People often have unrealistic expectations for intuition, sometimes thinking it’s a crystal ball, magic lamp or answer giver. This usually stems from trying to see it as we do cognition. However, if cognition is a map, intuition is our compass. If cognition is our street address, then intuition is our city, state or nation.
Of course, visualizations help to differentiate between cognition and intuition. I use the schematic below that way. Cognition represents logic and reason, easily connecting each point because one naturally follows the other. One thought connects the next.
Intuition on the other hand is like trying to find the best line to represent a group of observations. It doesn’t connect them as easily and new points don’t always fall on or near the line; however, taken as a group, our observations form a pattern giving a sense of direction to them. Thus, intuition narrows our possibilities. More significantly, we don’t need many observations to get this directional sense.
For example, we can predict tendencies of people simply by looking at what they buy. In some cases, if we know their favorite car, beverage, hobby, store and book, we can make predictions about their favorite restaurant. Political campaigns take such consumer information and make accurate predictions about what candidates and issues potential voters might prefer. We can form psychological profiles of people from consumer – and other – activities, similar to what we see on crime shows when tracking criminals.
While these examples are very conscious, we unconsciously pick up patterns too. These are translated into feelings, emotions and finally intuitions. That is why it’s important to listen to how we feel. It might be our intuition giving us some direction, giving us a north. In this sense, intuition can be our guiding star.
Related link: My Intuition White Paper (3 pages)