Week 19 — Is Entrepreneurial Intuition A Myth or Fact?

Adriel Fong
5 min readJan 25, 2021

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve had instances where I’ve had this sickening feeling in my tummy. When I’m faced with two options and both seem really bad for every stakeholder within this ecosystem of ripple effects.

How do I then choose? Most people say, you just do it.

What they are actually saying is, use your intuition.

Thankfully, I’ve not had been in many of those situations before. Well, you can say that the decision to go full-time into running my business was one of those situations. On hindsight, I would attribute courage (or stupidity, jury’s out on that) and male testosterone ego as the reasons behind making that jump.

But, there was something deeper lying in me, I just had this hunch in my inner being that told me to go for it. That it was the perfect time to do it, the best time to take that jump was yesterday.

I have been using my intuition all of my life, it’s something weird that I can’t seem to put my finger on it. I feel it when the air in the room changes, sort of a real life spidey sense tingling in my skin. When someone isn’t being genuine, even though he/she seems very well put together and relatable, but I could somehow sense something odd about an individual. That’s when my more rational side of me would kick in and reason,

“Don’t be unfair, you’re being racist. You’re being biased, stop it!”

Some call it a hunch, or a woman’s intuition, my mentor Edward has a more authentic description of this feeling, he calls it his bullshit detector.

Edward brought this up during a meeting with Sherman and I. We came into the meeting with a scenario in mind where we needed some enlightenment, instead we realised that the answer was always within, not without. That meeting is the inspiration for this article.

Intuition Is Not …

When I look out for definitions of profound concepts, I prefer to first look for what it is not.

Intuition is NOT instinct and insight.

Instinct can be referred to as an innate reaction. For example, dodging flying objects at your face requires very little cognitive thinking and can be thought of as being a more primal, physical action compared to intuition.

Insight on the other hand, refers to having the ability to see into the crux of a problem. You can spot the structure of a problem easily. Yes, you can gain insight intuitively, but you can also gain insight through very mechanical and purposeful means.

That’s why teachers tell us to practice math questions as much as we can, so that you can gain insight into potential questions and you can follow the correct steps to solve it.

Intuition Is …

There are many definitions out there, but I find that Robin Hogarth’s 2001 definition resonates with me the deepest.

Hogarth describes intuition as:

“The essense of intuition or intuitive responses is that they are reached with little apparent effort and typically without conscious awareness. They involve little or no conscious deliberation”

Think about that for a moment. I’m sure you’ve used your intuition many times before. Think about the speed at which you made your decision and the confidence level that you’ve done it? Pretty high, pretty fast, yeah?

Content of Intuition

What constitutes an intuition and how does it blend in with the other cognitive operations?

The importance is in understanding the content of intuition. It is like having inferences that look back and forth in time.

According to Hogarth, when you have forward-looking inferences, they are essentially predictions, just like how you get a gut feeling that your usual supermarket has a sale on fresh coconuts. You predict that it will be there based on the inferences your cognition processes and then manifests itself as a feeling or even a craving.

Backward-looking inferences allow you to deconstruct a past event and create a hypothesis that could explain the why, just like what they show you on CSI when they simulate the whole murder taking place in their minds.

These inferences feed off your database of knowledge or cultural capital stored within your brain.

Sometimes, cultural capital may not necessarily be “politically correct”. When you see a woman wearing a burka walking down the street, do you have a reaction towards that? This is an example of your forward-looking inferences taking action. It does not determine the “correctness” of the situation or even why. This reaction obviously is not the same for every culture out there.

Types of Information-processing Intuition

Now that we know what intuition can help us decide on, it’s crucial to know the 2 types of intuition that aids in the processing of information.

Associative and matching intuition relates to the learning and retrieval of information, so it deals with retrieving the associated stimuli with the matching image, action or any schemas in your mind.

This form of intuition relates closely to pattern recognition.

On the other hand, the other set of intuitions are called accumulative and constructive intuition, accumulative intuition helps to gather all related evidence from different sources while constructive intuition helps to construct a mental representation.

Both work in tandem to come together to form the solution to a backward or forward inference.

These are great to know so that you can be aware on how your mind works when it is using it’s intuition.

How can we apply it to entrepreneurship?

In a fast-paced industry, entrepreneurship requires quick thinking and quick action, entrepreneurs will have to harness their intuition as best they can to make tough decisions at a rapid pace.

The first thing to take note of is to lean into it. Don’t try to fight it, process it and identify it as an intuitive thought. Many times we go through life without identifying it and just passing it by. Your intuition could save your life next time, won’t you want to be aware when you’re using it?

Secondly, understand the limitations to it. You should not be neglecting real, fundamental logic to rely solely on your intuition to make decisions. Instead, use deliberate analytical thoughts to enhance your intuition and make it even stronger.

Famous psychologist Daniel Kahneman advices, slow down your intuition, collect a little more information and that would increase the strength of your intuition tremendously.

So …

Is intuition a myth or a fact? Whatever you might think, it seems like the most successful individuals have such a finetuned intuitive mechanism that it might be too difficult to ignore.

Till next week!