The Intuitive Compass: A book review by Bob Morris

The Intuitive Compass: Why the Best Decisions Balance Reason and Instinct
Francis P. Cholle
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2012)

How to “find solutions beyond the boundaries of what we know”

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faith servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

Francis Cholle introduces his book with Einstein’s comments and so do I now as I begin my review of this brilliant book in which Cholle explains why and how the best decisions are based on a balance of reason and instinct. Neuroscience has only begun to explain the nature, extent, and impact of the subconscious mind but we already know that it plays a major role when judgments are made. With regard to purchase decisions, for example, Martin Lindstrom has much of value to share in his latest book, Brandwashed, based on revelations of research using fMRI.

Cholle explains how to establish a productive relationship with the part of life that is not logical so we can find solutions beyond the boundaries of what we know. Hence the importance of the Intuitive Compass, a capability rather than a device that “helps make sense of chaos and leverage its power. It is an actionable model that applies Intuitive Intelligence in practical situations. It is based on fundamental dynamics of human performance: the tension between linear efficiency and random play, and the synergy between reason and instinct.”

According to Cholle, recent research in neuroscience indicates that there are three key facts that may change forever the way we think about and approach creativity:

1. Instinct plays a leading role in complex decision making.
2. Eighty percent of our grey matter is dedicated to nonconscious thought.
3. Imaginative play is one of the most direct means of activating our creativity and problem-solving facilities.

“These three discoveries open up unprecedented opportunities for progress, creativity, and efficiency, if we only embrace the instinctual and unconscious aspects of the mind and the randomness and chaos of life.” Choler explains that the Intuitive Compass has four cardinal points: Reason in the north, Results in the east, Instinct in the south, and Play in the west. By breaking down the functioning of the mind and the process of decision-making, the Executive Compass “helps us leverage the specific advantages of each of the four quadrants and create synergy among the four, which when they come together allow us to make optimum decisions.” Cholle characterizes it as a “snapshot in time,” one that gives feedback for exactly where one is at a given moment in regard to a specific topic. Determinations thus vary in terms of factors that include time, location, and the nature and extent (i.e. degree of seriousness, potential implications and consequences) of the given decision to be made.

Although he provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel within seven lively and eloquent chapters of material, Cholle adds an especially valuable device: a Web icon inserted in margins throughout the book that invites the reader to seek additional tools and resources at I also urge each reader to complete various questionnaires, including a longer one at the website, that serve as self-diagnostics. Their value will be determined entirely by the extent to which the responses are forthright.

Neuroscience is now well along in an on-going process by which to “unwrap” the “sacred gift” to which Einstein refers. However, much remains to be revealed. Stay tuned.


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