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  • Matthew Frank
    Matthew Frank

    Don't Believe the Hype: The Dangers of Trusting Intuition.

    Depicting a scene from everyday life, you’re walking down an alley at night. You’re all alone and the rain is tapping on your shoulders. Your intuition is telling you to turn back; but your gut tells you to proceed. Despite the roar of your beating heart, you press forward – you must get to the other side. As you walk, it all starts to feel like a dizzying dream – a never-ending marathon of decisions, with each one spinning you further into confusion. Suddenly, reality slams back into sharp focus as you stumble onto the other side of the alley, narrowly avoiding a large puddle...

    Gut instinct versus intuition

    Gut instincts are actions or decisions we make without conscious thought or deliberation. We use this process to act quickly before we have time to consciously process an outcome or situation. Intuition, however, goes a step further by providing insight or understanding into a particular situation; it’s an action guided by insight rather than immediate reaction. It isn’t a replacement for gut instinct, but a supplement to it.

    We all rely on both of these processes in our everyday lives – from driving to work, to work itself. They can provide useful shortcuts, helping us react quickly and make informed decisions. But in today’s ever-changing world, where new threats and opportunities surface every day, relying solely on our instincts can be dangerous.

    The dangers of trusting intuition too much

    Intuition relies on simple patterns and associations which can save us cognitive resources in some circumstances. We remember situations that have gone well and try to replicate them, or recognize easily identifiable patterns, such as when working through a maze or playing a game. This tendency to look for patterns can be useful in stable environments, but it can be dangerous in faster-paced and complex environments.

    When faced with an unfamiliar environment or unfamiliar tasks, individuals may unconsciously fall back on familiar patterns, perhaps hoping that they'll lead to a successful outcome. Meanwhile, new challenges and opportunities require new approaches, which can be difficult to develop if relying exclusively on intuition.

    Modern day scenarios to illustrate the concept

    In the digital world, it's important to be mindful of the phrase “status quo bias”: we naturally prefer to stick with our level of comfort and security; rarely taking the risk to innovate something entirely new. All too often, people place their blind trust in the status quo and fail to proactively search for different strategies. This can lead to missed opportunities, lack of agility, and difficulty adapting to new innovations. In the business world, this can manifest itself in products, services, or tactics that fail to meet customer expectations. Markets that move at a pace faster than we can anticipate could also lead to disaster if relied upon too heavily. For example, there was a significant surge in cryptocurrency assets in 2017 and just as suddenly, prices started to drop, leaving many investors far worse off than they'd begun.

    Gut instincts and intuition can be powerful tools that enable us to recognize patterns and make decisions quickly, especially in static or known environments. However, we should not put our complete trust in our instincts, as the fast-paced and dynamic nature of modern life means we could overlook new and more effective solutions. Taking the time to think through our options in the face of uncertainty and developing an aptitude for spotting changes in our environment are key elements in avoiding danger and seizing opportunity.

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