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That Gut Feeling May Not Be Gas – It’s Probably Your Brain Talking to You

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Even though I was new to the organization and not exactly a technical expert on the job itself, I knew we needed to take a specific action. I had a feeling; that famous gut feeling that we all get from time to time. At the time our organization was in the throes implementing Total Quality Management and we were all worshiping the ideas of W. Edwards Deming. One of Deming’s precepts was that decisions should only be made when supported by data; gut feelings were to be suppressed. Since I knew any decision not accompanied by significant statistical data would be questioned, I hesitated and ignored my gut.

It turned out my gut was right. While the result wasn’t disastrous, had I made the call my gut told me was right, we would have avoided problems later in the day. Ever since then I’ve listened to those gut feelings. They’ve never let me down.

This doesn’t mean leaders should disregard data or not carefully evaluate all available information, in favor of making decisions based on what might just be gas. Quite the contrary. Leaders should take whatever time is available to make decisions based on careful analysis of all available data. To do otherwise leads to knee-jerk reactions that cause more problems than they solve.

But, your gut is an important source of data too and should not be ignored. What we call a gut feeling, some call it intuition, is really information flowing from the subconscious mind. Deep in your brain there’s a memory, or piece of knowledge which, while you may not consciously remember it, is providing information to help you make a decision. You may not be able to explain why you feel that a particular course of action is correct – you just know it is. While it may not be the stuff of spreadsheets and histograms, the information those gut feelings provide come from your experience, which is a pretty important source of data. Of course, like any other source of information, even gut feelings should be backed up with other sources of information when possible.

But that feeling should not be ignored.

Even though I have no empirical data to prove this theory, I know it’s right. I have a gut feeling.



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