Is intuition THE missing skill?

Is intuition THE missing skill?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about working with complex problems in an ever increasingly fragmented world – the sort of problems where there are no wrong or right answers just lots of data, multiple often conflicting opinions, agendas, stakeholders….

Yes, I’m in the swamp of complexity again right up to my eyeballs. I’m acknowledging this fact as I type this blog from my bed. Alas, the wheels have come off the bus again (when I found myself ironing at 4.30am on Saturday morning I admitted something was up). What started as a headache on a Friday (a frequent occurrence due to a botched tooth surgery when younger) slowly became an all-encompassing pain down my right side wiping me out for several days since. So today, rather than battle through it any longer, I’ve taken to my bed. Some might observe how fortunate I am to be able to do so. My former self would have thought it highly self-indulgent preferring to push through. But I’ve learnt over the past few years that this rarely works.

So, the blog I had intended to write (see introduction above) is intrinsically linked to the fact I find myself now reclining propped up by pillows waiting for my husband to come back with what will hopefully be some potent medicine to shift at least some of the pain temporarily (so bear with me!).

As you may know, I left large organisational life three years ago to embark on the adventure that Wise Sherpa is! The jump was precipitated by a chronic case of burnout underpinned by an undiagnosed perimenopause*. Up until my departure from organisational life, I had been leading on various complex global change projects and programmes, Usually, I was brought in when things were not going well – focusing on the human element is my area of expertise and which is typically where change comes unstuck. As a result, I consider myself or at least so I thought fairly experienced in the space of understanding and leading change especially complex change. And yet…. I am reminded daily just how difficult complex change can be. When working with my clients much of the work we do together is navigating complex change in their lives and their organisations where there are no obvious answers just lots of questions to be explored.

Recently, as part of my approach, I have started experimenting with the concept of intuition (or the heart/gut response as some may refer to it). This is because of a series of very powerful conversations with two of my mentors which gave me the permission that perhaps I felt I lacked and possibly the confidence I needed to stand in the power of my intuition when working with my clients on navigating complex change.

Tuning in to what’s going on inside and around me beyond the rational thoughts that I am prone to favour and to really listen to what is coming through all of my senses – not prioritising automatically one over the other – is proving to be enlightening! Last week, 10 minutes into a discussion with a relatively new client, something came through my intuition tuning fork loud and clearly.  I listened to my intuition and what it was telling me was that I was reacting to the client’s voice and how it changed quite dramatically when talking about different issues. I asked her if she was open to exploring this further and we had a really productive discussion which has opened up some powerful insight for her and avenues for us for further exploration. Had I not been open to this way of listening to myself and what was going on through my intuition, we might still have got to the same place, but I wonder how much longer or how powerful the insights would have been?

I’m also applying listening to my intuition more when it comes to my own complex decisions. This is no more true than the decision we are currently making concerning our daughter’s secondary school applications. In England, we have a system that is complex in nature (ie children don’t just go to their nearest school). Parents are expected to visit many schools and then decide the order of priority in which to list them based on the criteria the school supplies which you may or may not meet. It’s a maze of data, complicated stakeholders and lots of space for unsolicited opinions to be shared. The result is that many of us end up overwhelmed and struggling to make the decisions required riddled with guilt. My husband and I have made the conscious choice to listen to both our intuition and our child’s intuition as fundamental part of our decision – to not let the rational purely dictate, instead listening for feedback on what else is coming through for us as part of the decision-making process. It’s proving really eye opening. The schools I thought I would love based on lots of rational data I didn’t, and the ones I was ready to discount as less appealing were more appealing. So, what is going on? I have tuned in listening to all my senses and my intuition – being really present. As a result, we’ve ended up with a very different approach and order than I would have predicted if we had gone with the rational, head only approach.

My experiences with intuition and complex change are leading me to ask, what if intuition were to be recognised as an important under recognised and under-valued skill in navigating complex change? Instead of it being seen as something rather mysterious and untrustworthy that generally old women possess, what if it could hold equal value with the more rational data points etc that form the basis of decision making in navigating the swamp of complex change?

After all, a large part of the reason I now find myself in bed is if I had listened to my intuition more, I would not find myself here again in the swamp. Listening to my tuning fork of intuition, as so much, is a work in progress!

Rebecca Hill of Wise Sherpa is a consultant, coach and mentor. For more information, please get in touch using the details on the contact page of the Wise Sherpa website or via

*as this is world menopause day, I wanted to acknowledge this fact and the role it has played.

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