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Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision making

Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision making

Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision

Academy al Management Executive. 1999. Vol. 13, No. Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision making Lisa A Burke and Monica K. Miller Executive Overview Making decisions by intuition is increasingly viewed as a viable approach in today's business environment. Intuition may be beneficial in certain scenarios, and at times may be the primary decision approach available. To investigate the use of intuition in decision making, we interviewed 60 experienced professionals holding significant positions in major organizations across various industries in the U.S. The executives provided rich descriptive insights about intuitive decision making. They discussed the nature of intuition and how it is developed, how often they use intuition and how they are prompted to do so, and the types of workplace situations in which intuition is used. The interviews were used to develop a descriptive profile of those using intuition in the workplace and to document the perceived quality and benefits of intuitive decisions. Intuition is not some mystical or magical thing. It is taking advantage of the way our brains are designed to be able to think about things subconsciously and to bring those things to the forefront when needed. A smart organization will recognize employees who have this skill. —Manager, technical services At a time of rapid and unprecedented change in the business environment, intuition plays an increasingly significant role in contemporary decision strategies. Executives who understand how to balance their use of intuition and analytic thinking may be better prepared to lead in this environment. Much of the research on intuitive decision making is conceptual, and little quantitative or qualitative research has been done in field settings to support generalizations.' This qualitative study of professionals who have faced a variety of decision scenarios investigates a skill that has been portrayed as everything from a magical sixth sense to an innate personality trait to an accumulation of experience.^- By clarifying what intuition is, how it's used, and whether it can be trusted, we may help other professionals make effective decisions. 91 Experience of Professionals We conducted in-depth, semi-structured telephone interviews with 60 professionals across various industries and geographic locations in the United States. {See Appendix A.) These individuals were responsible for significant project or program development, management, or implementation in medium-to-large organizational settings, and each had at least 10 years of total work experience. Among those interviewed were a director of executive development, a manager of technical services, a staff engineer, a director of internal auditing, a nurse, a vice president of marketing and advertising, a police records supervisor, and a human resource administrator. Practitioner Descriptions Our first question dealt with defining intuition, which researchers have defined in different ways and used interchangeably with other constructs. (See Appendix B.) Table 1 summarizes the frequency of the responses to this question and provides sample comments from participants. • Experienced-based decisions. Fifty-six percent of the interviewees said intuitive decisions were based on experience. Accumulated successes and failures, in work and in personal life, formed a set of experiences on which they drew in par-

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