“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense”, said Kahlil Gibrán. Does this sound cryptic or is there a deeper meaning?

Most of us have experienced at some time or the other, the persistent knock of intuitive thoughts, the nagging presence of a gut feeling. We have heard of people with distinctive powers of intuition or a Sixth Sense, heeding to their inner voices. It is said that great leaders have an acute Sixth Sense that helps them look beyond the obvious and make decisions that do not follow conventional thinking. There is a mystique about them, and such people are held in the highest, and sometimes, reverential esteem. It is also true that they are often branded as unpredictable, mercurial, or even as mavericks.

Till the late 1990s, Apple Computers was dismissively referred to as a manufacturer of “toys” meant only for the “creative types”. It was criticized for not having the same operating system as every other brand and was thus a relatively insignificant player. All this changed when Apple launched its “Think Different” advertisement campaign in response to IBM’s “Think IBM”. It is said that founder Steve Jobs initially disliked the campaign when it was presented by the advertising agency, but intuitively understood what it could do for his company. “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect,” said Jobs when asked about it, years later.

Today’s world, especially the realm of business, is largely data-driven, and people across all levels gobble up enormous amounts of data to make decisions. There are those who take decisions strictly based on data and analysis because they fear that intuition could be emotion-driven and hence biased. Data analytics is a whole new profession and the inability to digest and interpret data is viewed as a liability. We have become slaves to data to the extent that we seek extensive amounts of information for even mundane tasks.

Into this sphere come those who possess that Sixth Sense and a keen intuitive ability when it comes to making seemingly strange decisions. I vividly remember my first (and most inspiring ever) boss who, in the 1970s, introduced computerization in the company in an era when even handheld calculators were relatively unknown. He was criticized for being an extravagant fantasist out of touch with reality. However, he obviously “sensed” better and “saw” what the future portended; the organization soon earned a reputation for operating breathtakingly efficient systems that were way ahead and far better than what anyone else had.

In psychological studies, intuition, or “gut instinct,” is defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

The Sixth Sense, or intuition, that good leaders possess is derived from what years of experience have taught them. They can digest information rapidly and make decisions faster. Intuition is not about guessing – it is based on processing both objective and subjective information. It is neither an impulsive nor an emotional reaction – it is based on experience. Intuitive people listen to their inner voice and are able to make tough decisions because they have learned to trust their instincts. By validating their intuition with outcomes of their decisions based on hunches, over time, they hone this ability to greater effectiveness.

We all take long-distance travel in jet airplanes for granted. Till the 1950s, Boeing catered primarily to the defence industry. The CEO, Bill Allen, had a Sixth Sense that civilian air travel could boom if people could fly longer and faster. He convinced the Company’s Board to invest $ 16 Million on a new transcontinental passenger jet, and the legendary Boeing 707 was born. The rest, as they say, is history; this move transformed Boeing and revolutionized air travel.

Thanks to technology developed by Toastmasters, leaders have access to plenty of information that assists them to view their roles more holistically, and execute their responsibilities more efficiently. Yet, Clubs face challenges – members leave, goals are not met, finances come under pressure, motivation is low.

This is when mere dependence on data fails.  It is the Sixth Sense spawned by years of experience, that enables club leaders to intuitively assess the causes of problems and develop solutions more effectively.  Some years ago, our Club, even while evidencing an excellent DCP performance, witnessed newer members not staying on. The departing members offered the lack of time and job pressures as reasons for their leaving, but intuition flashed a different message; the problem was more deep-rooted and was caused by the members’ dissatisfaction with their experience. This was subsequently validated. The Club had to do a reset in its approach to stimulate and sustain the interest of newer members, meet their expectations, and keep them motivated and committed. It reinvigorated the Club, too.

Data and facts are necessary when we need them and are the “science” in decision-making. Intuition, on the other hand, is the “art”. Some people hesitate to go with their gut feeling, but as we start learning to trust our intuitions, and are disciplined, we will learn to fine-tune and apply them effectively. “I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics”, said Richard Branson.

It is that little whisper from deep within the brain, trusting that instinct or Sixth Sense, that can lead us to “Think Different”. Consequently, Kahlil Gibrán’s wise words, “When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense”, take on a significantly new meaning.

A. Hariharan, DTM

A. Hariharan, DTM, (Toastmaster since 2007, Star of Arabia TM Club) wth over forty years of professional experience in industry, DTM Hariharan is now an Executive Coach, Corporate Advisor, and University Professor (adjunct faculty). An aviation enthusiast, a seeker of knowledge, and a compassionate mentor, Hariharan lives by and practices the mantra of learning one new thing every single day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *