Intuition and Entrepreneurship

Given the overload  that everyone is exposed to today – is it possible to make the best possible decisions based on information analysis alone?

My position, based on both my own experience and what I’ve observed of others, is that intuition is going to be a key quality that differentiates the most successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow, from the less lucky.

Thinker Close Up

Gut feeling is an integral part of entrepreneurship

So the question becomes, can intuition be taught? Or, given that we all have (at least) a smidgeon of intuition, to ask the question more accurately – can intuition be developed? If so, how?

I thought in this blog, I’d like to share my experience of how the process of developing intuition feels to me. It’s only one perspective, and there are likely others, that may or may not make more sense to you. But for those searching for ways to develop their intuition in a business settings, here is what I’ve found to work and the process by which I believed I developed it.

“Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society
precisely because there is so much data.”

John Naisbitt


In fact, when working over a distance and without seeing each other face to face regularly – it is quite difficult to truly feel the state of mind, the thoughts and emotions, the hopes, worries and fears of the other people involved in your project.

Because of this if such people are your key stakeholders, i.e. your MD or Co-Founder, then this really needs to be a practice in its own right for you to get better at intuitively knowing, or rather, ‘feeling’ their ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ wellbeing.

How I practiced intuition by remotely monitoring a projects state of mind

In my chest region, I mentally reserve (by focusing towards inside) some space for each and every one of my projects and key partners that „monitors“ progress, attitude and wellbeing subconsciously until such moments when it starts to affect things seriously (either the people, the project or my relationship with any of them).

In programming you may think of this as an automatically recurring ‘IF clause’ that repeats itself and gets by unnoticed until something out of the ordinary (i.e. what is specified in the NOT part) happens’ At which point the programme should get the attention of something or somebody outside that process.

When this happens, I  feel an uneasiness (i.e. a slight pain or heaviness) of some sort and if it’s really bad, anything from distress to even ‘despair’, or on the positive side some lightness or bliss. With time I was able to focus myself on a specific person and would get a feed-back in my chest region with the appropriate feeling of the person, how he or she themselves feel they are progressing and would be able to compare this with my own view of the situation, i.e. if this would be realistic in the overall scheme of things.

This did not work in the beginning and it took me quite at least 2-3 years of practicing but it did slowly develop. I consider this a very essential skill for the CEO of the future and any team leaders having people working ‘under’ or ‘with’ them in different locations or cultures other than their own, therefore it is time well invested. One simply has to get a gut feeling of what is “really” going on and the more one can train this and get better at the accuracy from it, the more beneficial it is for everybody involved.

So, how to develop such a skill?

Having a general openness (not being afraid to try something new) is key, as is having the patience and discipline to develop a new kind of sensitivity while staying neutral and calm about ones experiences and findings along the way.

Personally I find my meditation practice key in developing this but I firmly believe that it was early chamber music lessons that laid down the foundation for developing such a „progress antenna“. When you play in a (small) music group, say in a piano trio (piano, cello, violin) for instance, you’ve got to understand each other blindly. You can’t always look at each other and you most definitely can’t talk with each other in a concert in order to communicate. So everybody has to be able to master their own technical and musical difficulties while at the same time representing „one voice or sound“, even if there are three.

During these early lessons we had a wonderful teacher who placed great importance on paying attention on not only to our own status within the group, but also simultaneosuly listening to the voices and musical phrases the others were producing. Thus, in combination with breathing very consciously, an invisible and inaudible type of communication manifests itself within the group and within oneself that is very similar to how I believe intuition works. That’s why in the case of great musicians playing together they’ve mastered that skill where they can match each others phrasing, toning, rhythms etc. in split seconds without even looking at each other.

Given that intuition may not be generally seen as a business skill of our modern world – how do you feel about intuition and gut feeling in entrepreneurship? Do you think it is at all relevant? And is it something that can be learnt or practiced, if so how?

7 thoughts on “Intuition and Entrepreneurship

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  2. Thank you Toby for sharing your point of view and advice. Intuition is so important! I have found that my success in the business world is due to the fact that I follow the careers of those who are more successful than myself. I have been following the career of Mark Hurd for the last few years now, since he has taken over at Oracle. I have also been impressed with this leadership and ability to turn a company around.

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    Thanks for your insights regarding the vital role intuition plays in entrepreneurship. History is replete with examples of how intuition serves as the catalyst of progress in business as well as all dimensions of life. Can “intuition” be learned? Absolutely! However, it is definitely a right brain function and unlike the skills of physical science requires a subtle skill-set. Its development suggests, as you have mentioned, meditation, and other non-lineal thinking processes. Many would say it is a “soft-skill”, but for those who have paid the price to develop intuition, it is a highly refined hard skill; one that requires much more than mere cognitive thinking. One that makes entrepreneurship a more complete and reliable practice. Can it be used to the exclusion of other business skills? No, but it is an essential for successful entrepreneurship.

    • Thanks for sharing your views Jim. Personally I think there is a big difference between “gut feeling”, “6th sense” and “intuition”. To me, everybody is born with gut feeling. Even animals have it, too. 6th sense is something that naturally develops when you practise meditation, get a lot of experience (in life generally, or something specific), do self-analysis well and so on. In both cases, you have free will to follow your “instinct” (gut feeling) or what your 6th sense tells you. You may decide for or against such a feeling or hunch. But intuition (to me both as a private person and as an entrepeneur) is fundamentally different: when touched by *real* intuition, it’s next to impossible to neglect the feeling and make a decision about it. With intuition, the decision is made, and one follows what the intuition is. The question and difficulty I feel is: how to learn to distinguish between the 3?

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