Tango With Intuition

July 11, 2013

By Michael Tatham Jr, CEO, The Tatham Group

Do you ever wonder what event or series of events have built your intuitive sense? Despite rationality proving time-and-again our intuitive responses are wrong, why do we settle to ‘do what we have always done’?

Some say it’s a matter of breaking habits; other argue that it comes from a lack of self -discipline. We all exercise our intuition; but over time, experience teaches us new responses. Let’s suppose that this is true. In that case would much of what we intuit then not come from the people we live and work with? Take a moment and visualize a scenario where you’ve had a consistent reaction and know it is not the correct one, yet continue to ‘do what you’ve always done’… Now take a moment and recall a similar scenario, one in which you changed your actions. How did that happen?

Before you give an intuitive response to that question do the following exercise online. On a piece of paper write down the first answer that comes to mind. Try not to overthink or cheat!

Cognitive Reflection Test

Not surprisingly, as much as I consider myself a systematic thinker I fell into this one. Not everyone does because all our experiences are different. Below are a few that came off the top of my head. Don’t be shy share some of your own.

Lose weight – eat less
Drive the golf ball further- swing harder
Someone not listening – raise your voice
Got a problem – suggest a quick solution
Airplane stalling – pull up
Bear charging – run like hell
Object appears in front of your car – slam on the brakes
Late for work – drive faster
In a rush – move faster
Bike headed for you – freeze

The one I have struggled with most, and has on occasion made me want to break my clubs, is my drive. The advantage of being 6”4 230 lbs is that you have the potential to pull out some nice long drives. The disadvantage is that if they are not straight consider your ball gone. No matter how many times I tell myself ‘swinging harder doesn’t add to distance’ I keep doing it. One day I was golfing with a pro and had the best performance off the tee in my entire life. When the round ended and I commented on my lucky day the pro said ‘you have a beautiful swing Michael regardless of what club you use. The trick is fighting that life- long intuition in sports of using strength to succeed.’ He later told me that every time I stepped up to the tee box we were casually conversing which took my mind off driving.
The self discoveries in Boot Camp are similar in that it takes an experience, failure and a mindset change to fight the intuition. The ever familiar ‘solve for everything at once’ versus one at a time has always been a big hit for leaders at Boot Camp. Just remember that intellectualizing the discovery will not sustain the behavior change.

1. Rationalize the behavior
2. Experience failure
3. Internalize your intuition
4. Document a different step by step approach
5. Execute & adjust
6. Repeat

So applying the checklist to my golf example:

1. I swing hard because I think the ball will go further
2. My ball is lost or has traveled no farther than I can throw it
3. Doing the same thing every time and expecting a different outcome is insane!
4. Before stepping up to the tee box distract myself and ask someone a political question
5. Ball is now going straight and far
6. 17 holes to go

What insane behaviour do you continue to do?  Can you share a few examples of how you changed your intuitive responses?

  • Marcus Franz

    I think the vast majority of golfers have that intuitive response. For me at work recently it has been yelling at my reports to meet deadlines. Not working so well. Need to try step 4 and document a different way.