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Playing Hunches For Better Business

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In our everyday lives, we use these inelegant, homey old proverbs all the time, and we believe them. My first impression of a new acquaintance often proves accurate. If I have a hunch that a guest I’m expecting for dinner will cancel at the last minute, the phone usually rings to confirm that hunch.

In the business world, however, we view hunches as suspect. After all, they’re not scientific. They’re not based on logic and reason, those mainstays of our culture. We frequently ignore and discount our instincts. There’s even a sexual stereotype in our attitude toward hunches; we’ve all heard of “women’s intuition,” but doesn’t “men’s intuition” sound odd? Nevertheless, ignoring our instincts, our intuitions, and our gut feelings in business may be a big mistake.

When evaluating the pros and cons surrounding a decision, we weigh all the factors that we can rationally assess. We do spreadsheets, financial analyses, market surveys and demographic research. These are important tools; however, there are many factors they can’t assess — such as how customers will react to a new product or what the next popular fad will be. Sure, we can make educated guesses based on past reactions and past fads, but we can’t really be certain.

That’s where hunches come in and they should be taken seriously. You have a feeling in your gut that customers won’t like the product that your staff wants to develop. You just KNOW that certain changes need to be made before you can successfully sell that widget. Your instincts tell you that the next big fad will be a return to Hula Hoops.

You may very well be right on all counts, because hunches are not really just feelings that come out of nowhere. They are conclusions drawn by your subconscious mind based on a lifetime of hard-won experience.

Next time you get a strong hunch, try going with it. Your instincts might pleasantly surprise you.

Using your Instincts

•   Test your instincts on small decisions first.

•   Don’t confuse wishful thinking with a true hunch.

•   Get input from others; their hunches are valuable too.


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