Intuition Archive

Customers Are #2

By Mike Lehr
The influence of this statement extends deeply into an organization.

The influence of this statement extends deeply into an organization.

Eighty percent of companies seem to emphasize the classic, “Customers are #1,” mantra. Far fewer emphasize an employee-centric one, “Employees are #1.” With the latter, the rationale is usually “Treating employees well encourages them to treat customers well.” It’s much deeper than that though.

Centier Bank in Indiana is an example. In Indiana Bankers Association’s publication, Hoosier Banker (Hoosier is Indiana’s demonym), Mike Schrage, the bank’s chairman, chief executive officer and president, explains the rationale:

We also put our associates first, before our customers and our shareholders. The reason is that if we are treating our employees really well, they are going to treat our customers really well (see “Mike Schrage: Leading Centier Into the Next Generation” pg. 9 [pdf])

Intriguingly, reinforcing this as Centier is “Indiana’s largest, private, family-owned bank,” employees sign a “Declaration of Independence,” acknowledging to do what they can to preserve that independence. Additionally, Centier offers an in-house clinic, with free health screenings, treatments and generic prescriptions, and conducts annual fund-raisers for employees experiencing difficulties.

Below this pragmatism though, “Employees are #1” triggers emotions of long-term security and emotional recognition. Employees know Centier won’t sacrifice their jobs, integrity and efforts for customers. Under “Customers are #1,” all are potential fodder for that cause, expendable. They also know Centier values their unique skills, talents and “servant-oriented” personalities for which they actively recruit.

A colleague once countered, “Mike, employees don’t think that.” He’s wrong. They do on an intuitive and subconscious level. The first generates undefinable uneasy emotions, the second unattributable or misattributed ones. Feeling anxious about their jobs or about protecting themselves from blame are typical symptoms.

What we say and how influence motivation and thus outcomes. If the emotional aspects of messages are important in marketing, why aren’t they too with our internal markets?


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This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Leveraging Group Interactions

Leveraging group interactions to mold relationships and culture.

Two Types of Group Interactions: Presenting & Question and Answer

All group interactions (GI) are a blend of two types. The difference between the two is the amount of interaction between the audience and the leader or facilitator of the GI. Thus, they influence differently. Understanding this becomes important as we leverage GI’s to mold relationships and cultures.

At one extreme, little audience participation occurs. The leader alone presents. TED talks are popular examples. At the opposing extreme, the audience participates usually in the form of question and answers (Q&A), thus directing GI flow. Press conferences are public examples (although the leader often has ways to moderate questions). Thus, by mixing the two, any GI becomes a ratio between leader’s presenting time (P) and audience’s Q&A or formulaically P/QA.

Contrasting the two, presenting delivers much information in a short time period but doesn’t permit clarification and exploration. Q&A does but since this takes time, it covers less information. So, looking at any GI as the ratio P/QA, a GI oriented around presenting could be 90/10, 90% presenting and 10% Q&A. One oriented around Q&A could easily be 30/70 meaning the leader opens with comments for 30% of the time and then attendees engage with questions and comments for the remaining 70%.

From the perspective of molding relationships and cultures, Q&A is more influential and persuasive than presenting; the spontaneity of Q&A is psychologically and emotionally more impactive. The leader is on the spot, potentially challenged. It’s the same reason management by walking around and “teachable moments” are so powerful. This doesn’t mean presenting can’t be influential, but it does mean we will need to leverage certain techniques more.

The key is remembering that all GI’s usually blend the two. That blend will depend upon the balance we want between our pragmatic goals and our relational and cultural ones.


Related post: Group Interactions, Molding Relationships and Culture


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How Intuition & Anchoring Impacts Thoughts

How events influence our intuition and us without our knowledge.

We’re influenced subliminally every day. Our intuition sorts through these influences. Here are eighteen assumptions regarding these influences and intuition’s role:

  1. Emotions are more powerful than thoughts and consequently more influential.
  2. People are more influenced, motivated and inspired by what they like rather than what they understand.
  3. Intuition is a collection of feelings or emotions about something.
  4. Intuition for something is more comprehensive than knowledge of the same thing.
  5. People will feel things before they are conscious of those feelings.
  6. People will consciously feel something before they can form those feelings into thoughts.
  7. Personal observations are more influential than second and third party comments.
  8. Many times people are not aware of the things influencing them.
  9. Even though people are aware of something, it can influence them without their knowledge.
  10. People aware of an influence may incorrectly attribute it to something else, if at all.
  11. People’s likes influence them despite the absence of reasons for the liking or influence.
  12. Imaginary things can influence people.
  13. Placing things in groups alters the influence that each thing delivered individually.
  14. Groups of things influence people despite the absence of a rational connection among the things.
  15. Rearranging a group of things will cause the same group to exert a different influence.
  16. People are born with varying emotional capabilities and thus varying intuitive capabilities too.
  17. People can develop their intuition as they can develop their minds and muscles.
  18. Intuition, as with minds and muscles, atrophy with disuse.

