1,822 views Jan 3, 2019, 01:52am
Chris Pearse Contributor I write about the realities and challenges of leadership.
One of the drawbacks of our dependency on logic and reason is that our intellects can only ever operate on the past. The data we use to analyse and understand our world is never current – it is always drawn from what hasbeen, even if it’s only nanoseconds old.
Little wonder then that using this data has its limitations, particularly so when the environment is VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Two complex systems, the economy and climate, provide us with familiar examples:
Financial advice for investors is unequivocal:
Past performance is not a guide to future performance, nor a reliable indicator of future results or performance.
Met Office caveats are less forthright:
Fundamentally, though, these forecasts are just a way of expressing that, even with all that technology, tomorrow’s weather is not completely certain.
So how does an organisation prepare itself for the future?
Clearly, simulations based on what has gone before are limited. Complex systems do not even have to be complicated to make predictions tricky. Even a dripping tap provides a challenge in this respect.
Our only option is to temporarily abandon our go-to method of constructing a simulation of the future (by chopping up past experience with the knife of our intellect), and instead, deploy another of our human faculties: intuition.
mid-15c., intuicioun, “insight, direct or immediate cognition, spiritual perception,” originally theological, from Late Latin intuitionem (nominative intuitio) “a looking at, consideration,” noun of action from past participle stem of Latin intueri “look at, consider,” from in- “at, on” (from PIE root *en “in”) + tueri “to look at, watch over”. (etymonline.com)
Intuition is an inner knowing that is not obviously connected to a particular input. How do we connect into it?
Paradoxically, the most effective method of developing intuition can be through learning to disconnect from our intellects.
We do this simply by allowing the mind to quieten and to then hold questions for it, without searching for answers. Mundane interruptions to our normal cognitive process can provide good conditions for intuition to flourish: showering, sleeping, driving, good music, nature and art can all help. Meditation also provides a conscious means of reducing mental noise to promote intuition.
But in contrast to intellectual activity in which searching for an answer is integral to the process, intuition poses the question alone and waits patiently – rather like a gardener will plant a seed and wait for germination.
Now, because intuition is not overtly linked to what has preceded it, it has the capacity to provide us with two critical leadership benefits:
Creativity and Diversity Of Thinking
Both of these have the potential to provide us with responses to our environment that linear thinking often struggles to do, frequently suggesting a faster horse rather than an automobile.
And here is how to diversify thinking and stimulate creativity in a team or corporate environment:
- Explain the limitations of conventional thinking as outlined above – an understanding of our inner dynamics can help us disentangle ourselves from it and allow us more freedom in how we employ it.
- Encourage individual development of intuition through a quiet, peaceful mind rooted in the present, not stagnating in the past or anxious about the future. See this article at Inc.com
- Disrupt linear thinking in larger meetings by forming smaller teams – this encourages more intimate conversations by enabling the shy, and inhibiting the dominant.
- Desist from trying to find solutions and instead, focus on the thinking and feelings surrounding the issue – search for understanding and clarity before answers.
- Suspend all dissent and criticism, however subtle – fledgling insights and perspectives have a high mortality rate in the face of cynicism and rejection.
- Co-opt a non-specialist into the team that can ask seemingly stupid questions and challenge groupthink. In 1943 a little girl asked her father why she had to wait to see the photo he’d just taken. Instead of laughing he invented the Polaroid camera.
- Remove any time pressure by restricting the time for each meeting (1 hour) but not the number of meetings – as many as required – with time for reflection between.
Non of this requires radical behavioural change or the development of new skills – simply a gentle discipline that allows the faculty of intuition to be heard rather than drowned out by the noise of intellect.
I help leaders accelerate their development and impact through a deepened awareness of our inner dynamics – the belief systems and emotions that shape our leadership. Discover more here…
Chris Pearse Contributor
I am an Executive Coach to leaders across diverse sectors including FTSE100s and SMEs. I am also an Interim CEO.