Intuition is generally regarded as a process that you cannot trust, because it is bias and all too idiosyncratic and personal. Admittedly, I too have often been rather sceptical when my students at the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology based a design concept on an intuitive feeling or a “hunch” without getting into a further analysis of why’s and how’s and of who it concerns (other than themselves).
The negative views on intuition are often linked to the standpoint that intuition lacks an analytical process and rational conclusions that concern anyone but the perceiving subject, or that intuition is too subjective and too feelings-based to draw any conclusions upon. Going with one’s “gut feeling” just doesn’t seem as valid as rationalising your way to making a decision.
But, fact is though that whenever I follow my intuition, I always seem to make the best and most durable decisions! It has been proven right on so many occasions. And furthermore, the more I pay attention to my intuition and allow for it to guide me, the better I become at differentiating between my intuitive hunches and my assumptions and worries or wishes.
What if intuitive reasoning can be more than a gut feeling, and what if it can be a beneficial supplement to an analytical process? What if your intuitive compass can lead you to conclusions that no rational analytical approach could ever provide you with? The answer to these questions might not be: “yes, it likely can” when it comes to hunches and to allowing personal experiences and convictions to guide a design process or other decision-making processes. But if we find a way to tune into our intuitive compass, we might be able to achieve a pre-rational, deeply felt understanding of the why’s and how’s behind a seemingly irrational intuitive hunch.
In his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman (b.1934) defines intuitive thinking as being flaw (Kahneman 2013). According to Kahneman, our associative memory, which is what triggers intuition, sees only what it wants and expects to see, much alike our attention (e.g. if you are pregnant, and your whole world evolves around this new state that you are in, you will likely all of a sudden see pregnant women everywhere, prams and babies, and experience pregnancy being discussed in the radio and on television etc.). Therefore, when using intuition as a guideline we very often jump to conclusions, because our mind manages to construct coherence in whichever story, we seek to tell. This coherence makes us feel overconfident, probably because, says Kahneman, intuition is often used for past thoughts that turned out to be true. For example, when something good (or bad) happens, we tend to say, “I knew that was going to happen”, meaning that we intuitively knew, or that we had a gut feeling that what happened was exactly what was going to happen. But did we really know, or are we just telling ourselves that we did? How can we separate between intuition and expectations, worries and hope? According to Kahneman, subjectivity, whether it is right or wrong, feels the same. And hence, intuitive decision-making is flaw
I don’t disagree with Kahneman’s description of the weaknesses of intuition, but my take on intuition and the benefit of being able to actively make use one’s intuitive compass, constitutes a different perspective, which is largely inspired by phenomenology. The point Kahneman is making about subjectively it good. It is indeed very hard, if not impossible, to differentiate between right and wrong hunches — and we tend to only express ourselves on the incidences, when we were right about something. This is also the reason why, when working intuitively or making use of our intuitive compass, we need to rise from the bias conclusions and fleeting hunches on insignificant trends, and tune into a deeply felt understanding of the general, long-lasting certainties about the fulfilling and authentic human life.
I am currently in the process of clarifying a methodology when working and living intuitively as a part of writing my forthcoming book Anti-trend. This methodology can be used in anti-trend forecasting as well as in life in genereal.
Making use of intuition in our daily whereabouts, and in work and life in general, means daring to follow the impulses to do what we deep down know are right, rather than (solely) following the crowds, or mindlessly obeying to societal and cultural rules and norms. I have previously written about this; just because something is the norm it doesn’t mean that ist is right. If something feels deeply wrong, well, then it probably is.
When you are able to tune into that special center in your mind, gut or heart, or where-ever it is located, which can direct you towards good, deeply-felt, durable decisions, then you have connected to your intuitive compass. There is absolutely nothing fleeting or superficial about these kinds of decisions.
You can exercise the intuitive process by starting to identify and question your culturally based assumptions on how one should live, work, consume, contribute to community etc. Some of the many things we take for granted might be aligned with what we deep down associate with the good life; with living authentically and freely, with being a good person, with expressing ourself. And some of them probably aren’t.
The next step is to allow for your intuitive compass to guide you on how to make the changes that are necessary.
You can also cultivate your intuition by daring to (momentarily) shut down your rational, cultivated mind that is busy limiting your believes on what we can and cannot do, and on how we should live and express ourselves. If no-one was able to do so, we would live in a world without paintings of the scent of newly fallen rain on branches of a tree, and without soul-lifting music capable of captivating life’s beautiful moments of alignment with the world.