How often have you wanted to kick yourself when you see a new business that is based on hunch that occurred to you but never acted upon? Unfortunately, most people understand the value of their intuition about the future only retrospectively. Thankfully, there are exceptions.
Back in 1903, a woman named Mary Anderson noticed during a visit to New York that rain made driving very challenging. Drivers were forced to open the windows of their cars in the rain, to see the road ahead. That’s when she visualized a ‘swinging arm’ with a rubber blade that drivers could operate from a lever within the vehicle. By 1916, her windshield wipers were standard on all cars.
That’s the thing about hunches. They can occur to anyone and at any time. The challenge, often, is in getting people to share their hunch with the right people and at the right time. In general, people don’t consider their hunches good enough to act on or even share.
This blog specifically examines two aspects of a hunch. One is, how can an individual recognize and nurture a hunch? Secondly, what can organizations do to encourage their people to share and act on their hunches?
Before that, let’s take a minute to understand how hunches originate.
The Genesis of a Hunch
Maybe you’re stuck in a bad traffic jam and realize that a food delivery app that allows you to get snacks delivered at traffic signals might work beautifully in your city. Such environmental cues are the most common source of a hunch.
Hunches can also originate from a new piece of information/ data that you encounter. You’re looking at past sales data and suddenly see that 60 percent of your new customer wins have come from one certain region in the past six months. You realize that focusing your marketing efforts on that region is likely to yield great results – and a hunch is born.
Sometimes, a small change in scene or routine – whether deliberate or serendipitous, can result in a big ‘aha’ moment. It can be as simple as offering a special scheme to your customers around a certain holiday or event and realizing that it makes sense to offer it all year around.
Also, a hunch can originate from practically anyone in the business – from a customer service executive to the sales team or even the CEO.
Nurturing a Hunch
While encountering a hunch is one thing, how do you resist the tendency to brush it aside? On a daily basis, we are inundated with information coming at us from all channels possible, making it almost impossible to identify the signals among the noise. Actively looking out for patterns/signals can make it that much more probable that you discern a trend.
Once you realize that you may be onto something, pursue it; take it to the next level. Like I had written in an earlier blog on opportunities, an opportunity comes to life only when you invest time and resources in exploring it, testing it out and understanding its role in a social context. The further along you are in enacting an opportunity, the greater the likelihood of your being able to exploit it, based on your growing understanding of its potential and challenges.
Share your hunch, get relevant perspectives and communicate with stakeholders to grow the idea all the way to a fully formed market opportunity.
What Can Organizations Do
The onus is also on organizations to create an environment where people are comfortable enough to share their hunches without any fear of rebuke or ridicule. If you’re likely to toss every half-baked potential opportunity into the dustbin, then don’t expect people to come up and share them. Let it be known that it is okay to express ideas and observations. Not every opportunity is fully formed from the get go, but it may have tremendous potential nonetheless. So, don’t jump to judging immediately.
Second, create forums that encourage exchange of thoughts. Regular one-on-ones, team meetings, employee social networks and other forums usually work well.
Also, think about how you can empower your team with the right data and insights to encourage them to unearth opportunities. Is your non-confidential data visible to your entire team? Is it presented in an easily understandable/visual format?
If we look at the world around us, all major developments are based on hunches that people had, and chose to follow through. While data may be king, the ability to make sense of the data and see what is not obvious makes all the difference. So, don’t underestimate your hunches. Share them, talk about them, and see how they might translate on the ground. For all you know, you may be on to something big!