These assumptions raise awareness as to when subliminal influences might be working on us. They also give suggestions as to how we might influence others. Our intuition raises the purposes of these influences to a conscious level. The greater our awareness and our intuition, the more likely we will be to use helpful influences and to ward off harmful ones. Otherwise, we will continue to remain victims of them. Others will influence us in ways we do not desire, or we will sabotage our work by influencing people incorrectly for our purposes.


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This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Psychopaths in Workplace

Psychopath & Sociopath The DifferencesObviously, not working with psychopaths is the best option. That, however, isn’t always practical. Additionally, it’s neither practical nor optimal to distrust everyone. So, when working with psychopaths, it’s important to:

This series raises awareness. We like to believe all are motivated to pursue the best interests of the enterprise; they aren’t. Moreover, just as various animals thrive in certain conditions, psychopaths do too. Knowing these warn us and help us identify them. Interacting safely with them generally means agreeing with them, avoiding negativity and endorsing their efforts. Psychopaths often interpret neutral positions as negative.

If possible, retarding their efforts comes in implementation. Psychopaths operate very consciously, thoughtfully and methodically. They are instinctive, not intuitive, meaning they function very basically and mechanically in complex, more integrated environments. Keeping things simple is their defense.

For instance, musicians who play naturally, almost without thought, will tend to perform better than those who must think consciously about every note. Imagine trying to think about every aspect of swinging a golf club or performing a gymnastic routine while doing it. Psychopaths suffer these challenges. They have difficulty multi-tasking across unique, diverse functions or personalities. To compensate, they emphasize standardization, planning, rules and homogeneous teams and cultures.

Thus, retarding their progress means encouraging them to accept assignments with extremely integrated aspects. It means having them run meetings of three to eight diverse people, too many relational challenges. More allows them to treat everyone as a group and fewer to interact individually. Finally, treat others well as your efforts will shine in contrast to the psychopath.

Therefore, knowing all this, what does your career require?

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This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

BreadAs a follow up to my previous examples, the complexities in throwing a party make it an excellent example to highlight the differences between emotions and intuition.

So, one day, you wake up and say, “Throwing a party would be fun.” This is your intuition speaking. Now, using the meal analogy, if intuition is the party, many emotions around it will move us in different directions, including those saying it’s a bad idea because of the effort. For instance, each person you invite triggers a different emotion. Emotions will be driving you to invite those you enjoy, those to whom you are obligated, those you dislike but like their partner.

That’s just the people! Now, consider the location, food, time, activities and so on. All come with emotions driving you in different directions. As with people, you might have to supply food you don’t like. In cases with many conflicting emotions, you might just guess, another example of intuition giving you direction.

Let’s talk about where feelings fit in; it will help position emotions and intuition in this example. Well, for each person, you have different feelings about their behavior, personality, appearance, mannerisms, relationships, friends, family, etc. All combine producing the emotion that encourages you to invite them, or not invite them. Thus, the party decision is the direction intuition provides for all the different emotions, conscious and unconscious, that are vying to move us.

Now, to tie it together, since intuition often works subconsciously, all that I described above is occurring before it reaches consciousness. Our intuition is sorting through all the emotions we have about people, food, activities and so on, and concluding a party would be “fun.”

Well, regardless of how you believe the decision came to be, please enjoy your next party. That’s what matters.




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This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

BreadEmotions serve important evaluative functions. Sorting through them can be difficult. Intuition helps by prioritizing, filtering and directing us. People trigger various emotions in us by what they say and do. Intuition forces certain words and actions to standout, often by us easily recalling them later. Intuition won’t indicate why they are important, only that they are.

For example, I was enjoying an hour tour by an executive through a company. I noticed an employee suggestion box in a stairwell, and asked, “What kind of suggestions have you gotten in your suggestion box?”

The executive chuckled, “I don’t think anyone has checked that in a couple years. I doubt anyone knows where the key is.” My intuition forced this to standout from all the other things I heard even though I was enjoying the tour. After working with the company for a bit, I discovered that it had not invented a significant new product in ten years. Recalling the box caused me to determine that the company was suppressing creativity among its people.

