Sense vs Intuition

Sense vs Intuition


Hi. I’ve been working for the last week out here in Germany, near Potsdam at the Albert Einstein Institute. The scientists and mathematicians here have a superhuman ability to switch between sensing and intuition. They’re able to dig deep into the most exquisite, superb, complex detail, and then pull all the way back out, to understand what this means in universal, cosmological terms, and then to use that insight to predict things further, right down at the level of the most complex, exquisite detail. And like I say, this is a kind of a superhuman ability. And what it makes me think about is what happens with us mere mortals, when we’re trying to do the same thing, because for most of the rest of us, we don’t have this ability to go all the way in and then to pull ourselves all the way back out. We tend to have a preference. What do I mean by preference? Well, just like this clicker that I use for this video, if it’s lying on the table in front of me, I generally prefer to pick it up with my right hand, because I’m right-handed, but I am kind of capable of doing the same thing with my left hand, it just takes a bit more effort. And the same thing happens in thinking terms. So there’s something called the Stroop Effect. The Stroop Effect is an experiment which shows just how easy and difficult it is to access different parts of your brain. So I’m going to run a little test, and you can do it for yourself. I’m going to show you three colours, and I’m going to show you the three colours three different times, and I want you to say out loud what color you’re seeing, so if there are words there, the words are irrelevant, I’m just interested in using what color you’re seeing. So here’s the first one. And here’s the second one. And here’s the third one. And what you probably saw was that as this test went on, it became increasingly difficult as you were having to think consciously more and more about what you were actually having to say. You could do it the third time around, but it was much more difficult than in the earlier stages of the test. And the same is true when we’re trying to access those different capabilities that we have in our brain, because we all have a preference, or most of us who aren’t super-humans have a preference, either for sensing or intuition. So sensing is that ability to drill in and grasp the detail and go further into the detail, and intuition is the opposite, it’s to join the dots, it’s to see how things fit together. Now, where is this important? It’s important that you know what your preference is, and it’s also often important that you understand what other people’s preferences are as well, because sometimes you can end up communicating at the wrong level, maybe if you have a preference for sensing, you will prefer to dig in more, and more, and more of the detail, and you you’re supplying more and more of the detail in communication to other people, now that’s fine if their preference is the same, but if their preference is to understand the big picture, then all that you’re doing is frustrating them as they’re trying to access, and trying to build up a picture of how this all fits together. Similarly, if it’s the other way around, if all that you’re doing is setting the context and showing how things fit together, and you’re joining the dots you’re going to be frustrating a person who’s really keen to see you access the detail. The other place where it’s important is to understand which skills and which preferences are applicable to which tasks is if we’re thinking about something like reviewing a legal contract, and we might find that we need to access both of those skills. So I need to be able to look at the contract as a whole, to be able to understand what does it say, what does it mean, what are the risks, what am I on the hook for, how does this all fit together structurally, but also it’s really important that we’re able to go into the fine detail, and make sure that that fine detail represents what we actually understand the contract is going to say. So, being able to access both sides of these, and recognise when these different skills are important is very useful. The other thing is, for some of us, we do have a better developed ability to move between these two parts, and it can be super frustrating for us if we’re working with other people who struggle a little bit more to either go into the fine detail and to be attentive towards the fine detail, or conversely for us to be able to pull back out and explain the context and show how this fits together. So the takeaway from today is really, understanding where your preference lies, are you an in the detail person, or are you a join the dots and big picture person? But also, when you’re thinking about communicating, or the way that the work is being managed, just try and understand what is the appropriate skill and the appropriate strengths, so you can make sure that you know you’re the right person for the job, or that person is the right person for the job, and if not, you may be getting in different people, with different skills to work on that particular task, or if that’s not possible you’re making extra efforts to ensure that you’re deploying the appropriate skills, even if it is, in those kinds of situations, as difficult as seeing the word “red” but pronouncing the colour “green”. So that’s it for today, I’ll see you in the next video, I’m Gareth, see you next time.

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