Can you Teach Intuition?

Can you Teach Intuition?

When I walked into the boardroom I knew something was seriously off key here. The new CEO was sitting with his back to his team. Some leaders were juggling with their phones, others were answering emails. This was supposed to be a breakthrough meeting about the strategy for the coming two years. It was one of their biggest challenges yet. What was going on?

The need for intuition is increasing as we are faced with more situations where there is a high level of uncertainty, with little precedent. Facts are unavailable or unreliable and the timeframe to act is limited or scarce. Intuition is part of the looping process and it entails forming a circuit of intuitive sensing and data collection – aggregating many touch points. The intuitive nature of looping is important when trying to anticipate the future and make good business decisions. So how do we make rapid, viable decisions in this increasing turbulence?

It pays to have good intuition: successful executives score far above average on extrasensory perception tests. There is a significant correlation between these precognitive abilities and profit ratings of their companies (Mihalasky & Dean, Agor 1986).

Many people feel their intuition is lacking or they can’t rely on it. In The Nature of Intuition Berne identified that the chief requisite for accurate intuition is an active and concentrated state of alertness and receptiveness. With practice intuitive mood can be attained more easily and the accuracy of intuition increases with  accumulated experience.

Some people are better at being intuitive: experts are better at recall and recognition than novices because they acquire habits that help them process information more quickly e.g. chunking information more efficiently. Experts also use different problem solving strategies; they take in details then create a framework that best fits the data they have and then they work forwards to explore possible solutions. Novices, on the other hand, identify specific solutions and work backwards to find a way to reach that solution.

The skill of recall involves recognizing patterns, and this is easier for experts because they already know a lot about the context in which the object of recall is embedded. For example, when I walk into a new organisation I look at the way employees and managers interact, and can already see patterns emerging.

Recognition is based on noticing similarity. To determine if two things are similar you must know which features to consider. Recognition is easier for experts because they limit the complexity of what they observe to salient points. For example I use an easy way to recognize patterns of communication:  Are they close or distant? Do they talk from a dominant or submissive position?

Women are better at intuition than men due to their greater empathic accuracy and  nonverbal skills. This is partly evolutionary as differentially selected as primary  caregivers for their ability to decipher nonverbal cues. Women developed their intuition in part as a minority group to observe how others acted before taking action themselves, and to be adaptable to circumstances.

Improving your intuition can help you and your team make better, faster decisions.

RATE: Radical Agile Transformation Exercise

Consider how you can help your team members improve their intuition. The following seven steps help you educate yourself and your team in intuition:

  1. Select or create a good learning environment, that is relevant and exacting.
    How are you providing the right environment for yourself and your team?
  2. Seek feedback actively and systematically.
    What is your process for eliciting feedback? Have you systemsied it?
  3. Impose circuit breakers, become mindful of automatic reactions.
    How do you avoid jumping to conclusions or making 2+2 equal 5?
  4. Make scientific method intuitive: observe better, speculate consciously about what you see, test ideas, generalize carefully.
    What process do you have for testing ideas? How are you taking the learning back into the team?

It pays to have good intuition – how are you training yourself and your team to develop your intuitive skills?

Bibliography: References & links

Executive ESP, Mihalasky & Dean, Agor, 1986

The Nature of Intuition, Berne, 1949

Get the Change Planning Toolkit from Braden Kelley

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:

Sari van PoeljeSari van Poelje has 30 years experience of innovation on the interface of leadership and organizational development, executive coaching and transactional analysis both as a director within several multinationals and as an international consultant. Specialization in creating agile leadership teams and business innovation! She is the author of numerous articles and books on leadership and change.

Sari van Poelje

Drs Sari van Poelje is one of the world’s leading experts on creating agile and innovative leadership teams. Drs Sari van Poelje is a business consultant, executive coach and trainer. She is the managing director of Intact Academy. With offices in Budapest and Goteborg, and associated offices in Antwerp, Milan, Lyon and Paris, the company offers executive coaching, management consultancy and training programs for coaches, consultants and leaders. Sari has 30 years experience of coaching and consulting with managers and directors in a multinational business setting. She has been a consultant and coach for such diverse companies as IFF, BMW, Claas, Carmeuse, ING, Prezi and GE. Sari has also fulfilled senior director roles in various international corporations such as KLM, EMI music, ASML and Shell for 23 years.




How to Win in the Disruptive Economy: A New Playbook for Success

By Greg Heist | June 4, 2021

Leo Tilman and Charles Jacoby write in their book Agility: How to Navigate the Unknown and Seize Opportunity in a…

Read More


By Janet Sernack | May 18, 2021

In a recent article “Organizing for the future: Nine keys to becoming a future-ready company” McKinsey and Co, suggested that…

Read More


  1. Richard Haasnoot on May 12, 2019 at 8:36 am

    With all due respect, the vast majority of people inaccurately describe intuition as you have.
    This mistake is common to people in the West who do not understand the great wisdom teachings.
    Very simply….intuition is the voice of our soul. Our soul is the spark of Divinity in all of us. Unfortunately, while we all have the potential for intuition, the vast majority of us have no active intuition. We have gut feelings, flashes of insight, and new ideas. All very good stuff.
    Intuition is experienced as deep inner knowing…..we know something with greater certainty than 1 + 1 + 2. Intuition requires no inputs from our 5 senses. Because of its source, it is 100% right and best for all.
    You develop intuition through becoming inwardly quiet. Only meditation, according the great wisdom traditions can do this. The monkey mind needs to pause so you can “hear” your inner voice.
    This is not theory for me. For decades I have studied the great wisdom traditions and meditated two hours every day of my life. You know when your intuition is “on”…..the result is quietly profound.
    I know you are well intentioned. What you say helps….but it is not intuition. Richard Haasnoot

Leave a Comment