Another time, an executive who was reviewing my possible role in her department asked, “What box do you want to be in?” Despite a host of emotions about her plans, my intuition forced this to stand out. Later, it became clear her people were assets, mere things to her.

Unlike emotional intelligence, intuition helps in non-social contexts such as research and information technology by drawing us to options especially when uncertain. When our intuition speaks to us, “a bell goes off,” “a light goes on,” “the crows fly,” “the starting gun fires,” “something hits us,” and many other similar clichés capture that prioritizing emotion.

So, what specific words or actions do you remember from an interaction with someone last week? They are likely very significant.


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This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

BreadEmotions drive our energies in a particular direction. Intuition interprets that direction similar to the way thinking interprets facts. Unlike emotions, intuition doesn’t serve an evaluative function but rather a problem-solving one.

Since intuition operates at the vanguard of the decision-making process, it’s creative by nature. It initializes the crystallization of who, what, when, where and how of our problem. Gradually, cognition takes over fine tuning specifics; intuition is the compass, cognition the map. As with creativity, intuition speaks best when we’re relaxed and alone, when cognitive functions are less structured. This also safeguards against impulsively reacting to our instincts.

We can more clearly see the operational differences between emotions and intuition by examining negative emotions. While we tend to ignore these, we cannot ignore negative emotions anymore than we can negative information. They can serve as warnings of who to avoid, what not to use, where not to go, when not to show up and how not to do something.

More than likely though, our intuition will tell us that one or more of these are not possible so we need other options. It will start surfacing other emotions indicating who to see, what to use, where to go, when to arrive and how to do something. In many ways, intuition writes the outline of a story to solve a specific problem. It’s why reading stories can improve our problem-solving skills.

In short, intuition makes constructive use of our negative emotions in very much the same way planning does with negative information, an important operational distinction. While emotions might be able to tell us what’s good and bad, intuition is about solving the challenges these create. To conclude, operationally, intuition serves a problem-solving function while emotions serve as inputs to that function. They are the aspects of an inspiration.



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This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

BreadIntuition helps us acquire knowledge and make decisions via our emotions. Just as facts drive cognitive conclusions, emotions drive intuitive ones. As we saw with the food analogy where feelings are ingredients and emotions the foods, intuition develops interpretations of the meal based on the foods. Is it breakfast, lunch or dinner, a formal or informal occasion? Is the meal ethnic, fast food, vegetarian, or gourmet?

A good way to understand the difference between emotions and intuition is understand conceptually how they work together. Once done, Part 2 will dive into specific, operational differences and Part 3 into examples of differences.

Since emotions urge us to action, those urges give us insights. These insights are vaguer than we are accustomed with cognitive aspects of decision making such as reason and logic. Intuition and cognition form two complementary parts of decision-making. If intuition is the compass, cognition is the map. If intuition is the radar, cognition is a sighting.

Generally, a single emotion will dominate and drive the insight just as the main course can drive the interpretation of the meal. It’s human nature though to overemphasize a single aspect of a problem to formulate a conclusion. This happens much when relying upon instinct rather than intuition. Regardless, we need to fight this tendency.

That’s important because each emotion refines our direction. For example, using the compass analogy, the dominant emotion might narrow our 360-degree view to a 45-degree field. The other emotions refine it further. Without them, we might mistakenly head for the field’s center. Leaving out emotions is akin to leaving out important facts in a cognitive decision.

Admittedly, this is conceptual. Part 2 will take a deeper dive into specifics. Still, for some, this is already enough to help them visualize what they’ve been intuiting from their emotions.


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This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

BreadIn a previous post, I outlined the differences among feelings, emotions and intuition. Using a food analogy, feelings are ingredients, emotions are foods and intuition is the message the meal gives us. This post dives deeper into the difference between feelings and emotions.

As the food analogy implies, many feelings can comprise an emotion. Beyond this, the primary difference between the two is the “call to action” emotions prompt in us. After all, the word emotion breaks into e-motion, meaning, “to bring out motion.”

In this sense, feelings are nouns and emotions are verbs, feelings are a state of being and emotions a state of motion. For instance, the emotion driving us to help someone can contain many feelings such as empathy, happiness, guilt, sadness and pity. In fact, all these feelings might play in some form or another:

  • Empathy can encourage us to change the feeling of others so we can share it.
  • Happiness can encourage us to spread it directly or indirectly.
  • Guilt can encourage us to “return a favor.”
  • Sadness can encourage us to correct the problem.
  • Pity can encourage us to help those who can’t help themselves.

While each of these feelings can stand alone as an emotion, in virtually all cases emotions are an integration of many feelings. We just won’t realize it. Moreover, when others ask, “Why did you do that?” we will tend to find a rationale that fits but won’t necessarily represent our feelings. Some feelings will be very conscious but others won’t be.

