Making Executive Decisions – Intuition vs Data

It seems there are forces drawing me to address a quandary – one that is directly critical to conscious leaders.

I was asked by Susy Jackson, LinkedIn editor, to share my thoughts on whether decisions should be based on numbers or intuition after journalist, Reeves Wiederman, used WeWork as a potential example of when intuition can steer a company down a drain.

Ever since I ran the Conscious Decision Challenge for Conscious Leaders in August, I have had this exact topic in my queue for blogs, so why not take this invitation as a sign that it’s time to address the elephant in the room.

In the past, I have included intuition as a required strength for conscious leaders, while my challenge solely addressed data and external input-driven conscious decision protocols. So, am I promoting the following processes that use data as the primary driver of decisions, or am I more in support of leaders developing intuition as a critical tool for decision making?

The answer: Conscious leaders learn, apply, and teach data and input-driven conscious decision protocols AND hone highly attuned abilities to use intuition to identify outlier situations that threaten desired outcomes.

The reasons for using data and input-driven decisions is multi-pronged. The protocols I teach as part of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint account for the volatile, unpredictable, ever-evolving world that we live in. These protocols engage stakeholders in the decision-making process, as well as the solutioning and execution, and create transparency that is integral to building trust in leadership that is sorely lacking right now. This lack of trust in leadership is causing confusion, dissension, division, and resistance – all of which kill innovation and progress.

However, intuition is necessary for innovation. Past data will keep us looking solely at the past to predict the future, which will just perpetuate more of the past.

This explains why there are odds and a spread when betting. Past data is not a 100% prediction of the future. Winning big is more associated with identifying the outlier result.

Intuition creates greater ease, time, and money. When you have several options that need to be tested, intuition can guide you as to which options to test first, saving on the usual cost of trial and error. Intuition offers wisdom as to which actions will be the most meaningful, impactful, and productive. Effectively applying intuition also looks like seeing all of the data and sensing that there is a need to delve deeper.

There are some intuition landmines leaders need to be aware of, such as the one that led to the ultimate demise of WeWork. Wishful thinking – wanting something to be true – is a hazard many entrepreneurs fall victim to. Entrepreneurs are often extreme optimists. Optimism, just like any other quality, can be a strength and a liability if it’s not balanced.

On the other end of the spectrum, fear is also often mistaken for intuition, as is bias. Being able to distinguish the differences between bias, fear, and optimism for intuition takes acute self-awareness and objectivity few are able to achieve.

Intuition doesn’t always align with the truth you want. Being able to accept intuition when it’s in direct opposition to what you want means you have to literally override your natural neuro-tendencies, which are naturally resistant to discomfort, pain, dissonance, and change.

I’ll be honest, in these times of chaos and volatility, every leader alive will need to be vigilant in their habits to achieve and maintain the clarity and mindfulness necessary to consistently make these distinctions. This is why in the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint, not only do we teach mini-practices that even the busiest of leaders can integrate into a full schedule, but also teach habit hacks to help leaders accelerate the reinforcement of neural pathways to make these distinctions more automatic.

What if intuition and data are in complete conflict with each other?

It takes guts to use your gut as a leader. If you have absolutely eliminated the possibility that your intuition is actually bias, fear, or optimism, I fully support using intuition. It will always be a gamble, however, and you should expect to have to answer to stakeholders who are vehemently in disagreement with your decision.

What decisions have you made using intuition that have paid off?

Have you mistaken intuition in the past?

Karen Huller is the creator of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint and author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days. She founded Epic Careering, a leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, in 2006. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. Her solutions incorporate breakthroughs in neuroscience, human performance optimization, bioenergetics, and psychology to help leaders accelerate rapport, expand influence, and elevate engagement and productivity while also looking out for the sustainability of the business and the planet.

Mrs. Huller was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) where some of her students won the 2018 national YEA competition, were named Ernst & Young’s America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

She is board secretary for the Upper Merion Community Center and just finished serving as Vice President of the Gulph Elementary PTC, for which she received recognition as a Public Education Partner and Promoter from the Upper Merion Area Education Association. She lives in King of Prussia with her husband, two daughters, and many pets, furry, feathered, and scaly.

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