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The Neurology of Intuition

The Neurology of Intuition

Mark Klassen

Should we trust our intuition?

When the data all seems to point in a certain direction, shouldn't we make decisions backed by it? Shouldn't we ignore our gut feelings, because it's too easy for our biases to sneak into making decisions that way?

Well, it's not that simple.

Here's something you may not have known: your digestive tract is nicknamed the "second brain" because outside of the brain, it has the second highest concentration of neurons in your body. It produces 95% of the body's serotonin (usually something we associate with the brain). Research has even shown that learning and memory functions occur in your gut!

Let that sink in. Your gut learns things, and remembers things.

So a "gut feeling" may actually have far more to do with your true cognitive ability than you might have imagined.

Why is this important? Well, as leaders we are constantly required to make decisions. We need to make them quickly, and usually with incomplete data. And our decisions often have a large impact on the people that we work with.

It is very important to set up practices and procedures that do help us to remove unhelpful biases from our decision making process. A lack of these guardrails has caused massive challenges in the diversity of our teams, and in equitable decisions being made.

But we also need to find a balance. Any process that makes zero room for the gut feeling, for the (sometimes unexplainable) intuition of decision-makers, ignores the science of our neurological capabilities as humans.

I have many, many examples of either pole being fully embraced. But the middle ground is much more challenging. How have you seen this balance found?

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