News & Insight
August 2011

Harnessing the Power of Intuition

What led you to write The Intuitive Compass?

L’Oreal asked me to design a training seminar on managing creative teams at the same time that I was becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of sustainable development in the modern world.

I realized that the source of creativity and sustainability is the same: the balance of reason and instinct. The logical way we approach business management is focused on trying to dominate nature and what’s human. It’s this type of overly rational worldview that is making our world less efficient and sustainable.

I wanted to identify a new integrated and balanced approach to business and problem solving that would help us become more creative, prosperous and sustainable.

Leaders at Ralph Lauren, L’Oreal, Matrix and other companies of all sizes around the globe started getting results from the approach I started in that first training seminar. This inspired me to share the approach more widely by writing this book.

What’s the core problem with how we currently approach innovation and decision making?

The typical path is to apply more analysis, focus more on results and work harder to get those results. It’s this kind of thinking that has led to business models that we’re now finding are hard to sustain.

Life and logic don’t match. We like to think of life as linear and logical but it isn’t. Success in modern times depends on making the leap from seeing the world how we think it operates to how it really operates. In reality, both life and the way the human mind operates are much closer to chaos than to logic.

We’ve established a sophisticated relationship with all that is logical and we’re less eloquent about what is not. This book is about establishing a productive relationship with the part of life that is not logical so we can find solutions beyond the boundaries of what we know.

What is “intuitive intelligence”?

Intuitive intelligence is a set of skills that uses intuition to get to the instinctual and non-conscious parts of our mind.

The four tenets of intuitive intelligence are thinking holistically, thinking paradoxically, noticing the unusual, and leading by influence. Each tenet helps us to complement the dualistic and limited nature of the logical mind with the other part of our mind.

Intuition allows us to operate in the zone of ambiguity and change. It feeds the rational mind to enable logic to work with paradox. Since the beginning of mankind, instinct was meant to help us survive so it would be foolish to ignore it. Its mission is to ensure the sustainability of our species. At this time when sustainability is in question, intuitive intelligence is particularly essential.

What is the Intuitive Compass?

The Intuitive Compass is an approach to decision making and problem solving that deliberately avoids being exclusively linear and logical and instead draws on your intuitive intelligence. You’ll see how the functioning of the mind and the process of decision-making can be broken up into several clear components. You’ll be able to map your current decision making process based on how well you balance the opposing forces of reason and instinct, and results and play. With this approach we’ll be better prepared to innovate and adapt to change. We’ll be able to make sense of chaos and leverage its power.

So are you opposed to the logical and linear?

No, not at all of course! But we need to become more aware of the limits of logic and its exclusive nature. It excludes by definition everything that is not logical – this is why it is a limited and potentially dangerous instrument. It can keep us from understanding the deeper parts of life and of human nature eluding logic. We must also realize that logic and chaos coexist and we need to balance them with intuition and instinct.

Isn’t a gut decision basically just a random guess? How can we rely on a gut decision?

A gut decision is often the result of a part of our brain taking in and processing information that we were not conscious of having taken in and processed. When a gut feeling arises before we become conscious of it, it can enrich a decision. The unconscious mind searches through the past, present and future and connects with hunches and feelings in a nonlinear way to produce decisions that are often superior, as scientific research has now proved.

What’s an example of how an executive can benefit from making a gut decision?

Jean Rene Fourtou was brought in to head Vivendi Universal and save it. He succeeded and all of his decisions about how to restructure the company were made with his gut and went against the strong opinion of his board and financial experts.

What do you mean by “play”?

Play is dynamic, spontaneous, free-flowing engagement with anything or anyone. It’s immersing yourself in an activity for pleasure with no other stated goal. It needs to be an essential part of work in order to leverage all that people have to offer.

Albert Einstein once said “play is the highest form of research.”

What are some companies that formally encourage play?

Google, Pixar, 3M, Kohler, Shell, IBM, and Dupont are some of the companies I write about which have realized and leveraged the power of play with formalized initiatives.

Why do we need The Intuitive Compass now?

Businesses are facing an unprecedented level of complexity and unpredictability. Our new world requires a creative agile mindset as well as powerful innovative solutions. Recent research shows that creativity is on the decline and we need to figure out how to better access and train creativity. Also, sustainability is one of today’s most urgent problems and The Intuitive Compass points the way to addressing it.

Is there a scientific basis to your arguments?

Recent neuroscience research has proven that instinct plays a key role in complex decision making. Eighty percent of our grey matter is dedicated to non-conscious thought. Imaginative play is one of the most direct way to access our creativity and problem solving abilities.

Also, physics and evolutionary biology show that there is a self-organizing principle that ensures that order will arise from chaos. We need to embrace rather than resist that self-organizing principle that is at work in business and everyday life.

I’ve always balanced my business career with culture and the performing arts including studying at the Julliard School and the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. This immersion in the arts has given me a new perspective on how the modern world deals with change. When directing or acting, I had to accept that great art is not about control. It is about having discipline in the preparation and surrendering during the performance. Management is a powerful means to reach one’s ends but my artistic journey made me realize that in the modern world, our fear of change and our inability to deal creatively with the unpredictability of nature lead us to seek control over the process of life.

Management should be about stabilizing our environment to facilitate the natural creative process. Instead we often attempt to control the process to secure the results we want; we do everything we can to eliminate the unknown but in so doing we work against the creative nature of life and miss out on a wealth of creative and sustainable solutions. It does not have to be this way though! And this exactly is what the Intuitive Compass helps us with.

WJM Faculty Member and bestselling author Francis Cholle has over 15 years experience as a coach, management consultant, trainer and lecturer. In his work, Francis applies the latest research in cognitive science, quantum physics, and even mathematics to help leaders expand their individual and organizational capabilities, performance, and above all their strategic influence. His latest book, THE INTUITIVE COMPASS (October 3 2011, Jossey Bass / The Wiley Group) is now available for pre-orders at 1-800-CEO-READ or at:

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