Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Laughing Matter: Why You Should Be Listening to Women’s Intuition

by Jean Brittingham

In a discussion this morning with a senior executive in a large architectural and engineering firm (which by itself is something to say—women at the “real” executive or board level are still rare in the ranks of these consulting companies), I mentioned that intuition is one of the core attributes that we are looking at in women entrepreneurs.  She laughed and said, it would be great to have some validation of my “women’s intuition.” It takes a huge hit here.

It’s true. Intuition is a hard concept to understand and quantify. Women’s intuition is often ridiculed partly because women tend to discuss and qualify their intuitive insights as “feelings” whereas men most often refer to their intuition as having a  “sense.”  Everyone knows that sense is better than feelings in the current masculine dominant culture.

But there really is good reason to be excited about women’s intuition and to believe that women have a highly refined ability to use this skill—
As we’ve posted before, women have very high social sensitivity when it comes to many aspects of unspoken communication.  This matters because as Malcolm Gladwell explains in Blink, intuition is a way our mind processes information stored in ways and in places we don’t necessarily understand. If women are gathering more data that relates to peoples perceptions, feelings and the vast amount of unspoken information in facial expression and body language, their intuition about how something is going to be accepted, should be communicated and may be interpreted is invaluable. 
An area of the brain called the Corpus Callosum is where most connections between known and seemingly “unknown” data are made. It serves as the bridge between the creative and feeling centers of the brain and the logical and data collection sorting areas of the brain. There are distinct differences in metabolic levels, shape and function between women and men’s corpus callosum. While studies continue, evidence builds that women are using this part of their brain more effectively as it relates to connecting many modalities and loosely affiliated concepts. This turns out to be not only helpful in intuition, but a strong aspect of creativity. 
While the ability to connect and link information works well it does not always immediately help us articulate our concern. The best use of intuition comes in when someone can begin to help you understand what they are sensing, seeing or feeling. Women are generally extremely effective communicators and in fact most of us like the challenge of communicating complexity. 
Theses propensities taken together create perhaps the highest and best use of intuition.  The ability to interpret and extrapolate relevant meaning that your intuition is bringing to any given problem set. Intuition allows us to pull in forms of knowledge we don’t necessarily even know we have and establish the importance and priority of different pieces of hard and soft data.

The next time you have a hyper-intuitive response—a strong “hit” about a person, an idea or an opportunity, take note. The next time a woman you work with has such a hit—take notes.  My money says that women’s intuition is going to have a significant impact on how the next economy evolves, but more importantly, it will help you accomplish your goals and dreams right now.

It’s our least known and perhaps most important sense. Use it with gusto!

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