Intuition in Business

by Angela O’Connell and Pat Naylor

In a nutshell

1. What is intuition?

Intuition can be described as knowing something without knowing how you know it. This is because intuition is:

  • Non-verbal – and we are often lost for words to describe what we know
  • Needs to be tempered with analysis
  • Fast – rather like a computer zip file
  • Works outside our conscious awareness through pattern matching and our peripheral senses
  • Is often incomplete and lacking detail
  • Is very individual and works differently for each person, although there are some experiences most people recognise, such as a ‘gut feeling’


2. The mechanics of intuition

Intuition is largely concerned with the capacities of the right brain, or the subconscious mind.

  • The right brain is creative and imaginative.
  • It may think in symbols (which is a form of pattern matching).
  • It recognises faces and emotions – hence your gut feelings.
  • Intuitive thinking occurs when the brain is working to Alpha or Theta rhythms.


3. Getting a balance

Although the two hemispheres of the brain are separate, there is a link between them and the two sides seem to be complementary. The left side is dominant for language (regardless of whether you are right- or left-handed). The right side infers meanings from words and interprets the emotions from the tone of voice used when speaking.

  • Once we consciously use whole-brain thinking to reach solutions or generate ideas, we create a balance that ripples through to other areas of our work and lives.
  • Generating such ideas leads to more options, whether you are making huge life-affecting decisions or merely choosing what to have for dinner.


4. Luck and intuition

Research suggests that for best results in life, we should develop our luck/intuition.

  • Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition and gut feelings.
  • Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their lives.
  • Lucky people’s expectations about the future help them fulfil their dreams and ambitions.
  • Lucky people are able to transform their bad luck into good fortune.


5. The benefits of using intuition

Tapping into your intuition will help you to come up with ideas that are not just good, but great, and get the best out of your relationships with others. Below are just some of situations in which you can enjoy the benefits that come from developing your intuition:

  • Knowing when to trust someone
  • Employing the right person
  • Understanding what customers really want
  • Taking difficult decisions
  • Nurturing creativity in your team
  • Explaining your ideas to others
  • Deciding whether to take a tempting job offer
  • Identifying why something is too good to be true
  • Knowing when to take a line of questioning further
  • Tried and tested or something new?


6. Measuring intuition

Some people trust their intuition more naturally than others. Here is a questionnaire to determine where you fall on the scale. It will show you whether

  • You need to develop your intuition
  • Gain a greater understanding of how it works in order to use it more and explain your ideas to others
  • Understand it better so that you can trust it even more
  • Help others to recognise and trust their intuition.


7. Becoming aware of your intuition

The first step to improving your intuition is to develop an awareness of how it works for you. To do this, relax and ask yourself some simple questions.

  • What happened to trigger your gut feeling?
  • Is that feeling pleasant or not?
  • Is it holding you back or encouraging you to do something?
  • Now that you recognise that feeling, what is your intuition trying to tell you?
  • Would it help to sleep on it?
  • How low or high is your energy level?
  • What else do you need for confirmation?


8. Using others’ intuition

Research shows that managers who are comfortable using their own intuitive judgment are often uncomfortable about relying on other people’s intuition. How can I trust someone else’s intuition? By asking them some simple questions, you can determine whether your colleague’s intuition has something worth pursuing. To discover if your staff operate from intuition, get them to do the Questionnaire, then ask these questions:

  • What helps you to be intuitive?
  • What hinders you from being intuitive?


9. Developing your intuition

There are many ways of accessing and developing your intuition. Trust your intuition to tell you which one will work best for you.

  • Talk to people you think are intuitive. Ask them what they are thinking about or doing when they get a brainwave. Find out how their minds work.
  • Get yourself in the zone by becoming totally absorbed in an activity, occupying the left brain so the right brain is free to come up with ideas.
  • Turn the problem into a story that will give you the key to the solution.
  • What attracts you when you are not at work – what’s the missing quality you’ve been looking for?
  • Find out how senior managers use their intuition.
  • Learn to follow your gut instincts – if you are holding back, maybe there’s a reason.