The Gut Check Rebellion


On Twitter, I saw this little piece posted below:

While we get the sentiment, this is a not too “pro” tip.

It seems like there has recently been a return to the idea of following your gut. I’ve seen it a lot more in articles, tweets, academic articles, and other social posts — and these are often from some well respected people. But is this really great advice? Well, it depends.

If you define advice as guidance from an authoritative source, then it all comes down to the quality of the source within the context of the advice. For instance, if the advice is about what mobile app to use for your event and your source of advice is your teenage son, I’m not sure he qualifies as an authoritative source — no matter how techy or cool or current he seems to be, the context of his use of apps is not going to be sufficient to provide advice for your event.

I think a lot of the recent emphasis on this is in response/rebellion to the big data movement — which for the average business has not really gone well. While many companies are using more systems to gather more data, we have generally failed to put that data in the hands of those most qualified to analyze and make decisions with that data. Or the process for analyzing and using that data is severely flawed. I have witnessed the abuse of big data to make terrible decisions on several occasions, where the human “gut” told them differently than what the data apparently told them. The truth is, data cannot tell us anything that we don’t interpret and understand, so the problem isn’t necessarily data that we should be rebelling against. No, we should be rebelling against, and revolutionizing, how leadership (humans) approach data and expertise.

When I was a consultant, I always said that it was my job to tell executives what their employees already knew. How true that often was. The people around you can be a great “gut” for you — and they are usually a pretty good authoritative source because of their intimacy with the issues at hand.

The bottom line is, your gut is just part of the amazing human capabilities to reason and discern truth. But to say that you should be open to advice, but go with your gut makes little sense when the authoritative source is actually a strong source. Your “gut” can certainly help guide your thinking and ensure you take the time and put in the effort to consider things properly. And it can certainly help when you have no authoritative source worth listening to.

But let’s not throw out great advice and just go with your gut. That is unwise. How about we consider the best advice from the best possible sources, then make the best decisions possible — filling in the gaps with our instinct (gut).

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