Why ignoring gut instinct could make your projects go belly-up

26 January 2015 -


Top execs should place more value in the intuition of their teams, according to research from business psychologist and author Chantal Burns

Jermaine Haughton

Following your instincts is the best bet for successful business decisions, according to new research, which says that professionals who follow their gut feelings will be right 70% of the time. Produced by business psychology firm Star Consultancy, the study suggests that overthinking a decision can have a detrimental effect on leaders – with one fifth of managers, directors and employees experiencing damaging impacts to their companies as a result of excessive pondering.

The study – conducted by state-of-mind and performance expert Chantal Burns for her new book, Instant Motivation – questioned 600 male and female employees comprised of non-managers (36%), line managers (31%), managers (14%), senior managers (10%) and directors (9%). An overwhelming majority of hunches that were “overruled with intellect”, according to the report, were later proven correct. Indeed, 21% of respondents admitted that ignoring their instincts had yielded negative effects on their work, or on a particular project.

Despite such overwhelming findings indicating that professionals should put their hearts over their heads more often during business decisions, the report concluded that many managers are either held back by the fear of using their instinct, or feel unable to do so. Of the 77% who routinely ignore their instincts or gut feelings, the Top Three reasons were a lack of confidence, a lack of power to make the decisions, or because they felt “overpowered” by colleagues.

Burns says professionals need to be “more confident” in following their instincts. “This unique research,” she said, “adds to a growing body of evidence showing that most of our daily decisions are not rational, logical thought processes, but are inner-directed via instinct, intuition and gut feeling.

“We often know what the right answer is, or we at least have a strong sense of the right direction. Yet many of us ignore our hunches, which in many cases turn out to be valid. These findings strongly suggest that we should all learn to be more confident in trusting our wisdom and better judgement, which in turn will help us to make better choices and decisions at work and in life.”

The study makes a distinction between decisions made based on instinct and haste. Burns advises that verdicts made in a hurry without the necessary information are not advisable, as 65% of respondents who have done so later admitted feelings of regret. Furthermore, 69% said they would rather delay making complex choices if they feel that their heads are “not in the right place”.

Burns stressed that executives have a key role to play in recognising and encouraging staff intuition. “My research reveals how the biggest barriers to better decision making are a lack of clarity, being overwhelmed or feeling insecure, and this causes us to make rushed decisions or to over-think them,” she said.

“The good news is that these barriers are all state-of-mind driven and can be addressed through educating management and staff in how to bring more mental clarity to the job at hand. Rather than shooting down or belittling hunches, leaders need to better recognise the value of employee intuition, and encourage staff to trust and use their own instincts and judgement more often. As the research shows, three out of four times your hunch will pay off, and that will save time, resources – and, ultimately, benefit the bottom line.”

For more ideas on management thought processes, sign up to this forthcoming CMI seminar.

Powered by Professional Manager