Intuitive Decision-Making: Model, Development, Examples

Intuitive Decision-Making: Model, Development, Examples

Hulan Hagen Hulan Hagen
13 minute read

In today's fast-paced business environment, intuitive decision-making is the counterpart to traditional analytical methods. Defined as the process of making decisions based on insights and feelings rather than solely on data, intuitive decision-making taps into a deep well of subconscious knowledge and experience. It blends the sharp clarity of analytical thinking with the profound depths of instinct and creativity, offering a holistic approach to navigating complex problems. This article will explore the definition, model, and development of intuitive decision-making. You will also learn about advantages, disadvantages, and examples from thought leaders in the field.

What is Intuitive Decision-Making?

Intuitive decision-making is a process that involves making choices based on gut feelings, instincts, and internal guidance rather than on analytical reasoning and empirical data. It taps into the subconscious mind, drawing on a person's experiences, emotions, and the vast experiences that lie beyond our immediate conscious thought. This method emphasizes the importance of an inner sense of knowing, allowing individuals to make quick and often effective decisions even in the absence of complete information. Intuitive decision-making acknowledges that not all decisions can or should be made through a purely logical process, recognizing the value of subconscious insights and emotional intelligence in navigating complex situations. 

This concept aligns closely with the ideas of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst who introduced the notion of the collective unconscious—a shared pool of experiences and knowledge that dwells within everyone’s subconscious mind. According to Jung, our intuitive decisions are informed not only by our personal experiences but also by this vast, collective wisdom that we all unconsciously access. The Business Intuition Institute thinks of intuition in Jungian terms, as tapping into subconscious insight that depends on experience but that also depends on a broader, collective unconscious. In business, this approach offers a different perspective from data-driven methods.

The Intuitive Decision-making Model

The intuitive decision-making model is an approach that integrates three core elements—rational analysis, the personal subconscious, and the universal unconscious.

intuitive decision making model

Rational Analysis: This foundational element uses logical reasoning and empirical data to assess situations and outcomes. It is the conscious, analytical process whereby decisions are based on quantifiable information, ensuring that choices are grounded, logical, and justifiable. In a business context, rational analysis helps in evaluating market trends, financial metrics, and competitive dynamics, forming a critical basis for informed decision-making.

Personal Subconscious: Moving deeper, the personal subconscious taps into an individual's internal reservoir of experiences, emotions, and know-how. This dimension brings intuition and gut feelings into play, drawing on a wealth of personal business experiences to inform decisions. It enables leaders to make swift, instinctive judgments that are often crucial in time-sensitive business situations, providing a nuanced understanding that goes beyond what data can offer.

Universal Unconscious: The concept of the universal is that new ideas and groundbreaking innovations don't just evolve from past knowledge but emerge from an infinite, universal field of collective wisdom. This vast reservoir transcends individual experience and historical data, acting as a source of untapped potential and creativity. It implies that the most revolutionary ideas are accessible through a deep, intuitive connection to this shared consciousness, whereby solutions and inspirations exist beyond the confines of time and conventional thinking. Tapping into this universal unconscious demands a blend of openness and mindfulness, enabling individuals and businesses alike to leap beyond traditional boundaries and discover novel pathways to progress and invention. 

Integrating these elements, the Intuitive Decision-Making Model leverages the precision of analytics, the depth of personal insight, and a broad sense of ethical and effective practices. This holistic approach enables business leaders to navigate complex decisions with a balance of speed, accuracy, and moral integrity, fostering innovative solutions and strategic directions that are both effective and ethically sound.

Examples of Intuitive Decision-Making

One of the great American examples of intuitive decision making was GM president William Knudsen’s response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plea for GM to aid the American entry into World War II. In the 1930s GM had been battling with Roosevelt over labor issues, so this provided the firm an opportunity not only to aid the Allied causes, thereby saving the world, but also to improve its relationship with the administration in Washington.

