare skill; and it is the speed with which intuition allows a person to act that makes it so valuable in the world of business.
So how can you practice, and even master, this ability to be more intuitive?
To begin with, you should try putting aside some of what you were previously taught so that you can make room for your own experience and observations. This doesn’t mean that you have to completely ignore any knowledge that you formally acquired, but it does mean that you should take at least some of those teachings and put them into the category of “influences” rather than the category of “that which absolutely has to be done in order to be successful.” In this way, you can draw upon that information and use it in combination with your own experience, rather than being blinded by it and requiring that it serve as a precise template for your future. In short, you want to turn what you were taught into awareness, and then use that awareness as one of your guides.
Of course, doing this will also require that you trust yourself. If you find that you are leaning too heavily on your formally acquired knowledge, it is probably because you do not fully trust that any reality can exist outside of it. But when you begin to build the confidence to use that information as a guide, you will be better equipped to envision a future that nobody else could see. It is in this otherwise unforeseen future where your intuition will thrive, and it is also in this future where your business will ultimately grow.
The ability to trust your instincts is a skill that every leader should be able to leverage in the workplace. Build your leadership skill set with these AMA resources and seminars: