Intuition - living in the water

Hang around the Outlier office long enough and you’re sure to hear me say "get in the water" a few times to my team. What I mean by that is "Do the thing." Whether it’s, "Live the culture" or "Explore a new market" or "Underwrite a potential deal." I am someone who does best when I’m "in the water."

You’ll also hear me ask people if they feel like they are on the beach looking at the waves. I liken this to watching the market, seeing how others are faring in the water. I find my best intuitions by being in the water as opposed to on the beach -- but others are the opposite.

What do I mean by intuitions? There are several definitions to this word, but mine is "I just know." I love the phrase 'when you know you know.' I'm sure there are those out there that hate it's ambiguity, but I've embraced it because I've learned that an intuition isn't what you should do, it's where you should start.

I used to follow my intuitions blindly — this feels right frequently turned into immediate action. I'd think 'we should do XYZ' and we were off doing XYZ. I've recently made a shift to fully embrace, but not act on, my intuitions. To use them as information instead of instructions. What do I mean?

A colleague of mine recently gave me a book called "Team of Teams" (great book, put the link in there). As I read it I had very strong intuitions that we needed to deploy this type of structure in our company; mission based teams. My intuition was to 'jump in' and start implementing. Instead of doing that I noticed the intuition, I unpacked it, I shared with my team, and I leaned into it. I even went further into reading more on organizational structures from other companies like Zappos, Red Hat, W.L Gore, IDEO, and others. My intuition was RIGHT that organization structure is critical, it was RIGHT that we need a unique and innovative idea meritocracy and create a company that's a living organism instead of a hierarchical command and control model. If we had jumped in, we would have lost out on all the learnings that we've had by further exploring it. Instead of a 10% solution we are on our way to an 80% solution. So how can you start turning your intuitions into actions? Here are three steps:

  1. Track them. Write them down, track them over time. I use Asana and I have an 'intuition' tag. See where certain intuitions take you and whether they prove to be true or less true. Tracking this over time not only helps you notice them it helps you pattern match when and how your intuitions happen.

  2. Unpack and share them. I used to have a hard time sharing my intuitions — who am I to believe that somehow I 'know' what to do? Since I've repositioned the "what to do" to "where we should look" or "what we should explore" it's much easier for me to communicate my intuitions and unpack them further individually and collectively with members of our team.

  3. Put legs under them. My business partner's favorite phrase around our office. "Great intuition, let’s put legs under it". Do the research, figure out the root cause, build a plan. If you do that you’ll take your 10% intuition to an 80% solution.


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