Trusting Your Instincts

Trusting your instincts can be scary, especially when it comes to making business decisions. For the creative, entrepreneurial type, it can be even scarier, since others don’t always share or understand your vision. And “[i]t wasn’t long ago that decision-by-intuition would have been regarded as little more than magical thinking or a try at luck.” But these days, “research has changed that and intuition has been embraced as a key component to business decision making.” Following your instincts doesn’t mean being reckless or impulsive; the key is knowing when to go with your gut – and when not to.

A 2008 study by Gerard Hodgkinson determined two key criteria for when to go with your gut instinct: (1) when you need to make a snap decision, and (2) when you have plenty of knowledge and expertise in the subject. “Gut feelings are tools for an uncertain world. . . . They are based on lots of experience and unconscious forms of intelligence. Geil Browning, founder and CEO of Emergenetics International, uses a sports metaphor to the effect of practice makes perfect: “To hone intuition, it’s all about giving our brain more emotional information to work with through life experience to increase the probability of success for any given gut decision.” In other words, the more “practice” you have in any given area of business or life, the more qualified your instincts become to make quick decisions in that area.

If you’re in a position where you just don’t know whether to trust your gut feeling, it’s not a bad thing to run your ideas past a trusted mentor. Zach Robbins, co-founder of Leadnomics, puts it this way: “In entrepreneurship, the risks are yours to bear, but so are the achievements. Make following your passion less scary by always looking to the data, keeping trusted advisors around, setting and celebrating goals, and trusting the instincts that guided you in the first place.”