Entrepreneurial Intuition has become a mystery and folklore of sorts since Steve Jobs popularized it with his quotes. If Jobs used his unaided intuition to create a trillion dollar company, then, he was most definitely a statistical anomaly.The mystic nature of intuition and its supernatural powers get amplified in our mind when Jobs credited India and Tibetan teachings during a spiritual sabbatical in the countryside. After all, for many Westerners, India is a deep well of spiritual wisdom.
While Intuition worked for Steve Jobs, it may also work against others. Recent research in Australia indicates that over-reliance on “Intuition” may be costing businesses. Clearly, there is something about the quality of intuition that sets Steve Jobs apart from these small businesses and most entrepreneurs.
Is it even possible to benchmark the “quality of intuition”? Can we pin down something as amorphous and mystical as Intuition and benchmark its performance level? Yes, we can, if we can agree to define Intuition and its various features. In this essay, I will attempt to highlight some of these features and it will soon become clear why there is so much confusion on the topic.
Good quality intuition should have the following three main characteristics :
a) It should provide a sense of guidance about which direction to chose.
b) The outcome should be measurable and quantifiable so that we can evaluate the success of the process.
c) It should be accompanied by some sort of feedback (interoceptive signals and/or environmental cues) to indicate that we are on track.
Let us build a simple framework to assess the QoI (Quality of Intuition). We can re-frame the three pillars of good intuition as Predictive Sense, Continuous Feedback, and Validation. It is very clear from proven results that the entrepreneurial quality of Steve Jobs intuition was far better than the quality of intuition of the SME’s who relied on their intuition and it ended up costing them. While an improvement across all three pillars would significantly improve anyone’s intuition, there is a fundamental and foundation element that is required to improve success.
This additional building block on which the pillars are standing is “Experience” and not only any type of experience but good quality experiences.I guess here many of you will ask, how do we outline the difference between “good quality” or “bad quality experiences”. Very simply, I would define good quality experiences as events which may not have been enjoyable when they occurred but led to better quality foresight for future events.
On the other hand, bad quality experiences are experiences which may have been great enjoyable experiences when we experienced them but led to poor foresight and minimal learning. We have already discussed in another article “Key Differences between Instincts, Intuition and Insight” that we define Intuition as “Right Hemispheric Processes” which result in acquired experiences over our lifetime which when aggregated and clustered together form an individual wisdom baseline. We use this “Individual Wisdom Baseline” as a benchmark or guiding experiences using which we take future decisions or actions.
It is now plausible to theorize that the quality of experiences of Steve Jobs in combination with the three pillars led to a more superior “Entrepreneurial Intuition” than those of the SME’s. We have also discussed in “Sixth Sense, Predictive Analytics, and Triangulation” that predictive sense development is a continuously active process rather than a passive process except when we have a well developed, well educated and well calibrated “Internal Wisdom Baseline”. The quality of predictive sense is a proportional result of the quality of our past experiences as well as how often we calibrate our “Internal Wisdom Baseline”. In complex and fast moving environment such as the startup environment, we need frequent calibration and updation of our wisdom baseline. In static or passive environments, we can do without the extra work.
So, the million dollar question I pose for everyone is whether we can meditate our way through improving our Entrepreneurial Intuition? The second question is whether Steve Jobs really learned “Intuition” when he visited India or did he sharpen his use of one or all of his existing pillars of the “Quality of Intuition”.
Steve Jobs was historically known to be very stubborn and tenacious at the same time. His stubbornness led to poor ventures such as Apple Lisa, Macintosh TV. The Apple III, The Powermac G4 Cube and even finding the right product-market fit for NeXT computers. His vision for NeXT is so out of touch with reality that he clearly did not see it. As a result of these good quality experiences which were clearly not enjoyable, Jobs improved a key aspect of his Entrepreneurial Intuition i.e Pattern Recognition of good disruptive and profitable ventures versus bad ventures. Once again, as we discussed in the article on “Insights“, Insights can be divided into Hindsight, Present Insights, Foresight (Fr) and Prescriptive Foresight. Prescriptive Foresight (Pr) which helps us take the right action at the right time towards capitalizing quality outputs of our foresight. Without this ability to take action at the right time, simply having good pattern recognition of a potential venture is not good enough. It should lead to results.
Domain knowledge, Domain expertise and actionable pattern recognition within the given context at the right time is a key property of good entrepreneurial intuition. In his quotes and in his biography, Steve Jobs forgot to mention that his intuition was not ordinary intuition. Job’s entrepreneurial intuition was the result of significant good quality experiences over his lifespan and his visit to India simply enhanced his discovery of his predictive sense as well the quality of prescriptive foresight.
Recent research by E Sadler-Smith also confirms the above model. E Sadler-Smith highlights in his research report that “Entrepreneurial intuition is the affectively-charged recognition and evaluation of a business venturing opportunity arising as a result of involuntary, rapid, non-conscious, associative processing. This article integrates theories of dual-processing and models of business venturing (opportunity recognition, evaluation, and exploitation) in a ‘default-intervention model of entrepreneurial intuition’ which links the defaults of intuitive expertise, cognitive style, somatic state and the affect heuristic with System 2 interventions and the contingencies of the decision environment.”
Entrepreneurial Intuition improves in the field when entrepreneurs build their ventures or observe others building their ventures. Entrepreneurial Intuition requires domain expertise, improved quality of predictive foresight as well as prescriptive foresight. Entrepreneurial Intuition develops while simmering in the hot melting pot of good quality experiences and the three pillars (Predictive Sense, Validation, and Continuous Feedback). As discussed in “The Role of Luck in Life and Startups“, unconscious timing is another aspect that plays a sophisticated and advanced role in success in virtually all areas of our life.
The key lesson for entrepreneurs from the above understanding is that they should lay less emphasis on meditation and mindfulness and rather work in and around entrepreneurial hotspots which can significantly improve their quality of experiences. Entrepreneurs should continuously expand and broaden their professional horizon and learn to validate the responses from their intuitive hunches and other interoceptive signals in the way of their outcomes. Blindly hoping for developing supernatural entrepreneurial intuition is a recipe for disaster.
As seen in many real-life examples in the world including by ABSOLUT Vodak in its search for “Strategic Insights“, entrepreneurs need to develop a full scape capability across the spectrum. They need to start searching for “Elusive & Rare Insights” or getting the Eureka Moment and then figuring out how to move “Beyond Eureka”. Real life success or entrepreneurial success occurs “beyond eureka” while academic success is possible much before this stage.