Managing intuitively



As a business educator, I am convinced that business managers need more than just rational decision making to effectively perform their jobs. They must use their intuition, as well.

In a complex and dynamic business environment, managers must make quick decisions, but there are limits to their ability to process voluminous data in an in-depth and deliberate manner, even with the aid of sophisticated management information systems. This is where intuition comes in.

Being rationale means acquiring knowledge “through the power of conscious reasoning and deliberative analytical thought”.

In practice, this means that the manager is better served by getting more information, and by prioritizing rational thought over feelings.

Being intuitive, on the other hand, means knowing or understanding things without the apparent intrusion of rational thought or logical inference (Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2004).

Intuition is defined as “a non-sequential information processing mode, which comprises both cognitive and affective elements and results in direct knowing without any use of conscious reasoning” (Sinclair, 2005). It manifests itself as “an awareness of thoughts, feelings, or bodily sense connected to a deeper perception, understanding, and way of making sense of the world that may not be achieved easily or at all by other means.”

As a form of cognition, intuition operates in terms of ‘knowing’ and in terms of connecting mind and body through ‘feeling’.

From an individual’s standpoint, intuition-as-knowing and intuition-as-feeling interact with each other and may be indistinguishable. Together, they can be a source of judgement that could be an alternative to consciously derived rationale choices (Sadler-Smith &Shefy, 2004).

Several studies show that business executives make significant use of intuition in decision making, particularly in the areas of corporate strategy and planning, marketing, human resource management, research and development, public relations, investments and acquisitions, and mergers and alliances. Intuition, however, plays a lesser role in capital expenditures, finance, and production / operations management (Parikh, 1994).

Other empirical studies suggest that senior managers are likely to be more intuitive than their junior counterparts; that small business entrepreneurs are as intuitive as senior managers in large firms; and that executives in high-growth small businesses are likely to be more intuitive than their lower-growth counterparts.

An overwhelming majority of the respondents in Parikh’s (1994) study felt that many senior managers use intuition to some extent in making decisions, that it can contribute to greater success, and that it should form part of the management education and development curriculum.

However, employees at all levels are not likely to openly admit to their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates that they make decisions on the basis of gut feel, which could lead one to speculate on how widespread ‘closet intuition’ is (Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2004).

At De La Salle University, we have begun to develop the intuitive capabilities of our Master of Business Administration (MBA) students.

In our Action Research classes, for instance, we ask our students to be conscious about both their thoughts and feelings when dealing with their co-workers and to articulate these in their journals as they undergo the process of implementing an action research project in their organizations. This is difficult, at the onset, for our students, many of whom tend to disregard their feelings (in favor of logical thought) in addressing work-related issues.

We recognize that it will take a while for our innovative approach to bear fruit, but our ‘gut feel’ tells us that we are on the right track.

Raymund B. Habaradas is an Associate Professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, where he teaches Management of Organizations, Corporate Social Responsibility, Management Research, and Action Research. He welcomes comments at The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.


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