Intuitive decision making: could this approach be the most underrated way to becoming a successful leader?
By Benjamin Kool, Co-Founder and CEO of Solutions 4 Delivery
Intuition and business, do they go hand in hand or are they each others’ opposites? Is your intuition the way to grow your business or will it take you straight to bankruptcy? Benjamin Kool, Co-Founder and CEO of Solutions 4 Delivery shares his thoughts on the various facets of intuitive decision making. Solutions 4 Delivery is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that partners with Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) currently in more than ten countries.
As a leader, your ability to make decisions hugely impacts the success of your business. Being faced with numerous important choices to make on a daily basis, leaders are expected to deal with anything that could range from snap judgments and tactical decisions to strategic propositions with lasting impact. More often than not, they also need to navigate factors like duress and the pressures of time and consensus while maintaining composure. Whether we realize it or not, intuition often plays a significant role in the decision making process. The key is to understand how to consciously use our intuition to our advantage.
Instinct versus intuition
With its unique capability to combine feeling with thinking, intuition balances the emotional reaction of instinct with the intellectual response of analysis. Simply put, intuition is built on the wealth of our past experience – the richest source of practical wisdom. Long term patterns of experience help us see beyond the abstract nature of models and equations or even the rigidity of conventional ideologies.
Indecisiveness as a leader
What happens when your main task is to make decisions, but you are indecisive? When faced with difficult decisions, it is not unlikely that we tend to over-analyse situations, weighing pros and cons, even to an extent where we lose sight of the big picture. Indecisions and inaction cost time and money. Larger the decisions, higher the stakes. As a leader it is crucial to be able to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. You’d rather make a good decision at the right time than being indecisive in the process of finding the perfect solution.
Previous experiences with similar decisions, or lessons from the past could be reference points that can help with a current predicament. These prove immensely useful especially when decisions are to be made in the absence of important information. Good leaders are able to harness their intuitive thinking capabilities to efficiently guide their decisions when things get complicated. It has also been proven by science that conscious deliberations works better for simpler choices whereas complex decisions involving a multitude of factors are better served by subconscious deliberation, powered by intuition. In most cases, good leaders are capable of making sense of important information quickly, even in spite of missing pieces, by engaging rationality and intuition to take concrete actions.
How do we distinguish between fear and intuition?
Fear is inevitably a part of life, personal or professional, and the only way to overcome fear is to confront it. When we ask ourselves “what’s the worst that can happen if I make this decision?”, fear no longer remains an abstract force that overpowers us and influences our decisions. Instead, it allows us to objectively weigh how much strength it holds as we move forward. Identifying the source of fear helps separate irrational fears from potential risks and in turn puts us in a better position to address what is worth considering. This discernment is what separates intuition from fear. We learn to distinguish between fear and intuition as we get better at recognizing whether we are impulsively reacting to a threat or if we are affected by red flags about impending risks. An individual’s level of emotional intelligence is also an important factor which determines their ability to efficiently handle uneasy situations.
Solution: How to implement intuitive decision-making
Recognising that intuition is part of our intelligence is the first step to tapping into its power. We most probably have had instances where the best ideas and elusive answers have come to us when we weren’t looking for them. For instance, when we were out for a walk or while taking a shower. This happens because the brain is given the space to work, to find and assemble the right information. We need to appreciate the brain’s ability to see connections when we can’t. Even as we take a break, allowing the mind to wander, the brain continues to work on problems, piecing together information and forming helpful connections.
When we allow ourselves to take a break after reviewing all available data and relevant information from appropriate sources, in effect, we are providing our brains with the downtime it requires to pick up subtleties and nuances to arrive at actionable solutions. Consciously leveraging this capability by priming the brain, is one way we can hone our intuition. Over time, arriving at the right decision, even when bound by the restraint of time or resources, would not compromise the quality of the output, nor would it push the decision-maker to the point of indecisiveness. The combination of cognition and intuition, therefore, is a powerful tool for leaders to apply while dealing with decisions, irrespective of where they lie on the scale of complexity.
The stigma attached with intuitive decision making, primarily arises from the perception that it is not credible. It tends to become all about not having an understandable way to explain your decisions to others. This line of thought overlooks the true potential of intuition that could power up the game for those who trust their intuitions backed by knowledge and self awareness. Ultimately, it depends on the decision maker’s ability to consciously evaluate their intuitions to see if it makes sense in any given context. That is to say, intuition is not to be mistaken as an easy way out when things get difficult. There needs to be a strategy in place to rule things out. The output needs to be grounded in reality.
Since you don’t always have all the information at hand and timing is key, for concrete decision-making it’s crucial to allow your intuition to take part.
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