The Power of Instincts in Business

Recently, I had a conversation that ended with me seeing red flags.

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Recently, I had a conversation that ended with me seeing red flags. In the past, I’ve ignored these red flags in pursuit of executing. What I came to realize is that’s a very short-term approach, an approach that actually works against you. You may get out of the gate quicker, but you’ll definitely not hit the finish line any faster or in a better position. The long-term approach is to address it immediately by following your instincts. There is no need to delay important conversations, decisions or outcomes to a later date. The majority of the time people don’t listen or follow their instincts because they want to avoid confrontation, however, the most effective way to improve performance is not to avoid it, but rather approach conversations in a constructive and positive way.

Time matters and your instincts help you see things before they become a detriment to your task, project, relationships or organization.  The thing is, you need to be willing to listen and be brutally honest.

Instinct is behind some of the best inventions and most innovative ideas in business today. Instincts, quite honestly, guide most choices for business leaders. Choices such as, where to focus the company’s energy. You’ve probably heard this before, but a company’s energy needs to be protected and it’s protected by a leader’s instinct and their ability to say no, which is easy, but more importantly knowing when to say yes, which is hard.

Jeff Bezos once said:

When you can make a decision with analysis, you should do so, but it turns out in life that your most important decisions are always made with instinct, intuition, taste, and heart.

He’s right.

The biggest reason businesses fail, other than market timing, is because they aren’t not following their instincts, leading them to hesitate and move slowly. I’ve learned over my career that in order to really tap into your instincts you need to avoid wishful thinking. I couple that with S.E.T, a model I use to audit the business environment. S.E.T stands for social, economic and tech trends. Knowing where the attention is, how the markets are performing and what forward thinking tech can improve my customer’s experience is extremely important when helping me be decisive and tapping into my instincts.

On the flip side, the most dangerous part of following your instincts or leading with intuition for example, is our deep-seated need to see patterns. So, I’ve learned that I must be open minded and understand that my actions or decisions must be agile. Changing my mind is not a bad thing, it’s okay to admit that your instinct was wrong. Just move forward. The reality is, your instincts become stronger as you experience more failures and take more bold bets on ambitious experiments.

Small business leaders carry a massive responsibility for making choices that create success in their organizations. These choices and decisions are high-stakes and have always been hard. But in a post-COVID world, digital transformation, speed and the complexities of global commerce have deepened. It’s become tougher than ever to find strategic clarity and make decisions about how to reinvent the business, add new customer experiences and how to deploy capital to fuel growth and strengthen margins. Whether the decisions are about vision, mission, budgeting, policies, hiring or products, there’s a fragile balance between analyzing data and following your instincts. Choosing the best answers for your business can get tricky. Bezos once mentioned that most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably moving too slow. So, data is extremely important, but, in my opinion, instincts push you through to get moving on the remaining 30% you can’t yet see. You can never underestimate the power of movement. So, as a leader, you ultimately need to get the right team, on the right bus, going the right way, at the right time, based on instincts.

A few ways I’ve been able to tap into my instincts with speed and clarity in order to align my team, bus, direction and timing are:

1.     Listening to the things I don’t want to hear

2.    Stepping a way to pause, keep my composure and think

3.    Standing strong on my personal guiding principles and my overarching organizational goals

4.    Evaluating the results of the decisions I’ve made

In the end, in order to build your “instinct” muscle you need to be willing to listen to it and trust it.  

Let me know what you think by sending me a tweet

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