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How To Make Your Intuition Work

A Practical Framework

The only real valuable thing is intuition.

— Albert Einstein

Intuition. That alluring, seductive, mysterious force that seems to follow all great successes of our times like a loyal shadow. The world of business and beyond is full of legends where the person in question just knew in their bones that it was right course of action despite the prevailing contrary opinions, and was eventually proven right, reaping rich rewards.

From Steve Jobs to Albert Einstein, the fan club of intuition is impressive and illustrious. So much so, that intuition is almost a pop culture force which figures everywhere in our lives — from intuitive managers to intuitive designs, it ultimately all boils down intuition.

Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.

— Steve Jobs

For a force this potent, intuition, however, is a resource that is freely accessible to all. All of us possess intuition, and while its efficacy varies depending on our own ability to harness it, our given reserves of intuition rarely discriminate between individuals. It is safe to presume that all of us have equal intuitive instincts. What varies is our ability to put our intuition to an effective use. ‘Effective’ being the operative word.

Because intuition is a freely available resource, it is also a highly misunderstood one. It is easy to confuse intuition with our assumptions and preconceived notions; with an inherent confirmation bias that favor our line of thought and belief; or just plain, old patterned thinking where we are replicating thought patterns that have been entrenched in us by virtue of various social, systemic and personal conditioning.

Come to think of it, except for those rare instances where that gut feeling is actually strong enough to rattle and echo in your very bones; it is very hard to distinguish a true wave of intuition from any of the above.

And so, the question is, do you still want to trust your gut?

The answer is plain and obvious. Of course. Because to let go of something as powerful as human intuition just because there are a few pitfalls is not only stupid, it is almost disastrous in terms of lost potential.

So we need to our intuition. And we need to avoid the pitfalls.

You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.

— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

There has been plenty of research dealing with intuition and there are multiple tools and techniques, both technology-driven and otherwise that promise to help you harness your intuition without letting your biases interfere.

Most of us, however, don’t and won’t resort to AI driven models or read strategy heavy journal articles to harness our intuition. Not as a starting point anyway. What we need is something simple and straightforward and universally applicable. A sort of an easy practical framework.

Enter The 4I Framework

The 4I framework is what we came up with while designing our modules. It is essentially a way to filter and focus all the strategies that are available for harnessing intuition and distill them into a simple, applicable model.

Being an extremely intuition dependent person myself, it was sort of a worrying thought that it was so easy to fall prey to the pitfalls and go wrong. And since logic, planning and micromanagement have never been my strong suit, the prospect of losing out on intuition as a resource is even more crippling for me. I needed a way, an easy way to make the most of my intuitive approach, while avoiding the drawbacks. 4I framework was, hence, a solution to a problem that was very personal and important for me.

The 4I framework, for all intents and purposes, is not an out of the box, never heard before model of decision making/problem solving. It was never meant to be. It is merely a simplified way to check ourselves during any crucial decision making process to ensure that we neither fall into the one of the intuition pitfalls nor do we ignore our gut completely in favor of workable but ultimately dead data and figures.

So, How Does It Work?

When an idea emerges from intuition, you run it by the 4I framework…or rather the rest of the 3Is — Identify, Ideate and Implement. And here is how the 3Is work:

First, You Identify the problem/issue/trigger behind the idea

Which means answer the four Ws and one H.

· What is the problem?

· Why is it a problem?

· How is it a problem?

· Where is the problem?

· Who are the stakeholders?

It helps if you write down the problem/issue/pain point you are trying to address or that triggered the idea in the first place in 25–50 words. In doing so, you are forced to think and rethink the issue from various angles, often confronting the perspectives and pitfalls you and your team may have missed in the first reading/assessment of the idea. It is the kind of fine distillation that our brain is unaccustomed to, and which often ends up throwing interesting results.

Next, You Ideate

· List the alternatives.

· Brainstorm.

· Analyze each alternative in terms of impact and feasibility.

· Convince or be convinced. (Crucial when working in a team)

· Be objective. Choose the most practical option.

Lastly, You Implement.

· Re-examine the hurdles and resource availability. Adapt, if required.

· Make a task list.

· Plan the tasks

· Assign the tasks (to your teammates, if its team; or to your own available time slots, if its a solo gig)

· Set out a progress assessment plan

As a part of the 4I framework, this last step is actually a step right before you jump into the final execution fray; usually a dry run, or sort of a beta test phase depending on the kind of problem/idea you are dealing with.

But of course, you can step directly into the main implementation phase as well. It is, ultimately, a very subjective, situation based decision that will depend upon the kind of idea/problem we are applying the 4I framework to.

Inside Out or Outside In?

The model works best inside out. Which means you start from a point of intuition, a sort of a wild thought and then systematically break it down using the 3Is — getting a clearer picture of the pros and cons as well as strengths and weaknesses of the idea. 3Is are also a great way to create an execution strategy for any intuitive idea and give your flight of fantasy, a concrete, workable shape.

However, the model will work outside in as well. That is for the ideas where you start from the 3Is and use the last I, intuition as the final criterion. Because ultimately, no plan can possibly succeed if it doesn’t feel right no matter how perfectly it aligns with the 3Is. That sort of a subjective assessment may seem frivolous, but it is always worthwhile to revisit the idea with fresh eyes if it doesn’t sit well with the final and most important ‘I’ — intuition.

As you would have noticed, the framework is extremely open-ended and flexible. It is by deliberate design because the model is supposed to be as simple and as universal as possible. And hence 4I framework can be used as a preliminary tool for everything from writing a blog to designing content strategy to creating product development models to client servicing issues to any entrepreneurial/start-up venture.

The 4I framework is deceptively simple and easy. But in terms of application, it is an effective mental tool to make sure you make the most of your intuition while eliminating all sorts of biases and notions. It is also a great way to filter the noise and zero in on that actual, bone deep gut feeling, and then use it as a spring board for your plans. Like any tool, it is neither fool-proof nor a readymade answer to all your problems. It is merely a framework that can be and should be used as a thought-structuring tool, a map that can get your ideas on track and get you started on the planning part. And because it is so easy, 4I framework is a sort of a mental tool that you can master and make a habit out of, and use it to add method to your madness and get maximum output out of even highly chaotic thoughts, irrespective of the ultimate fate of the idea or plan in question. Ultimately the path to true success is paved with learning intentions, and irrespective of whether an idea succeeds or fails, we owe it to the idea and to ourselves to ensure maximum learning happens along the way.

  • The 4I Framework was designed by us, that is, me and my co-founder Amit Sharma as a part of our leadership and happiness training modules at Creative Procepts, India’s one of its kind leadership and happiness training initiative. If you want to know more about our work at Creative Procepts, or if you are interested in our workshops/programs, drop us a line at creativeprocepts@gmail.com.
  • If you liked this and/or found it helpful, don’t forget to click on that little green ❤! For more updates about latest pieces, future podcats and ebook, please subscribe below!

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Runjhun Noopur

Runjhun Noopur

Author, Nirvana in a Corporate Suit. (https://amzn.to/2Luu8CY). Entrepreneur. Happiness Coach. Subscribe to my newsletter at https://runjhun.substack.com/

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