Again, the food analogy has been helpful to people. Beyond that if we remember emotions comprise feelings and represent a state of motion, we’ll be able to distinguish them from feelings in a way that will help us understand and appreciate ourselves better.


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Combined 01Look at the figure to the right. The top is a multicolored square, the bottom a gray one. Yet, only one single attribute distinguishes the two: the top is a 10,000-x magnification of the bottom. The “gray” square is too large for me to load on the blog; however, if you copy and magnify it, you can begin to make out the multicolored squares although condensing added grayness.

Why is this interesting? Well, it shows how our minds work to help us . . . and delude us. Our physical attributes can teach us about our non-physical ones. For instance, if everyone is physically unique, then we can reasonable conclude everyone has unique personalities too.

These diagrams taught me two things. First, even though the individual squares are too small for my eyes, my eyes must put something in that space. Similar to the blind spot our eyes fill, my eyes automatically do this. Second, my eyes blur individual distinctions to fill the void with gray, thus simplifying things for me.

Our minds do the same with mental complexities such as people. For instance, upon entering a room filled with three hundred people, we work to fill our knowledge void by asking something like, “What group is this?” or “Who are these people?” Thus, mentally we process individual complexities (multicolored squares) into a simplified group (one gray square).

Grouping speeds our assimilation of knowledge at the expense of depth. Grouping comforts us with the illusion that we know something. It quickly fills our knowledge void similar to the way fast food fills our hungry stomachs with empty calories. Therefore, in business, grouping creates targets of opportunities if we are motivated to dive into the details, especially with talent. Grouping is natural, but no two people are the same.


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Brain Mapping

Brain Mapping

Space, the final frontier” introduced Star Trek’s original series, but assessments of our human knowledge indicate that the space between our ears is more of a frontier than the space above our heads is. That is a major reason the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has proposed that the Next Big Thing be “to solve biology’s most mysterious problem: how the brain works.” (“Only Connect” [The Economist, February 23, 2013 edition]).

The project’s scale will be on par with the public and private investment made in the Human Genome Project, thus focusing funding and federal attention. Regardless of the project’s outcome, the main point is that knowledge of our brain is sparse. In fact, analogizing it to a road map:

It is like trying to navigate America with an atlas that shows the states, the big cities and the main highways, and has a few street maps of local neighbourhoods, but displays nothing in between. (“Hard Cell” [The Economist, March 9, 2013 edition]).

The secondary point is that scientists are becoming increasingly confident that technological advancements make this doable. Combine our low knowledge base with these advancements, and a strong case exists for the greatest advancement in this decade being in understanding ourselves. This will advance management theory well beyond its classical 1950’s roots of management by objectives much as it has spawned Behavioral Economics from Traditional Economics.

Thus, rather than view individuals as rational actors with free will (more), we will move toward viewing ourselves as heavily influenced by emotions, conditions and many other biological, genetic and chemical functions. Employers making this jump early will have a distinct advantage. So, if you’re looking for a new frontier to tackle, try examining the one between your ears. No one else really knows what’s there.


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This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Intelligence vs Wisdom

As I had posted earlier, one cannot be wise without sensitivity to the human condition. This means wisdom has innate, emotional, intangible and synergistic attributes, making it more dependent on the person than intelligence is and thus more magical. We can see this if we dive into the various aspects of wisdom as seen in Figure 1 and order them hierarchically along these attributes.

Wisdom's Magical Hierarchy

Figure 1: Wisdom’s Magical Hierarchy

Information occupies the bottom. Even computers collect it. Above is knowledge, combining the information into themes, theories, categories and disciplines. Reason comes next, linking bodies of knowledge in ways that make them applicable. At some point, we apply these three to create experiences. However, what two people learn from the same experience will differ, thus giving experience innateness.

Part of what makes the same experience different is situational awareness. People are born with differing levels of awareness, allowing some to extract more from each drop of experience than others do. Above this is intuition. It provides direction so we can sift through all the other aspects more efficiently and effectively. Finally, creativity applies all of these (information, knowledge, reason, experience, awareness and intuition) to solve everyday problems. Since every event is unique, we will need creativity to apply what we’ve learned to our situation.

As we move up the hierarchy, we progress from those aspects of wisdom that are more learned to more innate, more logical to emotional, more tangible to intangible, and more additive to synergistic. For instance, two married individuals produce much more than just the sum of their personalities. This also applies in business to create a more innovative and creative environment.

