Examples of Intuition Archive

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 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 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 14 of 15 in the series Creative Innovation

Creative BulbCreativity and innovation requires alone time. In her article, “Hire Introverts,” The Atlantic (July/August 2012 edition) Susan Cain cites the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist:

When the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist studied the lives of the most-creative people across a variety of fields, they almost always found visionaries who were introverted enough to spend large chunks of time alone.

The problem is that we often feel that if someone is spending a lot of time alone there is a problem. Moreover, our highly technologically integrated society creates many interruptions that not only disrupt our alone time but also our creativity. Combine these with the prevalent, but incorrect belief, that brainstorming is the key to the creative process, and we often will experience a critical lack of alone time.

While numerous other benefits to being alone exist, some are afraid of it. All of this is to suggest that we are quite schizophrenic when it comes to seeing the value of alone time. This only makes using it for creative purposes emotionally difficult.

Therefore, in the workplace, we need to be respectful and understanding of people’s alone time:

  • Closed doors don’t imply rudeness, unfriendliness or uncaring.
  • People require time to get their work done, including contemplative work associated with innovation and creativity.
  • As managers, we need to give our people the time alone to do the work we’ve delegated.
  • We need to encourage – even schedule – alone time for people prior to moving to the brainstorming aspect of the creative process.
  • Working offsite, away from interruptions, becomes a valid alternative for people.

So, to enhance creativity and innovation in our businesses, our people need alone time. That includes us.


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Seeking Whales

Allison Bond’s article, “Haunting Scenes” (Scientific American Mind, November/December 2011 edition), discusses the research of Phillip Isola (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) as to what makes a memorable photograph. While Isola generalizes it as “’related to strangeness, funniness or interestingness,’” specifics exist:

  • People – unknown people work too
  • Movement – the implication of it such as people running, waves crashing, birds flying
  • Human-scale objects – chairs, cars, tools, toys

Photographs with these elements tend to be far more memorable rather than those with beautiful landscapes and environs. In short, we are not likely to remember pictures simply because they are beautiful. Moreover, these findings are consistent with evolutionary theory that:

. . . our brain is wired to notice movement, other people and objects we can interact with . . . because these things would have been the most important features of the landscape we evolved in.

Just as important is that these properties are “largely constant from one person to the next.” This means a memorable photograph isn’t as subjective as we once thought. The general parameters of memorableness are coded in us. Said another way, we do not consciously, completely control our preferences. They are to an extent predictable regardless of who we are.

Thus, in our decision making and problem solving we are living to a degree under the illusion of freely deciding. In reality, unconscious forces are influencing our thoughts, and what seem legitimate reasons for decisions are nothing more than rationalizations of wants. In short, rationalizations are masquerading as reasons.

Of course, we aren’t totally at the mercy of these influences as long as we make ourselves aware of them and believe they influence us. However, many times, while we acknowledge these forces, we often believe they influence everyone else but us.


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Someone once said to me that you can’t find your way if you don’t know where you are. I countered that that would mean a compass would be useless to you. That’s not true.

Unfortunately, when people talk about intuition in problem solving, then tend to think it should be as specific as cognition is. If it were, it wouldn’t be intuition. Intuition plays more of an introductory role in our thinking and behavioral processes. In this sense, our intuition acts as a compass. When we’re lost we have any number of directions to explore. A compass helps to narrow our selection. Intuition does the same in problem solving.

Many, many forces influence us without our conscious knowledge. On the knowledge map, we might feel these influences as awareness or knowing without having any proof or quantification to support them. These forces also influence our thought processes and encourage us to find rationales to support them.

Typically, we will experience these as feelings or sensations to:

  • Talk to a certain person or people
  • Analyze certain information
  • Visit a certain department, office or facility
  • Attend an certain event
  • Perform a certain analysis or experiment
  • Collect certain information

Now, I’m not referring to the normal, routine feelings that come about as a result of a planned problem-solving approach or one that conforms to a certain methodology. These feelings will encourage you to deviate from that process or plan. Since processes reduce flexibility, it’s important that we don’t become so focused that we ignore the opportunities posed by our intuition. Spontaneity and flexibility are important problem-solving attributes even if it simply means a “chance” encounter that aides us.

Next time you get that feeling to go off-process or off-plan, do it. Experiment!


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This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

A commenter (Roger) to my post on the difference between emotional intelligence and intuition wanted more elaboration, especially between emotions and feelings:

It’s also not clear what the difference between Emotion and Feelings are in your article and also in reality, these are often used interchangeably.

Using a food analogy, feelings are ingredients, emotions are foods and intuition is what the food tells us about the meal, event or us. Thus, feelings form emotions, and emotions move us (e-motion) to think, do or say something that gives us insights into things, events, people and ourselves.

For example, yeast, salt, water and flour make bread. These four ingredients are feelings and the bread an emotion. How the bread is made and used can tell us much about what’s going on. A large loaf might mean many people; a loaf with a soft crust might mean sandwiches.

Foods tell us much about the meal, the event and the people. Whether it’s junk food, comfort food or breakfast food, or a formal meal, an ethnic meal or a vegetarian one, we learn something. Intuition works the same; it helps us learn what our emotions are saying. For example, if I’m sad (feeling), I might want to buy something (emotion). What I buy says something (intuition) about my state or even myself.

Any event can produce many feelings in us, sometimes conflicting. For instance, a friend’s good fortune might produce feelings of happiness and envy. Together they produce an emotion that might move us to arrange a celebration for the friend (happiness) but it’s more subdued than we could have done (jealousy). Then, intuition helps us learn what our emotions are saying about our relationship with our friend.

Thus, to understand the differences among these words, think food!


