Tag Archives: Intuition

Oblivious Self Awareness

A participant in one of my project management training courses said something that was an eye-opener for me.  The training course was a preparation course for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.  In this course, I use a lot of sample questions to ‘train’ participants on the structure and content of PMP exam questions.  I usually display a question with four possible answers, give the participants a couple of minutes to think about it and to select an answer, and then I highlight the best answer with an explanation and justification of why it is the best answer and the others are not.  In that particular session, an active and experienced participant said firmly that the answer to a particular question is B.  When I said that the best answer is C and not B, he said to me: “I am sure that the answer is B.  However, I am also sure that you, as you always do, will convince me and all of us with your clear argument that the best answer is C.”  He complemented his statement with giving me the posture of an attentive and focused listener, waiting anxiously to hear what I was going to say.

I remembered this when I was recently listening to one of my friends who I enjoy listening to.  Tarek is a quite knowledgeable conversation partner and posseses an excellent way to describe things.  Tarek paints a clear picture, supported with facts and readings to present his point of view, which forces you to respect his point of view even if you don’t agree with it.  In a recent conversation with Tarek I told him that he is a perfect example of someone who “knows more than he thinks he knows, and can do more than he thinks he can do.”  I urged him to put his thoughts on paper and start blogging (ironically, Tarek is the one who told me sometime ago that I should start blogging and he is the one who introduced me to WordPress).

The point I want to make here is that, most probably, we know more than we think we know; all of us can do more than we think we can do.  The reason behind not knowing what we really know is what I would like to call is our “oblivious self-awareness”.  I don’t think we do this on purpose; well it is oblivious after all.  I can attribute this to our normal practice of acquiring knowledge and experiences.

As we move on in our life, we slowly accumulate knowledge and skills: we change.  We unknowingly treat the accumulated work and personal experiences as ‘common sense’ and we convince ourselves that everyone is aware of.  We believe that our actions and knowledge are nothing but spontaneous and instinctive ‘facts of life’ which everyone do and know.  However, with some observation you will find out that some or even most of your spontaneous actions and instinctive knowledge are not as spontaneous and instinctive to others.  This is nothing but a positive implication of the ‘boiling frog syndrome’, where you are not fully aware of the changes that happened to your behaviour and intellect as a result of the experiences you are continually collecting.

Therefore, you should have more confidence in yourself, your knowledge and your experience.  Continually test your knowledge and skills and increase your self-awareness.  Wherever you are in the journey of life, chances are that you know more than what you think you know, and you can do more than what you think you can do.  You just need to be more self-aware, get into the habit of attuning to what others are telling you, and attract your luck by surrounding you with people who would give you a little nudge.

Strategic Intuition

Sun Tzu, the author of ‘Art of War’ wrote in his book “Strategy without tactics is the longest way to victory.  Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.  What a beautiful description of strategy and a powerful demonstration of its indispensability.  Strategy is the manifestation of your goal, objectives, and purpose in whatever task you are doing.  If you don’t have a goal, go out and get one.  Without a goal or  purpose there is no taste of success when you complete your task, or as Sun Tzu puts it, there is no victory.

One way of ensuring that you have a goal or a purpose for whatever you are doing, is to develop your strategic intuition.  Much the same as you develop your ‘car driving intuition’ that helps you to hear music, answer the phone or carry out a challenging conversation with the passengers while you are driving your car at high speed and manoeuvring the traffic lights and busy intersections; it is imperative to develop your ‘strategic intuition’ to make sure that you carry out the tasks that will lead to the ‘victorious result’ you want.  Strategic intuition is the skill that will let you ‘drive safely’ through the maze of life challenges to get to your destination.

What is strategic intuition?  I like to describe it as the gut feel that lets you make the right decision at the right time.  Haven’t you noticed that, when you wait for the lift in some buildings that have two or more lifts, you stand in the middle of the lift bay so that you have the shortest route to any lift when its doors are open?  That is strategic intuition in its simplest form.  On the other extreme, strategic intuition is the decision about the texture of white colour that Steve Jobs chose to his Apple devices.

So, how to develop strategic intuition?  My answer is: the same way you developed your driving skills?  Practice.  You need to explicitly ask your self why you are doing whatever you are doing.  If you can’t have a good and satisfying answer, don’t do it.  When you make the effort to ‘train’ your thoughts and impulse actions to make a decision based on the purpose of each and every task, you will certainly develop the skill of intuitively making the right decision at the right time.

Whether at work or in your personal life, you should always know which way you are going.  Otherwise you may end up like Alice in Wonderland when she got lost in the woods and asked the Rabbit which way to go.  The Rabbit asked Alice: “Where do you want to go?”  Alice said: “I don’t know”.  The Rabbit said: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”.