Gut Instinct is your Second Brain


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Almost two decades ago, I worked for this hardcore sales driven organization, and we had got a sign-off from the CEO to take a large group of sales reps and distributors to Australia on a 10 day vacation. 

Under normal circumstance such documents were routinely filed. But this time around I was a little more careful to keep it in a safe and accessible place. There had been many such incentive trips; and this was no different, except that it was a much larger group, a longer duration and more expensive. I decided to be a little cautious.

Fast-forward two years. My boss called me sounding extremely anxious. An audit seemed to infer that he had used company funds, without approval, to organize the overseas junket. It was a grave accusation with even graver consequences, if proven. I pulled out the document, stashed away on a gut instinct. It saved the day, and probably his job.

Why did I get this gut instinct to secure that particular document? How and why did I anticipate a problem?

Former Sprint CEO, Gary Forsee said, ‘your gut is nothing more than an accumulation of your experiences. Its your second brain.’

That statement explains it concisely. Your gut is your second brain, also known as the sub-conscious mind that we associate with instinct. How does this work?

In cricket, a batsman knows exactly where the ball will pitch in the split second it leaves the bowlers hand. A tennis player knows which way to run almost as the opponent’s racquet hits the ball. A boxer instinctively knows which way his adversary is going to feign a move and is ready with his own move.

How do they know these things in that split second? It is gut instinct; where years of experiential data is compressed into an instantaneous analysis for an instinctive action. 

Yet the common counsel about gut is, don’t listen to it; and that may be sound advice for some. Decisions made by gut can be wrong if you lack experience, or if that experience is flawed. The brain then uses insufficient or flawed data to analyze and make a decision, which is no more than then conjecture, or what we often call a hunch, and that can possibly be way off the mark.

Steve Jobs was notorious for shunning market research and going with his gut. But with a global lack of experience in the digital industry at that point in time, even his gut instincts were more akin to hunches back then. It didn’t work too well for him. He had a string of failures with Apple I, Apple II, NeXT and even the early Macintosh didn’t do well. But the second time around, he had the experience from his failures. His gut instinct disrupted and revolutionized the music and telecom technologies and industries. We got the iPod, iTunes, iPad and the iPhone. The rest, as we say, is history.

So, don’t ignore your gut instinct. It’s your second brain.

But be prudent when you react to it. If you have the experience, it will guide you well. If you lack experience, tread cautiously. If you’ve failed, learn from it to hone your instincts.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sunil Panikker
Sunil Panikker is a business consultant specializing in customer service, operations and business strategy. He has honed his expertise over 30 years of experience, working in senior management positions, with companies having global footprints, and responsibilities that have been cross-functional & multi-locational. His blog shares the experience and expertise assimilated from managing customer experience across multiple diverse industries.


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