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« Setting realistic goals | Main | Dealing with speed »
Tuesday
Oct152013

Intuition: Friend or Foe?

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What to do with those “hunches”.

In 1977, three of us launched a truck driver’s tabloid. We got the idea while lying on a beach. We sold it to a printing company and negotiated a handsome package to produce the editorial.

We had no strategy. We did no market research. We just put it together and put it out there. Rigs and Roads was an instant success.

Why? It was a cheap production, not a glossy magazine. We could give it away free at truckstops. The timing was good. A hike in road tax was a political issue for owner-drivers. We became the voice of the beleagured truckie.

Timing and luck? Possibly. I suspect the color centrespread also had an impact. It usually featured a naked woman reclining on the bonnet of a Mack truck.

How bankable are hunches?

I’ve also gone ahead with hunches that have been disasters. For myself, and probably for many others, my gut instincts are not always the way to go.

Much has been written on this in recent years, from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink to Richard Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. The former ascribes a magical element to what we call instinct. Kahneman leans more toward intuition as a learned behaviour, based on feelings generated by our life experiences.

I don’t know which is right, but I know I have instincts, hunches and feelings. Sometimes they seem to be useful; other times not so.

How does it feel?

For me, it’s best to explore the feeling. I can usually attach an event or incident to a lot of them. I feel immediately nauseous when I smell port. Even if you offer me a premium vintage, I start to feel like expelling my insides.

That’s because the residents of our early 70’s student flat discovered that, on a per dollar basis, flagons of port were the cheapest source of alcohol. You can intuit the rest.

Most of us have instinctual responses. It’s the triggers that we need to be mindful of. Fear is an obvious one. It’s an extremely useful feeling. It taps us on the shoulder and says: “It would be really dumb to go there.”

Trouble is, the trigger may not relate to the issue before you. In business, it often means that you feel uncomfortable. You need to check why.

One way is to express it. You are not going to look weak. Just say: “I am feeling uncomfortable about this. I don’t know why but I need to think about it.”

A way to think about it is to review some of your disasters. I have done post-mortems on most of my worst decisions. There are a few common elements. One is unexamined optimism.

I’ve done the same with successes.

When I look back to our truckie’s newspaper, the idea sprang into action thanks to the chemistry between us and our collective skill set: we had an excellent photographer, a good writer and a great editor.

That was important because it took a lot of hard work to make it happen. That didn’t matter because doing those things made us feel good. Intuitively, our brains were telling us we could do this. And also, by then I’d learned that I shouldn’t drink port.

Reader Comments (1)

Love the story about the Rigs and Roads publication, how you came up with this idea and how it became a success. Thanks for your article!

October 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Dayes

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