Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone though making decisions like one gives you the advantage especially when you’re faced with uncertain outcomes or conflicting information. To confuse matters more, the stalwart reference for traditional business thinkers is the Harvard Business Review, which, unfortunately, stands by rational decision making because you can’t control those pesky biases and your unreliable intuition. The simple reality is that when stakes are high, conditions are dynamic, and when an instant decision is required, repeatedly successful entrepreneurs rely on and trust their intuition.
First. What are we talking about?
Intuition: ”a process by which information outside the range of conscious awareness is immediately sensed and perceived by the body and mind as certainty of knowledge or feeling.”
[THE PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY OF ENTREPRENEURIAL INTUITION: A QUANTUM-HOLOGRAPHIC THEORY by Raymond Trevor Bradley]
Second. Why is intuition the go-to for entrepreneurs after the facts and figures have had their say?
- Facts present a compelling rationale. The real story lies in what you’re not being told. Your intuition picks up on social and emotional data in your workplace (or the context you’re in) and plugs it directly into your decision-making without asking your brain for permission.
In talking to a successful U.S. entrepreneur I asked how he knew when he was listening to his intuition and not his intellect. He hesitated then responded, “I feel a sense of calm. It’s hard to describe.” And then he told me he had just attended a pitch fest seeking investors to bite on their potential profit hook. While the facts seemed accurate and were well presented, something didn’t feel right. He declined.
Why do entrepreneurs rely upon the soft sense of intuition?
My entrepreneur informant revealed that he did not pick up on emotions at all. (That might sound familiar.) According to him, his wife handled the emotional domain. Though apparently not aware of the emotional data he absorbed, each of us picks up on the level of trust, fear and the emotional-social mood infused in the situation or working relationship. Entrepreneurs rely on the soft sense of intuition because it factors in critical information facts ignore. Information like – Is the timing right? What is not being said? It’s information that can’t be displayed by a graph, chart, or spreadsheet – intangible factors that directly influence success or failure of the decision, project, or business. [You will find details of how that operates via your built-in super computer in Chapter 7 of Decision Making for Dummies.]
Rational decision-making works best when teamed up with intuitive insight.
- Research shows that your heart detects upcoming events before your brain registers it. Hard-core rational decision makers find this hard to believe but research done in the early 90’s with the U.S. military by Gary Klein confirms the value of intuitive decision making in executive level decisions.
You might associate your heart with being emotional or irrationally out of control but if you are not in a state of calm, your intuition cannot function at optimal speed. Neither can rational thinking processes. The fundamentals of human biology do not discriminate between gender – it is the same for all of us.
What part of human anatomy is being ignored?
The vagus nerve, along with the spinal cord, carries sensory data between the heart and brain. Ninety percent of the fibres in the vagus nerve are dedicated to heart to brain delivery and the remaining ten percent send instructions from the brain to the body. When you are upset, the signals processed by the neural network in your heart are distorted, negatively impacting your cognitive processing ability that rational decision making relies on.
Translation? Regulating your emotions is a decision-making competency.
- Mistakes build intuitive decision-making muscle. Not life or death errors but mistakes that happen when you place yourself outside your comfort zone and habitual routine. When you are in a new situation, it is like learning how to drive for the first time. You pay attention. And you won’t be perfect.
I’m not saying: “Go forth and screw up!” I am saying that if you do screw up, stand back and reflect, learn and observe. What you pay attention to will strengthen your decision-making database – the inventory of what worked or didn’t given specific conditions. You will draw on that inventory in rapid fire circumstances and prepare your decision making for executive level pressures.
Why don’t I trust my intuition?
I get asked this a lot. The joke is that over 90% of your decisions are made in milli-seconds without you knowing. The decisions you actually pay attention to fall into the 10% of decisions you know you are making. Trusting your intuition comes with learning how your intuition ‘speaks’ to you which requires increasing your self-awareness and self-knowledge – a commitment to personal and professional growth. Identifying the assumptions or beliefs underpinning failures is part of the strengthening your know-how.
The business environment isn’t slow. In fact, it is speeding up leaving you, the decision maker, with the option of adopting the mindset of an entrepreneur and with that, an intuitive decision-making skillset, or of finding very slow and repetitive workplace decision-making environments untouched by change.
Author, Dawna Jones spots insights – for innovation or risk– before you take action so business leaders and decision makers can adapt to unpredictable and fast changing conditions.A collaborator, she co-designs and customizes business culture upgrades for leaders and decision makers tackling “growth spurts”, business boom and indecision.The author of Decision Making for Dummies a 21st Century Guide to Decision Making, Dawna can be reached through LinkedIN.
©Dawna Jones, 2015 From Insight to Action Publications