Instinct, smell or “gut”, as some call it, is the great ally of a host of successful businessmen. But what is it and, more importantly, can it be developed?
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Imagine the following scene: You are meeting in a room with your creative agency, which is about to present you with a proposal. You lean back in your chair, wait for the curtain to rise and the presentation begins. After a few seconds, maybe a couple of minutes, you feel a puncture in the stomach, something that says “Hey! I like this”. You have a feeling it will work.
This is precisely the smell, instinct , “gut” or whatever you want to call it; that “something” that tells you when an idea can work wonderfully or, conversely, when you should immediately discard it. Because of its enormous power, this instinct has become the ally of great men in history. Albert Einstein called it “the sacred gift” and for Steve Jobs it was “more powerful than the intellect”. For me it is the sum of experience, intellect and curiosity.
This sense of business can help you make more efficient investments or even prevent catastrophes in time. You can go to it, for example, to decide whether or not to keep a creative proposal, whether you should test something, or what to spend your time on.
Should we trust a hunch to make business decisions?
Let's see two opposite cases:
In 2010 Steve Jobs used the “gut” to predict that the iPad would replace PCs someday, even seeing data that showed otherwise. By 2014, according to Gartner studies, more than 70 million units had been sold. It was the first time that more iPads were sold than PCs!
On the other hand, in 1998 the CEO of Motorola, Gregory Brown, followed his “gut”, ignoring all the data that predicted the predominance of smart phones, and invested heavily in mobile satellite technology, which is now obsolete. That decision lost the company more than $ 8 billion dollars.
You may not be as lucky as Jobs. The reality is that deciding based on pure hunches is equivalent to going blind. That's what data exists for!
However, the data never tells the full story. There must be the “human” element that interprets, judges, understands, contrasts and makes a decision. Data helps strengthen our decisions, but does not replace them. The best business decisions will always be those that come from the “gut” and are based on data.
Just as you must be willing to make a “gut” decision, you also have to be willing to change it if it doesn't work. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, always believed more in his instincts than in huge pockets of statistics and data. When he was wrong, he assumed his mistake and changed course quickly.
And smell develops like this …
We already know that the famous “gut” is very useful for making business decisions. The good news: this sixth sense can be developed. How?
Remember the famous speech Steve Jobs dedicated to Stanford University graduates where he said, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”? Jobs was referring to having an insatiable, curious, adventurous spirit.
Be curious all the time. Ask as many questions as you can without fear of looking silly. Little by little, with time and experience, you will learn to ask the right questions.
Learn to ask the right questions
Before collecting information be sure to ask the right questions. What will I use this data for? What do I need to find? How will this information impact my business?
You can have a lot of data, but if you don't ask the right business question, it can tell you anything.
Explore the information you have collected and generate insights from your analysis. For example, how long do your leads spend on your site before buying? How many times do they come and go before deciding to make a purchase? What content do they consume the most? What does all this information tell you and how can you use it to benefit your business?
The more you explore the information at your fingertips, the better decisions you can make. The current trend is to use systems that allow you to visualize information in a more systematic, visual and trend-oriented way.
Now you know: a business decision shouldn't be based purely on instinct or data. Experience will tell you how far you should trust your hunches and how far to listen to the data; In the meantime, don't be afraid to make a mistake. It is better to make a wrong decision quickly and correct it sooner than to stay in the “paralysis analysis”.
Much success in developing your gut!
About the author: Bernardo Ortiz Vlasich is an expert in marketing and business administration. For more than 10 years, he worked in the marketing area of Procter Gamble, leading various brands, including Gillette and the detergent line. He is currently director of marketing at the Technological University of Mexico , belonging to Laureate International Universities.