Tackling the Validity Issue for Intuitive Information

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One of my business clients was interested in only a few narrowly focused commodities. I had worked with this client at least once a week, and sometimes more often, over the course of two years or more. While not every prediction was correct, he began to notice that the pattern of trading was on the mark, but the timing for the pattern to become fully expressed was off the mark. We also discovered that I did much better with long-term predictions than short-term ones, precisely the opposite of weather forecasters.

One particular issue stands out in my mind. The client, whom I’ll call Adam, wanted to know what the price of oil would be exactly one year from that date. Very quickly and completely intuitively, I gave him a price. His response to me was, “That’s impossible. It simply can’t be and makes no sense.” A year later the price of oil was exactly as I had predicted, to the dollar. He told me that had he followed my advice, he would have made many thousands of dollars on that particular investment, but the numbers I had given him intuitively made no rational sense at the time. (As I recall there was an unanticipated global event that affected the price of oil during this period quite a few years ago.) It is the very role of intuition to provide information that makes no rational sense at the time, and to add that “non-rational” information to other sources provided in quite the usual, rational ways.

It can be a daunting task to prove the validity of intuitive information to such a sufficient degree that individuals and companies are willing to make decisions and invest tremendous resources on a business hunch, especially before the benefit of hindsight proves the hunch to have been correct. Nevertheless, investors are willing to make what is the equivalent of “bets” on the future through commodities trading. They may see mounds of analyses, historical information, trends, charts, graphs, numbers, and the advice of their own professional intuitives, otherwise called stock brokers. Ultimately, however, they are trading on a hunch as well.

Validity can only be established ex post facto. While there are measures for predicting  that a certain event or set of probabilities will occur, there can be no true tests ahead of time for the validity  of precognitive information, or for its inherent quality. This does not mean, however, that intuitive information is therefore useless or pointless. For intuitive information, qualitative measures are a must, and what turns out to be valid information  remains valuable, even though it may not meet objective quantitative standards. Hitting the price of oil is a concrete test of validity. Replicating that success beyond chance is a bit trickier: only time will tell. Furthermore, hitting the benefit of a strategic partnership may require many more measures and analyses to determine validity one or five or ten years later.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating; the proof of valid intuitive information, of the hunch, is in its corroboration. What can be measured is the percentage of times a particular professional intuitive is correct, has a “hit,” for example, predicts where the currency market will be on a particular date and time. What cannot be measured is the value and validity of intuitive information that is not numbers driven: “How will this restructuring affect the overall effectiveness of this organization?” We can attempt to attach productivity percentages to employee performance, for example, but that percentage is not a measure of the validity of the intuitive information that initially drove the restructuring process or convinced the CEO of the need for significant overhaul.

Another challenge related to the issue of validity is isolating the impact of the intuitive information alone in a multifaceted and complex organization, where decision making occurs simultaneously on many levels by individuals who may or may not be involved in intuitive decision making. Larry Dossey highlights this problem when he writes about the difficulty of measuring the effect of prayer on healing. Researchers were able to establish control groups and prayer groups with little difficulty. What stymied them, however, was their inability to determine or control who was praying for patients on their own, completely apart from the prayer studies. They discovered that other people had been praying for the patient as well. How could they tell that the patient’s improved health was the result of the prayer group’s intervention and not all those others who voluntarily prayed without being specifically asked to do so? How can we tell whether the success of a particular venture or corporate intervention is the result of the information provided by the intuitive, or by some other relevant organizational processes? At some point, the effective use of intuition depends upon detaching from the outcome, ignoring for the moment how valid it will show itself to be in the future. Unlike other measures in certain key aspects, the more detached from the need to prove, the more accurate and valid the results.

If certain intuitive information proves to be a key factor in the success of a particular decision or event or outcome, it is likely that the impact of that information will be felt by the CEO or manager or other employee, regardless of what is stated publicly at a later time. That person will know and will return to use such awareness again. Even if direct attribution to the power of intuitive tools can never be fully claimed, intuition as a talent or skill has no personality or ego that suffers from lack of acknowledgment the way employees suffer when their work is unrecognized or undervalued. It is the very nature of intuition to be serving humanity from the hidden corners of consciousness.

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