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Trusting your gut without knowing why you trust your gut makes no sense.


Trusting your gut without knowing why you trust your gut makes no sense.

Experts are often not aware of the skills and strategies that they have developed and use.  They exercise them without thinking.  It’s second nature.  Often, they don’t know why they do what they do.  They just do it.  In the trade it’s what’s known as the “Paradox of Expertise.”

All of which means that those experts are very good at their jobs; that truly they are experts.  But all that expertise isn’t much use if they can’t explain to others why they did what they did – why they took a particular course of action.  And this raises some interesting issues.

Intuition then might involve recognising similarities and patterns in behaviours and events – spotting something out of the ordinary – what the military people are referring to when they talk about “Presence of the abnormal, absence of the normal.”  In that sense, it involves the rapid processing of hundreds, perhaps thousands of similar experiences – so rapid that it’s not a conscious process.

And intuition might be sensing that some aspects of a situation are more important than others – that there’s a process of ranking the significance of factors.  Again, repeated experiences of the same thing mean that it’s a largely unconscious process.  And it may be highly skilled know how – something that you’ve done so may times that practising that skill lies in your hands, not in your mind.

So, intuition can be all of these things working together – making you expert, efficient and rarely wrong.  But, to repeat the point made above, there’s not much point being expert if you can’t explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.

To do that you have to stand back, stand outside yourself and review what it is that you’re doing and catch your decision making on the wing.  This is known as Reflective Competence – the ability to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, as you do it.  If you can develop that skill then you’ll be able to help others, less expert than yourself, improve their skills and gradually become expert.