Intuition Is Important to Innovation. So You Ask Yourself Are You 'Intuition' Gifted? If Not, Here's a Few Practices to Help You Improve It

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by: Idris Mootee

We all understand why intuition is important for innovation, and it is least understood. I was trained to apply intuition but follow up by fact-based analysis to back up the hypothesis. Intuition is generally defined by 1/ immediate apprehension by the mind without reasoning. 2/ immediate apprehension by a sense. 3/ immediate insight that points to the direction of a solution.

Intuition is actually a basic psychological function, much like thinking, sensing and feeling. It is not associated with psychic abilities. It is probably not correct to say that intuition is a single narrow function of the human psyche. It is more of a full integration of several faculties. And when you’re using all your senses (known and unknown) all together functioning at an optimal level, that’s when your intuition is at work in its most powerful state.

Philosophically speaking, intuition exerts a paranormal or magical influence on everything new. In Educating Intuition Robin Hogarth describes various ways that intuition might be improved or educated. The two most notable impediments to the education of intuition are:

1/ the presence of confusing or “wicked” environments where feedback is unreliable and there is no factual information to support decision-making;
2/ the limited scope or “domain specific” nature of intuition and intuition can therefore inhibit innovation because such obstacles exist. Intuition is an idea we often take for granted without considering what we mean by it.

Innovation requires intuition not to help create more ideas, but to make sense of them. It is most needed when evaluating ideas and in particularly transformative ones. Big ideas often seem stupid at a first glance, the tiny little voice from your intuition is the one who is telling you “wait a minute, there’s something here..”

Is there something called “strategic intuition” and “tactical intuition”. I don’t think so. All breakthrough ideas happen in all realms of human endeavor. Can you lean to improve your intuition or are you simply bored with or without it? I don’t have the answers. I think only to some degree. Intuition is closely linked to the ability to sense-making. The act of sense-making is to discover new terrain as you are inventing it. In the very process of mapping out the new terrain, you are actually creating it. Here are three tips for sense-making:

  1. Seek many types and sources of data (including raw data)
  2. Do not just apply your current frameworks, try to overlay them on the problem space
  3. Try to use different or as many metaphors, pictures or stories to try to capture an communicate critical elements of your map.

Applied intuition, there are three things you can do to make it work better for you (Puzzles designed by George W. Hart):

  1. The search process – you need to abandon your preconceived notions of what solution might be. Open-mindedness is an invitation for intuition to kick-in.
  2. The flash of insight – it is about making the most of stimuli, whether they are music, visual, a personal story, a physical environment or smell etc. Shower works best for most people.
  3. Seeing the forests – looking at a problem narrowly doesn’t help with intuition, sometimes distancing yourself allows you to see the whole forest and allow your intuition to kick in.

It is not difficult to see the connections between optimum intuitive and innovative conditions. Are the skills associated with intuition also likely to prompt innovation? Are you “intuitively” gifted? I think most people have a sense if their intuition has been working for them or not. What are the best practices? Hogarth identifies the following skills or practices demonstrated by the intuitively gifted. If you do all of those things, the chances are you’re probably “intuition” gifted:

  1. The capacity for visualization
  2. The ability to acknowledge emotions and learn from them
  3. The willingness to speculate and consider alternatives
  4. The habit of testing perceptions, emotions and speculations

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