Change at the Speed of Thought

High Speed Decision Making and Economic Disruption

In an age of digital (and non-digital) economic disruption we should reset our intuition, as McKinsey suggested in a recent piece.

Intuition is in essence pattern recognition.

We tend to take decisions based on intuition rather than the rationality of a spreadsheet. The more patterns we experience, the better decisions we make…at least that’s the theory.

Intuition works at a very high speed. We simply do not have the time to debate every decision we take and analyse all the possible outcomes; so our gut feeling, or intuition, is the drive behind the majority of our choices.

Intuition is like computer fingerprint recognition.

Fingerprints are not recognised by computers by the exact curvature of every single line, but by a collection of strategic point samples that, taken together, can give a level of certainty about the identity.

Intuition works a similar way. We have an immense store of experiences held in our subconscious. We may not consciously remember every detail of every incident, but we can recognise a pattern.

A most dazzling ability is our memory for faces. While we may have great difficulty describing the physical appearance of an individual to another person in words, we can instantly recognise them when they enter the room.

Intuition provides us with two valuable abilities: creativity and suspicion. It allows us to recognise what has worked in the past and apply it to a new situation — even if the situation is considerably different to the initial pattern-forming event.

But here’s the twist…

…your intuition will provide an answer to a question at high speed; unfortunately, if there is no pattern available for it to respond to it presents an answer anyway. It will give you a best-guess at what the answer should be.

So what happens when the world changes at high speed, and our patterns based on yesterday’s experiences no longer fit? McKinsey may have a point, perhaps we need to reset our intuition…but it’s a tough one to follow through on.

That’s what I think…what do you think?

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