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The Role of Intuition in Human Performance

Just what, exactly, is the new "hereafter"? Does anyone really know what the "next" level of economic stability will look like? Or what factors in human performance are likely to yield the most advantage for talent deployment and organizational performance?

What will our concept of "performance" look like in this milieu?

Accelerating erosion of classic job functions by technology will continue. At the same time so will converging industry displacement for many reasons, like global trade, migration, aging industry cycles, demographic change and changing consumer expectations. Amid these, there is one area in human performance that has been completely overlooked - the role of intuition.

Among other so-called "right-brained" thinking traits in a world where our understanding of mind and cognition is yielding new and more advanced models of mind and consciousness, it is intuition, real intuition and creativity that distinguishes us from machines. While marketing communications distinguish intuitive technologies as those which are designed to function more seamlessly or in more integrated ways this is a far cry from what real intuitive sense is in terms of our human experience. Even artificial intelligence and neural networks, while becoming capable of predictive conditions and learning from the machine experience of programmed variables, falls far short of what only man is capable of - changing and reprogramming his own variables with creative understanding and self-motivation.

Machine experience through frequency and repeated occurrences can be contrived to relate with human experience, a vast gulf of unmitigated difference is here to stay. Let us be clear, we try to explain machines in terms of what we know, that is all. It is merely a shadow-box of approximating terms for the benefit of the machine and doesn't define a real link for the multiple dimensions and intelligence that lie within complex theatre of the human mind. Simple as it may seem most of these inferences seem to grow from popular journalism and Hollywood story-telling which, lacking the constraints and peer review processes of good science, likes to stretch things scientific and technical like a pantyhose of loose cannon connections. But, though the linkages may be poor in terms of science, the imaginal gains they produce, in themselves, are actually good for us.

Intuition as such is not flawed. Our flaw is that in our predominantly left-brained institutions and business ethos we appreciate little of it and understand even less. It is the one factor that could unravel everything we've built. Today, being intuitive is not a luxury, it is a necessity. How else can we possibly discern whether we are on track, finding opportunities, leveraging value or discovering potential threats? Logic, reason, paper trails and oppressive hierarchy are simply too slow. We have to begin creating ways to engage intuition as a personal trait and deploy it as a performance talent.

How to do this? The first thing high performing companies need to do is to make a determined commitment to become more intuitive and to define both their expectations and desired results. Then they must create a supportive atmosphere that will enable it to thrive in the form of acceptability, taking it seriously, listening better and getting the stumbling blocks like poor management or dysfunctional politics out of the way. Those who don't have too little to gain, too much to lose.

What can intuitive performance look like? What would my organization as a more intuitive organization look like? These are good topics for all levels of management and staff to explore without predetermined expectations. The answers may surprise you. You may also be surprised at how little it costs and the outcomes that can result.

For example, an intuitive service clerk who perceives correctly, that a service problem is not really a service problem but a marketing error and educates the client to overcome it and relays the cause that could be creating hundreds of hours of service department consumption to the sales department who in turn provides better sales communication tools and back up information. Or the intuitive technology manager who, feeling apprehensive about a strategy, instead of rushing to implement expends more effort digging into why he or she is getting these warning signals, and discovers a systematic deficiency that ultimately would have prevented the strategy from realizing it's value.

These and others are instances where following the left-brained "status-quo" actually does more damage than good. A repeated characteristic in many is that someone had a "hunch" or a sense about something and then followed it through or investigated. Or someone got "red flags" or warning signals and asked "why" or looked into things differently. Sometimes it is about our currently popular interest in why we make "snap judgements" and the rapid cognition of someone who, via years of experience, has developed the capacity to make quick decisions by identifying the critical few elements of the "thin-slice", language we have recently developed courtesy of Malcolm Gladwells best-selling book "Blink - the power of thinking without thinking" and others of that nature.

Intuition, while related and perhaps sometimes an overlapping factor, goes far deeper than this. It is responsible for insight, for quick action in the face of danger, for clear direction amid uncertainty, and for communication, innovation, perception of others - all of these terribly important in human performance. It's time to really bring intuition into the fold and give it a place and sense of importance. Then let's see what we can accomplish. We may surprise ourselves.

Arupa Tesolin, owner of the training firm Intuita, is a consultant, speaker, seminar leader and author of The Intuita 3-Minute Solutions for Innovation, Intuition, Vision & Stress. Her numerous international publications on intuition in business have established her as a thought leader in this field. She is currently working on a new book entitled "Becoming An Intuitive Organization". Contact her at www.intuita.com, intuita@intuita.com or 905.271.7272.

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