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Managers devote tremendous energy in crafting the right message. However, it’s not just the message anymore as Alex “Sandy” Pentland writes in “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” which appeared in the April 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review.


Communication Map - Not Just the Message Anymore

Communication Map – Not Just the Message Anymore


This relates to his preference for face-to-face communications and to my post, “Changing the Message without Changing the Message.” As technology and research methodologies advance, we are discovering that the “heart” matters more than the “head.” Pentland’s research reinforces this. He found that how we communicate is more important to success than what we communicate. Pentland also frames it more strategically by saying:

. . .we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success. . . . they are as significant as all the other factors – individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions – combined.

He goes on to translate this into a team’s energy and engagement outside of formal settings. Extrapolating, we know teams have more energy and engagement in individual relationships when they are good rather than toxic. How team members feel about one another and their team leaders will encourage energetic engagements. This means integrating relationship building and morale building techniques in a strategic way.

Referencing this discussion back to the map of the two aspects of interpersonal interactions, the content of a message represents the thinking (head) aspect while the relationships represent the feeling (heart) aspect. Thus, the way we communicate and our patterns of communications (techniques) need to integrate these too aspects; and, of the two, Pentland is emphasizing techniques with a very solid heart component (i.e. face-to-face interactions).

Thus, focusing only on the traditional objective factors of our communications (head or red approach) will make the building of dynamic teams a daunting task.


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Relax, Be Creative

By Mike Lehr

Tori Rodriguez asserts in her article, “Sleepy Brains Think More Freely,” (May 2012 Issue of Scientific American Mind) that our most creative time is likely our least productive time. She bases this on the research of Mareike Wieth, an assistant professor at Albion College, who found:

. . . performance on tasks requiring creative insight was consistently better during [subjects’] non-optimal times of day.

As reported by Rodriguez, Wieth believes it’s because the:

Less focused cognitive state makes people more susceptible to think about other, seemingly unrelated information . . .This additional information floating around in your mind during your non-optimal time of day ultimately helps you reach that creative aha! moment.

In other words, the brain functions that allow us to perform more analytical problem solving retard creative problem solving. It’s because those brain functions filter out what initially appears to be unrelated information to the problem. However, when we are sleepy or relaxed, those filters don’t work as well, thus allowing our minds to “free associate” information that we would otherwise not associate, generating creative combinations. It’s similar to the kind of association discussed in books like The Medici Effect.

From a business perspective, since employees vary as to the time of day when they are most productive, we could tap their downtimes for creative purposes. Thus, rather than compelling them to “tough it out” and focus on another outstanding task, it might be the time to allow them to relax and tackle more creative business problems.

The key point is that a relaxed state is important to creativity. Urgent and pressured moments raise not only our focus but also our filters. These filters thwart our ability to combine divergent knowledge bases and personal experiences in creative, new, helpful ways.


Additional reading: Albion Professor Examines Optimal Time for Creativity


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People often have unrealistic expectations for intuition, sometimes thinking it’s a crystal ball, magic lamp or answer giver. This usually stems from trying to see it as we do cognition. However, if cognition is a map, intuition is our compass. If cognition is our street address, then intuition is our city, state or nation.

Of course, visualizations help to differentiate between cognition and intuition. I use the schematic below that way. Cognition represents logic and reason, easily connecting each point because one naturally follows the other. One thought connects the next.

Intuition on the other hand is like trying to find the best line to represent a group of observations. It doesn’t connect them as easily and new points don’t always fall on or near the line; however, taken as a group, our observations form a pattern giving a sense of direction to them. Thus, intuition narrows our possibilities. More significantly, we don’t need many observations to get this directional sense.

For example, we can predict tendencies of people simply by looking at what they buy. In some cases, if we know their favorite car, beverage, hobby, store and book, we can make predictions about their favorite restaurant. Political campaigns take such consumer information and make accurate predictions about what candidates and issues potential voters might prefer. We can form psychological profiles of people from consumer – and other – activities, similar to what we see on crime shows when tracking criminals.

While these examples are very conscious, we unconsciously pick up patterns too. These are translated into feelings, emotions and finally intuitions. That is why it’s important to listen to how we feel. It might be our intuition giving us some direction, giving us a north. In this sense, intuition can be our guiding star.


Related link: My Intuition White Paper (3 pages)


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There is no place that the revisiting of our unconscious urges are taken more seriously than in retailing. The Economist article “Retail Therapy” appearing in the December 17, 2011 edition gives a great historical accounting of the rise and fall . . . and rise again of the application of Freud in business which Ernest Dichter is noted for introducing. As the article asserts:

Every week seems to yield a new discovery about how bad people are at making decisions. Humans, it turns out, are impressionable, emotional and irrational.

Increasingly, researchers are finding Dichter’s assessment that “most people have no idea why they buy things” to be correct.

Of course, “Sigmund Freud argued that people are governed by irrational, unconscious urges over a century ago.” However, as we saw earlier, it took science almost a hundred years to acknowledge that the subconscious existed. Meanwhile, “businesses were recognizing the limits of quantitative studies . . . which offered little genuine insight into how customers behaved.” Said more directly, you can’t rely on customers to tell you what they might buy.

The failures of online dating showed this truth as well as research into people’s internet surfing habits. The Atlantic’s article, “Learning to Love the (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable) New Media,” which appeared in its April 2011 demonstrated that it’s “not what [people] say they want, nor what they ‘should’ want, but what they choose when they have a chance.”

If this applies to purchases, it also applies to all decisions. Names can affect decisions about scientific grants, and information that judges know is wrong can affect their decisions. So, if people don’t behave and choose as they said they would, we have no one to blame but ourselves for not looking deeper into the real emotions powering us.


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