There’s a lot of noise about “gut instinct” these days – much of it good and stimulating. Why is gut hot? Surely because there are more entrepreneurs around. People are noticing more opportunities – especially in technology and social media. And, every bull market has new leaders, in addition to older companies that reinvent themselves.
The fabric of our institutions shifts with each wave of change. People often think firms in the Dow Jones Industrials have been in business forever. In truth, this profile is a constantly evolving one. Cisco Systems, Intel and Microsoft each joined the average within the last fifteen years. Yet these modern giants now seem like bastions of tradition compared to other skyrocketing upstarts that are sure to be part of the Dow of the future.
Breakthrough firms are usually parented by Gut Warriors. Everybody wants to be a great Gut Warrior – commanding the next innovation – but just how do you pull it off? This is no easy road, especially when you want to build a brand. Successful gut instinct hinges on intangibles, on mobilizing pure perception. Certainties about gut instinct are hard to come by, but some insights may be helpful.
Great gut instinct is a genuine response, not an isolated quirk. When it comes to inventiveness, I’m amazed at how often roughly the same idea seems to emerge at different points on the planet at the same time. Doubtless modern communication has accelerated this, but it hasn’t caused the phenomenon.
Consider that both Newton and Leibniz found independent routes to shaping calculus at the end of the 17th century. Darwin and Wallace recreated the same situation over a century later in describing evolution. When the time is right, movers and shakers listen to unassailable evidence that takes on a new clarity.
This same dynamic works at a visceral level, just as it does on a lofty one. Look at clips of couture runway fashion shows, and you’ll see similar footwear designs appear in a rush all over the globe. These responses spring up spontaneously overnight – original but unerringly similar.
Great gut instinct demands unflinching courage. Smart entrepreneurs know the power of packaging and logos, but they refuse to lean on props as a substitute for the truth of the brand they are trying to capture and transmit. Cosmetics are no substitute for an essential and durable vision. Nor do innovators with an instinctive vision err in the opposite way: They don’t cave in prematurely to data. Analytics will not tell you what to do, and it’s amazing how quickly supposedly objective data acquire a bias.
Great gut instinct – at least in business – is rarely solitary. Businesses demand a community of action. How can all the details be achieved by a single individual operating in isolation? A tight-knit top team surely provides important checks-and-balances. Even more significant is the cult-like zeal and common energy the core team brings to realizing a dream. This shared passion overcomes doubt and frustration . . . and focuses energy and momentum.
Great gut knows how to slow down its intake of perceptions. This is a sizable and paradoxical challenge to master. The intense barrage of information is relentless. The need is to absorb and digest it better.
Media images at 24 frames per second may seem continuous to most of us, but to birds and monks trained in the advanced art of meditation this frequency looks like a series of still-life snapshots. That’s one reason why a hawk can sweep down from such an enormous height and pinpoint its prey with breath-taking accuracy and agility.
When you increase your perceptive intensity, you also have the ability and the confidence to distinguish distractions from meaningful changes. Rather than compromising your momentum, you actually enable yourself to be more confident and exacting. Here’s another good reason to master meditation as a business edge, in addition to its health and humanistic advantages.
Great innovators like Howard Schultz at Starbucks, Steve Jobs at Apple, and Lululemon founder “Chip” Wilson share an uncanny ability to paddle the turbulent whitewater of innovation. Doubtless they know when to analyze a topic and when to focus-group an issue. But, it’s – I’m convinced – their capacity to instinctively gestate and navigate a vision that really sets the Gut Warrior breed apart in launching the right journey.