October 8, 2008

Your Intuition Can Hurt You

It’s often said that things happen for a reason. It’s often said that we adapt to the conclusion with which we’re face with at any given time. This is not a work thing or a social networking thing, it’s a life thing. We create what we want – even when it doesn’t feel like it.

I was speaking with a colleague recently about how he made a plan three years ago to become the top profit making company in his sector. He spent months devising plans, mapping out potential customer pockets, redesigning company org charts, developing intricate financial projections and then sat and waited for it all to fall into place.

Three years later, his company is in about the same place it was when his master plan began. So we talked about the plan and more importantly its execution. It all seemed pretty air tight. Everyone was committed, the dead wood was removed, the team bought in, but still no significant advancement.

Then we examined missed opportunities. The big ones are easy to see; that big contract you bid on that the other company gets, the client that leaves, stuff you can pick off from 30,000ft. We dug deeper into what I call intuitive missed opportunities.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about that feeling you get in your gut when you know you’re right, right out of the gate in his book Blink. It happens to all of us. We sense there’s an opportunity, we feel it’s a good one, and then we explain away all the reasons not to act.

This isn't about hindsight. This is about those times when you utter those three infamous words; "I knew it!"

The horrendous financial crisis in the U.S. – which is rippling around the world – has people scared. I had a client tell me today that they are tightening things because of the latest financial crunch. My idea was irrelevant, it had been dismissed simply because pennies had begun to be pinched. The ripple will long surpass the banking and mortgage industries.

I felt it the other day when I was discussing some development projects with a colleague at another company. We were excited about the ideas and hashing out the “how’s” rather than the “no’s”. We then hoped neither of us would back out at some point for fear they were suddenly bad ideas. We seem to build in failure at the design stage then work toward fulfilling that prescribed inevitability. It's lunacy.

Often we think of something that could be a good idea and then hope we aren’t proven wrong. Food for thought for the next time you get that nagging urge to act, then pause.


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