HBR posted a blog about how forethought not intuition separates the good from the great. We disagree on the blog and here is our points. Our opinion based on our observations and research we have conducted with entrepreneurs is as follows.
A. Forethought: the planning or preparation for the future. Deliberation, thinking and consideration for the future.
B. Intuition: rapid cognitive thinking based on past primers, experiences, and thought. It has been documented that many of the ‘greats’ have had their moments of insight when they were not even thinking, Einstein, for example used to favour long walks to generate his answers than sitting in his laboratory. So how did his strokes of genius happen?
Well according to Dr. Keith Sawyer, author of Group Genius, strokes of greatness do not happen in isolation rather from a lot of smaller moments, which are mixed of failures, mistakes, smaller ideas, varied knowledge, and collaboration. Now, imagine that you take these moments and repeat them over and over to create experience, then experience is honed to create intuition, which can then be used to react to situations, where finally you get a moment of greatness.
The example of the snake that the blogger gives is just untrained intuition, our intuition is only as good as the patterns we create in our brains. If the patterns have been created via great mistakes, vast knowledge, and detailed observations our intuition will make us better reactors. Intuition is also very layered, it is not only patterns, but also things like reading body language, tone of voice, assessment of how your environment feels.
For example, Native Americans used to watch how certain changes in the environment would indicate a certain event, they would see how the air would feel, how the trees would move, or the animals would react, all of that made them great intuitive thinkers and reactors, which allowed them to be great hunters.
The problem with forethought is that it creates false untested patterns in our brains. We all have had it happen, when we think that a certain event will unfold in a particular manner and then it doesn’t, so we have just wasted valuable time in forethought for no reason. Forethought also guides you down a path leaving little room for innovation, observation and reaction, which is detrimental to ideas of greatness. Einstein for example, had no forethought on his law of relativity, he got there through many years of experimentation, honing his intuitions, reacting, restructuring, and collaborative knowledge.
A person of greatness would not waste their time pondering his idea in the future, as they are too busy reacting to the moment and observing the changes to make better decisions. If you ask people that have achieved greatness they will tell you that they didn’t plan it, most say ‘ I couldn’t have imagined or predicted, what I have achieved’ . Finally, forethought can lead to negativity and depression, if your idea doesn’t unfold as you had predicted it would. The future is unpredictable and the more time spent thinking about it the less time is spent reacting to current situations, which is what will lead to greatness. Ingredients for Greatness
- Train your intuition, fill it with detailed observations, vast knowledge, diverse experiences, and mistakes.
- Create contrasting associations for your brain. Learn languages, listen to other ideas, learn an instrument, etc. This helps engage your imagination into new realms and thus creates better ideas.
- Be a great reactor. Success is like a ball coming towards you, if you try to use forethought and predict where it will land you will miss the fact that its coming straight at you.
- Be a great observer, Einstein, Newton, Galileo, and so on, all spent a lot of time just observing and letting that fuel their imagination and solutions.
- Relax your brain and let it breath, so it can give you the moments of insight, which will lead you to greatness. Meditation, walks, restful sleep, exercise are all way to turn off and let the brain relax.
- Always think positive and set positive primers in your life, so when the opportunity does strike you will be in the right mind to grab it.