How many decisions do you make on instinct alone?

by IdeaTransfer on May 22, 2011

Entrepreneurs can’t pick heads or tails more often than the average person.  Good luck isn’t a prerequisite to founding a business.

But good instinct always figures into the characteristics of entrepreneurs.  However, instinct isn’t always right.  What makes it so valuable?  How does it work?

Certainly the business founders we have had the pleasure to work with—and those number in the hundreds—overwhelmingly trust and depend upon instinct.  Even when they are presented with data that contradicts their gut feeling, their instinct tends to win out.  And when instinct proves right, it is really satisfying to give a sidekick to the erroneous data.

We should make a distinction between instinct and intuition.  Many entrepreneurs seem to be intuitive as well, but that is a separate gift.  Intuitions are a little more mysterious, because they seem to enter the mind from an outside source.  It feels more as if there could be some cosmic computer with all the information in the universe, and just for an instant we catch a look at the screen.

Instinct, on the other hand, feels like it is inside—the gut feeling.  It is not some outside resource, but a deeper internal sense, telling us to act.  Instinct makes yes feel right when no feels wrong, assuring us A is the path we want while B is a long drop.

But is this a special configuration of DNA?  An extra crease in the brain?  Or is it something everyone has access to but some learn to access it more efficiently?

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book Blink, instinct may simply be the ability to make decisions quickly on the basis of limited but very convincing data.  Gladwell associates instinct with the psychological concept of rapid cognition, and expresses the process of instinctive decision-making as thin-slicing information.

If we get enough information in thin slices, we can make correct decisions, but most of us wait for thicker slices just to be sure.  Entrepreneurs tend to trust the thin slices—instinctively.

Of course, not every instinctive decision proves to be right.  How do you know what to trust and what not to trust?

Most entrepreneurs don’t go there.  They don’t have to, because of a complementary trait associated with entrepreneurial minds.

What’s another characteristic they always get credit for?  They learn from their mistakes.  They have the discipline to do the research, find what went wrong, and they correct it rationally.  That’s a very impressive combination.

How do you use instinct in your business?  Let’s learn more about these success qualities from each other and work them through together.

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