Here is an excerpt from an article written by Steve Tobak for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.
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I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching a football game where the kicker is about to attempt a field goal to win the game, my hands grip the chair, I hold my breath, and I wonder what’s going through the guy’s mind.
When Michigan’s Brendan Gibbons nailed a 37-yard field goal to win the Sugar Bowl in overtime, guess what was going through his mind? Brunette girls. No kidding, that’s what inspires the guy. And it works.
We can’t all be great athletes, so some of us have to “win the big game,” so to speak, with our intuition, our ideas. Which brings us to a subject of much confusion and debate in the business world. What inspires “big idea” people? Asked another way, where do big ideas come from?
Actually, many so-called “left brain” or analytical people I’ve known over the years, including an awful lot of managers and executives, think the whole concept of some people being more intuitive or inspirational than others is pure mythology. Well, maybe it is and maybe it’s not. But scientists say that intuition can be a powerful factor in human decision-making and idea creation.
For what it’s worth, I agree.
Following your Intuition can be as simple as listening to a little voice in your head, trusting a feeling or sense of warning, or following your own internal “focus group of one,” against the “better judgment” of many.
Where does it come from? Good question. It’s probably a vestige of an evolutionary survival mechanism. An “intuitive” caveman sensing danger, for example, would hide in his cave and avoid being eaten by some blood-crazed saber-toothed tiger. Since he survived, he’d pass that instinct on. At least that’s the theory.
In any case, human intuition has probably been on the decline for some time, owing to an increasing dependence on our overdeveloped neocortex, logical reason, and technology, and not to mention a significant decline in people living in caves with bloodthirsty predators around.
Don’t even get me started on our newly found addiction to gadgets, social media, and instantaneous communication. You can’t sense or intuit anything when you’re distracted. Personally, I think that’s sad, considering there’s at least anecdotal evidence that intuition plays a significant role in scientific, technological, and business innovation.
For example, against all logic, Albert Einstein was obsessed with light. That passion for light and his famous thought experiments where he pondered what he would see if he rode on a beam of light led to the special theory of relativity and E=MC2, one of the greatest discoveries in the history of physics.
In his book Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen says he came up with the big idea that made Microsoft more money than just about any business in history: Charging per-copy royalties for the IBM PC operating system instead of a flat license fee.
And what possessed entrepreneur Mark Cuban to sell Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.9 billion in stock and then immediately hedge that stock against a market crash at the very peak of the dot-com bubble? All the so-called experts rode the market down and lost trillions in investment capital.
Now, I’m no Einstein, but I have worked together with a large number of innovative entrepreneurs, engineers, and executives over the decades. In my experience, there are five relatively common factors that inspire intuitive people and ultimately lead to big ideas.
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Steve Tobak is a consultant and former high-tech senior executive. He’s managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a management consulting and business strategy firm. Contact Steve, follow him on Facebook, or connect on LinkedIn.