In today’s business world, we seem to be governed by figures and ruled by numbers, while taking decisions based on statistics and financial models. Basically, there is nothing wrong with that, but, when companies race from one quarterly results reporting to the next without questioning the implications beyond their Excel sheets, I really wonder how this will lead to long-term engagement by management, employees and investors.
In many companies, this type of behavior leaves little room for experimenting, i.e. trial and error, or simply allowing people to follow their gut feeling when tackling an issue or trying to solve a problem. It often doesn’t encourage critical dialogue either. Therefore, I’d like to share with you two personal stories in which, I believe, intuition helped to make a difference.
As the mathematician Terence Tao stated in a recent National Geographic magazine: “What really matters is hard work, directed by intuition, literature and a bit of luck.”
Summer rooftop event
In my professional life, I have often been guided by intuition. One event was an employee summer party on the roof top terrace of the company’s headquarter I was working for at the time. An up-and-coming global corporation located at the heart of the city’s business district overlooking the lake with a young, dynamic corporate culture and motivated staff - the perfect ingredients for a fun summer party. Nevertheless, the company had, not too long ago, been listed on two stock exchanges. The pressure put on both management and employees by investors and analysts alike to produce performance-driven growth figures on a quarterly basis, couldn’t be neglected.
So, in an effort to bring the company’s staff together, have some fun and take people’s minds off of their daily demands at work, the event’s organizing team followed their gut feeling. We rented a rack of costumes and accessories for the bespoke summer party. The idea was to surprise the employees at the door, have them dress up in whatever they wanted and invite them for an impromptu photo shoot. No one hesitated, from the mail lady to the CEO, everyone embraced the opportunity to have their picture taken together with their colleagues.
The pictures were then printed with a summery-themed frame and handed out to each employee to take home as they were laving the party. You can’t imagine for how many months if not years they hung at people’s desks in remembrance of the company’s great summer event!
Communication’s Lunch and Learn
Another experience was a dedicated ‘Lunch and Learn’ session that Rupal and I organized for a client. Following the results of the recent employee survey, the overall team morale was pretty low and people weren’t very happy working with one another. Therefore, the objective of the one-hour event was to try to learn more about the underlying issues and how satisfaction and team work could be improved. Consequently, we trusted our instincts when defining and setting up the exercises.
Each group of 3-4 people was to draw and describe – no words used – the ideal picture of the communication department based on a predefined theme e.g. vacation destination, ice cream sundae, sports car etc. The question was: ‘If the communication department were the perfect vacation destination, what would it look like?’ This forced participants to address key issues and hidden, unverbalized difficulties and find solutions in a dialogue with one another. As a result, the outcome of the various groups, i.e. their scribbled pictures, so obviously demonstrated the underlying themes which had never been addressed so openly. Based on the participants own intuition, they discovered specific and constructive ideas for resolution in less than an hour. I truly believe, that it was an eye-opener for all involved and still today, people remember the simple, creative yet highly effective Lunch and Learn event.
Despite all the fun and creativity, you need commitment, dedication and perseverance to succeed. Someone has to take the lead, time and initiative, work hard to set up an event or organize a session, prepare the exercises, motivate people to participate and follow up on the outcome. Be aware that some might not like the ideas or exercises being presented. Therefore, trust your instincts! You know the people, culture, perceptions and attitudes and what it takes to tap into your organization’s creative resources.
As described in the two examples shown above, we let the people develop their own storyline by using their intuition and interacting with others in a resourceful and lasting way. Try it out!
When was the last time you trusted your intuition? Please let us know.
By Christine Köchli