➢ When Can You Trust Your Gut?

The Perils and Powers of Executive Intuition


If people can construct a simple and coherent story, they will feel confident regardless of how well grounded it is in reality.

Intuition is a powerful affirmation or warning system, and one we have come to trust and with good reason. Our gut has saved us substantial difficulty over a lifetime, but we have all come to misery, too, and our intuition didn’t save us then.

There is evidence that intuition is adequate sometimes, but under other circumstances, can actually encourage poor decisions. In hiring talent, for example, the more you like someone, the more you should verify, because your positive feel for the person is exerting strong influence. Witness the executive who makes the hiring decision in the first 5 minutes of the interview, and spends the next hour justifying the decision. First impressions, for all their value, are not good enough. In evaluating candidates, trust your instincts when it feels wrong, verify when it feels right.

People are complicated and so are strategic decisions, and in both cases, intuition alone can be dangerous. In a McKinsey interview, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein debate the power and perils of intuition for senior executives. I found it interesting and useful.

View interview