Intuition is important in arts, science, business, war and politics.
Let me give an example of its importance. A noted American general has said that if you are about 40 to 70% confident, you should act. The founder of Alibaba Group has said that in strategic decisions, intuition takes about 60% and the statistical analysis and rational evaluation take the remaining 40%.
Then, say, I am about 80% sure of my intuition. Then, in total, my confidence will be --- 80% of 60% , that is 60% x 0.8, 48%.
Then, 48% is more than good enough for General Powell. In that case, I can do without "statistical analysis and rational evaluation." That would be a very fast, cost-efficient decision-making.
In contrast, Jeffery Ma has admitted in The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win Big In Business that
- Analytical approach offers only small advantages, and
- because of that, you need a big pile of resource to exploit your analytical insights.
But many people say intuition is unreliable. Then how do we compensate this?
- Being humble like a blind person. Matsushita has, upon being quizzed why he had had such a perfect record of predicting trends, noted that he had observed that it is only people with good eyesight that fell, not the blind persons.
- Being nimble about our decisions. This idea was suggested by an NTU physicist in his interview in Straits Times this month.(Sorry, I can't track it online now.)
But are all intuitions unreliable? What kind of intuitions have better chance of being reliable?
Again, Jeffery Ma notes in "The House Advantage" that fact-based ones are likely to be reliable. The book, Alibaba: The Inside Story Behind Jack Ma and the Creation of the World's Biggest Online Marketplace contains many such examples. I have listed here many other examples too.
- Jack Ma : if there is a market need, it should not be too hard to succeed.
- Jack Ma : People who catch shrimps get rich. Those who catch whales may not fare that well.
- Akio Morita : many people didn't mind carrying heavy music players, and therefore many people will be happy to buy the revolutionary walkmans.
- A famous shogun : if deer can go, so can horses. He then took an expected short-cut route to rout his stronger enemy forces.
- Einstein : Friends on 2 different trains can exchange books if their speeds are more or less the same.
- Deng Xiaoping : crossing the river by groping the stones.
What do they have in common?
- Can we get such intuitions?
- Can we shape the intuitions we do have, into their mould?