What does an intuitive hit feel like? In the words of Michael Eisner, CEO of Walt Disney, “the sensation is like looking at a great piece of art for the first time.” He says his body often reacts—he sometimes gets an unusual feeling in his stomach, in his throat, or on his skin. These signals influence his decisions.

Are you wondering what your intuition is? “It is the sum total of [your] experiences — millions and millions of them. And that enables you to make reasonable decisions,” says Bob Lutz, CEO of Excide.

According to Prof. William Duggan, Columbia Business School, there are three kinds of intuition:

  • Ordinary intuition. This is the emotional response we have to situations or people, and is the most widely experienced form of gut feeling. It is most accurate in our hunches towards people.
  • Expert intuition. It’s a snap judgement, when we come across familiar stimuli. It combines past knowledge, without any conscious thought. We experience such intuition in our field of work.
  • Strategic intuition. This form of intuition is best described as a flash of thought. It relates to clear thinking, not feeling. Our sudden ‘AHA’ moments are a manifestation of strategic intuition.

Let’s look at how we can tap into this source of information:

  • Schedule time to do gut checks. Get some quiet time in the day, which helps your mind relax. Then, reflect on the tasks and interactions at work. Or even a situation where you need to act. Where do you feel uplifted? What makes you feel bad? How does your body respond? Noticing emotions and body reactions is the first step in re-establishing a connection with your gut.
  • Consider emotions when making decisions. According to a study conducted by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, patients with brain lesions were unable to make good decisions because their emotions were impaired, even though their reason was unaffected. Says Damasio, our emotions play a crucial role by helping us filter various possibilities quickly, even though our conscious mind might not be aware of it. Thus, if there is a big decision coming, go with both logic and how you feel. But, be wary of ‘strong’ emotions like rage. They might just sway you the wrong way.
  • Know, and check yourself. Eisner admits that many a times instincts are wrong. The human nature could easily cloud our decision making. For example, we often take unnecessary risks to recover a loss—the gambler’s syndrome. Or even see patterns where none exist, what statisticians call ‘overfitting the data’. The key to avoid this – don’t be over confident! Abdoo, CEO of Wisconsin Energy says, “In my reflective time, I often rehash decisions I’ve made. And when I do, I frequently learn something that helps me when I’m confronted with similar situations in the future.”

At the end of the day, “don’t fall in love with your decisions. Everything’s fluid. You have to constantly, subtly make and adjust your decision,” says Bo Pittman, President of Time Warner. Would you agree?

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