“Use your head” or “Go with your gut”?

By Ida N. from Ivory Coast (West Africa)

“Use your head” or “Go with your gut” is an advice we hear or experience several times in our lifetime.  As humans we always face obstacles or issues to deal with constantly in our professional and personal environments. No matter if it is a minor or major question, we have to figure out a way to solve or resolve the problem. In this process we are mostly guided by personal or relatives’ previous experience and we can also call for a logical solution or if the two first options don’t work, we can go for intuitive alternatives. Don’t you think that the appeal of intuition is something we choose as a last option when we face a lack of any other alternatives? Or be considered as a beginning of a logical thought that leads to a rational thinking process? In another world, can intuition be considered as a starting subconscious entrepreneurial process in looking at optimal solution in the long run? Can we really dissociate “Use your head” from “Go with your gut”?

I am not going to discuss the intuition we use when we get stuck in an exam with multiple choice questions. This situation of chance game is based on 100% chance of success or failure. While answering a question by guessing during a test, you take the risk of making a mistake. This is an irreversible situation that I am excluding from the perimeter of discussion. I will only consider situation where there is possibility to test an intuition in an iterative manner. For example, your car broke in the middle of nowhere or you just start a new job and an important customer call you to relate an incident that occurred on an order the company have executed and waiting from that to provide him an answer. When you face this type of problem, whatever the environment, first you will try to understand the source, the system and the cause, within an analytical procedure. After this step is completed, you will start to figure out how you can solve the situation. At this point, you will try to refer to similar cases that you have already experienced personally or that someone in your entourage already faced. You are going to try to solve the problem by using your experience. Often at the same time, depending on the circumstances, you will try to ask for advice. In the case this doesn’t work, you will then start to use your brain. This time you are looking for a rational method to handle and address the problem. You will need some skills or it is going to be difficult or impossible to find any kind of solution. At this stage, intuition skills will enter in the game; when there is no evidence of immediate logical and rational solution. So as you go further in the process of looking for a solution, generally intuition is used as a last alternative.

If we push our mind a bit farther, it could be the beginning of our entrepreneurial skill, which is put in action. Indeed, all discovery starts with intuition, followed by a methodical procedure to transform an unproved insight in a new discovery and rational possibility to get rid of an obstacle; permanently or completely. This is nothing more than a scientific procedure that is commonly used by entrepreneurs every day.

This procedure can be summarized as following:

Issue => Experience /Questions => Ideas => Iteration tests => Solution => Proof of result = NEW DISCOVERY

My answer to the question, “Which do you think is a better advice ‘Use your head’ or ‘Go with your gut’?”, will be the question “Can we really dissociate ‘Use your head’ to ‘Go with your gut’?”,  and my answer to this last question is NO. Why? Because for me, “Use your head” means “Use first your experience and secondly your skills and finally your common sense/intuition” to figure out a way to end a problem.  All these steps are combined of initiatives from one to another and constitute different stages of a logical procedure in researching an effective solution. Intuition in this case, has to be considered as a beginning of research for a solution, which apparently didn’t exist at the time and had to be found. Again, in certain cases, you will not have the time to conduct instantaneously iteration tests. But as I previously said this can be a long procedure; the efficient solution may take a while to be found.

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