It’s the innate, emotional, intangible and synergistic attributes of these seven aspects of wisdom that give it a magical, wizardry sense. It’s why we can quantify intelligence but not wisdom.


Related post: Intelligence vs. Wisdom: Primary Difference


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OZA No 292 (Emotion & Intuition as Foundation for All Decisions)One of the more contrarian perspectives that has helped me appreciate people’s decisions is that emotions and its interpretive big sister, intuition, form their foundation. Even a logical decision comes about because of a person’s emotional preference for logic.

While this does not mean logic, reason and rationales are not involved; it does mean they take a secondary, dependent role similar to the way the frame of a house is dependent upon the foundation. In our decision-making, it means we select the rationale (frame) to fit our emotional preferences (foundation), which we more commonly experience as rationalizing.

Increasingly though, as technology and research methodologies advance, science supports this. For instance, the article, “Captain Kirk’s Revenge” (The Economist, December 23, 2006 edition), discusses a person who lost his emotional functions in his brain could not make decisions even though the rational portions were in tack. However, those who lost their rational functions could still do so if their emotional ones remained.

This is understandable when we consider people need motivation to make decisions and motivation is emotional. Rationales alone won’t motivate unless they stimulate our emotions. That is why the root word of emotions is “motion.” It’s active, whereas logic, reason and rationale are inert.

We further see the progress in this perspective with the research of Roderick Gilkey, Ricardo Caceda, and Clinton Kilts. In their article, “When Emotional Reasoning Trumps IQ” (Harvard Business Review, September 2010 edition), they found that the best strategic thinkers showed “significantly less neural activity in the prefrontal cortex [rational functional area of brain] than in the areas associated with ‘gut’ responses, empathy, and emotional intelligence.”

Since we are often experiencing these emotions on an unconscious level, we could feel completely rational. Consequently, all our decisions are emotional ones. We just might not believe it.


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This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Placebo Management

Placebo ManagementHow we feel about ourselves affects us. It influences our health and decisions. Now, as reported in the article, “Think Yourself Well” (The Economist, December 8, 2012 edition), Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok of the University of North Carolina may have found physiological connection between good emotions and good health.

This tangible connection reinforces the importance of managing to impact employees’ emotions. If positive emotions directly correlate to good health, imagine their power on employee performance. Tangibly, this means fewer illnesses. Intangibly, there is still value if our approach influences how employees feel . . . especially about themselves.

Consequently, what we say is important as well as how we say it when influencing employees’ emotions. Compliments and intrinsic rewards are important here; criticism, discipline, incentives and corrective actions do extremely little to influence positive feelings. We not only need to have the right expectations from such techniques but the right understanding of their uses.

Additionally, helping employees develop strong relationships with others or simply reminding them of the good relationships they do have can influence positives feelings. Talking about the good relationships we have makes us happier.

Asking employees to help us also encourages positive emotions related to helpfulness and altruism. Most people feel better about themselves when they help others. Their help helps them see their value.

Simply managing using negative reinforcements will tend to yield an underperforming, sicker workforce over the long term. So, the question is this: what are we doing now to affect the emotional well-being of our workforce?


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This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series Creative Innovation

Creative Bulb“Once he gets an idea in his head, there’s no changing it!” As common as this comment is, it’s true for us all to some degree. It’s formally called anchoring. Such ideas can alter our thinking and feeling processes and undermine our creative efforts. In fact, anchoring is so strong that it can influence our decisions even if we know the information is wrong.

Words alone are often anchors (money vs. time; thinking vs. feeling) and set moods. When they form ideas, they are even more powerful. Now, according to Paul Leonardi’s article, “Early Prototypes Can Hurt a Team’s Creativity” (Harvard Business Review, December 2011 edition), prototypes can serve as anchors too:

. . . when people see a detailed prototype, something odd happens: They concentrate on the prototype’s form and function, forgetting to attend to any remaining ambiguities about the problem the product is meant to solve or the obstacles in the way. Instead of clarifying the path ahead, the prototype puts a halt to useful brainstorming.

Now, often we delude ourselves by exploring other options, but we sabotage them by emphasizing evidence and arguments that support the initial idea and discounting those that don’t. In short, we formulate a rationale making the initial idea best.

We can observe the effects of anchoring in our everyday conversations. The person who first expresses himself often sets the direction of the conversation because conversations often build from the most recent comments. Focus groups have to guard against alphas, people who dominate conversations, or their findings become skewed.

The physicality of prototypes (also diagrams, blueprints, plans, etc.) can do more damage to the creative process than discussed ideas. So, the next time you see or think something, ask, “Is this preventing us from seeing other options or revisiting the problem?”


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