Are you intellectually curious, rigorous in your pursuit of knowledge, willing to change your assumptions?

If so, you could be channelling your intuition to achieve a higher level of intelligence and superior strategic decision-making.

In the thought-provoking read linked below, Bruce Kasanoff briefly looks at research conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development on what is intuition, how we all have it (to varying degrees), what we should expect from it and, I'd suggest, how we can harness it for smarter business management and decision-making.

I particularly like the point he makes that intuition isn't necessarily about knowing the right answers, but that it's often more a case of you being able to use it to discard what you feel clearly isn't the answer. So it can be more of a process than a lightning revelation and at the same time, pretty empowering. 

He also touches on the paradox of intuition: that it can be strengthened by knowledge sharing and collective problem-solving, as much as it can be weakened by that very same activity. 

So just as we're more likely to feel confident about the effectiveness of our own intuition - or indeed someone else's - if we know that there's plenty of supporting evidence pointing to that intuition being a 'safe bet', it's also intuition that steers us away from group views and established norms, or blind acceptance, when our gut tells us that we've spotted something special that others might not have seen. 

Why does this matter? 

It matters in business because this is the kind of intelligence that makes, successfully, the great leaps that Kasanoff refers to. 

It's not about the flashes of academic brilliance (though they clearly have a celebrated place, when it comes to brilliant intuition). It's more about those instinctive assessments of options and opportunities that many of us make in our everyday lives - some of which lead to really quite extraordinary outcomes.

Today's disruptive business leaders and entrepreneurs harnessed their intuition when they challenged established markets and norms. Many of them were not university-goers or recognised for superior academic brilliance. Instead, they channelled fresh observations, imagination, pragmatism and passion and they relied on intuition to keep going even in the face of scepticism or adversity. 

They felt it was the right course. 

And what about those of us who recruit or promote someone unstereotypical, because our instinct tells us that they will be even better than some of their more traditional, 'safer bet' peers? 

Or those who use different working arrangements (flexible, remote or virtual working, or like Google, allocate full-time status without prescribing actual hours); or those who use new employment methods (e.g. the gig economy)? 

Or those who change the format of an event, or the presentation of material or who challenge an established viewpoint, or try something different, or who stand as a candidate for an alternative or radical proposition, or indeed those who vote for someone 'radical'? 

Books of norms and traditions got broken all over the place when the forward-thinking businesses and individuals who took these approaches started out. 

But look at the doors they opened and the influence they've had on how we can all now operate and what we aspire to, around the world? 

One of the greatest door-openers and at the same time, a self-confessed failure in relation to some of his efforts, is Richard Branson, who made public that he relies 'far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics.' (This from a man who has made himself almost 10 times wealthier than the Queen!). 

Steve Jobs based his career on his intuition, telling his biographer, Walter Isaacson that he considered it to be more powerful than intellect. 

Bill Gates makes no secret of how he values his own intuition, even though, when speaking to CNN in 2002, he confessed that it doesn't always prevent him from getting things wrong. 

Another rags to riches billionnaire, Sir Alan Sugar, famously uses it to select his apprentices and also to make key business decisions affecting his business empire. In his book, 'What you see is what you get', he makes frequent references to how he falls back on his intuition in gauging what consumers will really go for when new products or businesses are under discussion. He describes this intuitive ability as supported by taking account of trends in consumer behaviour and market characteristics, competitor activity and what was realistically affordable.

Good instincts often point the way forward long before your rational mind has decided and confirmed what the right approach should be. Yet the two in combination are incredibly powerful. More often than not, by listening to your instincts, you can still achieve a rational outcome, albeit that it may be more creative and more disruptive than if you'd leapt straight to what's rational and 'safe'.  

Imagine if we did even more of this?

Now this is categorically not an argument for flinging rational thought out of the window and not doing homework or analysing data sensibly. Data especially, is going to become an ever more valuable 'currency' in our increasingly technologically empowered lives. Recklessness is not good for any business or individual. 

My overriding message here is that, as Kasanoff concludes, the really smart people harness their intuition to achieve great leaps forward. They take what they already know, see and hear and they measure all of it against their instincts. And they ground those instincts in those all important opportunity-driving ingredients mentioned above: impartial observation, imagination, pragmatism and passion. 

Kasanoff's Einstein quote is a salient warning to us all. All too often, especially as we become more comfortable and more established in our business and private lives, we become slave to what's known, safe and rational. We become short-term outcome-focused, figures-obsessed, people-indifferent and we're less inclined to listen to intuition. And all of those factors can seriously stymie real growth potential. 

Those who change the world don't confirm to a stereotype or to traditions and that makes them all the more special. The one thing they do have in common, however, is a great sense of intuition, even if they don't have all the answers first time around and they don't always get things right first time.