Knudsen responded rapidly, creating the “Arsenal of Democracy” in Detroit, and in a matter of months, as early as 1940, began emptying GM’s 100 plants of car-making equipment to produce defense goods.   

GM stopped manufacturing cars altogether from February 10, 1942, to September 9, 1945.  During that period GM produced more than $12 billion (about $200 billion in 2024 dollars) in defense equipment and vehicles. Knudsen’s intuitive understanding of production processes made GM the largest producer of war material in the world and a lynchpin of Allied victory. 

In 2016, Instagram introduced a new feature called "Instagram Stories," allowing users to share photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. This strategic move was not solely based on market analysis but also on the intuitive understanding of user behavior and market trends by Instagram’s leadership. Kevin Systrom, Instagram's co-founder, recognized the growing demand for more ephemeral, less curated content that allows users to share moments without the pressure of permanence associated with traditional posts. This intuitive decision was partly influenced by the rise of Snapchat, which had popularized the format, but Instagram integrated it in a way that was accessible and familiar to its already vast user base. The launch of Stories significantly increased user engagement on the platform, contributing to Instagram's continued growth and solidifying its position as a dominant player in the social media landscape. This decision showcases how intuitive understanding of user desires and market dynamics, combined with a willingness to adapt and innovate, can lead to successful business outcomes.

Another example of intuitive decision-making was demonstrated by Jesse Livermore, a legendary figure in the history of stock trading. Livermore was known for his pioneering work in technical analysis. Despite his analytical prowess, Livermore often highlighted the role of intuition in his investment strategies. His most celebrated intuitive action occurred when he decided to short sell the stock market in the summer of 1929, just months before the infamous crash. Livermore's approach underscored the significance of patience and timing in the market, illustrating how waiting for the perfect convergence of factors can be as crucial as the decision to act, blending analytical skill with intuitive insight for monumental success.

What Is the Difference between Intuitive and Rational Decision-Making?

While rational decision-making is systematic and based on analytical data, an intuitive decision-making model is based on rule-of-thumb judgment, playful creativity, and the unconscious.  The steps to rational problem solving can be viewed as follows:

Problem definition🡪 generation of alternative solutions🡪 selection of the optimal solution 🡪 implementation of the optimal solution and follow up.

Jaana Woiceshyn, a professor at the University of Calgary, finds in a study of 19 oil-company CEOs that executives combine rational and intuitive analysis using a two-prong process, the prongs of which she calls integration by essentials and spiraling. Integration by essentials involves identification of causes and effects and developing general rules of thumb based on the relationships. Spiraling involves using already-known principles to zero in on the best alternatives to a problem.  

Both can be strengthened and supplemented by higher-level intuitive processes such as creative problem solving.  Creative problem solving can be viewed as follows:

Preparation🡪 Incubation🡪 Illumination🡪 Verification.

Once creative solutions have been verified, they fit into the rational-problem-solving pattern. In nurturing creativity, intuitive problem solving needs to integrate playfulness.  Play is one technique to access the Jungian collective unconscious through which creativity illuminates the world. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Intuitive Decision-Making

Intuitive decision-making model stands at the crossroads of innovation and risk, blending rapid, instinct-driven solutions with potential challenges. While it boasts advantages like speed and creativity, it also faces disadvantages, including subjectivity and the difficulty of justifying choices. This exploration into the pros and cons of intuitive decision-making highlights the importance of striking a balance between intuition and analytical thought, ensuring decisions are both inspired and grounded.

The top 5 advantages of intuitive decision-making are:

  • Rapid responses
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Efficiency in complexity
  • Flexible problem-solving
  • Emotional intelligence

intuitive decision making advantages

Let's look into each of them:

Rapid Responses: Intuitive decision-making allows for quick decisions without the need for extensive data analysis. This is especially beneficial in situations requiring rapid responses or when time is of the essence.

Creativity and Innovation: Intuition can lead to innovative solutions that logical analysis might not uncover. It enables decision-makers to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to complex problems.

Efficiency in Complexity: In complex scenarios in which data may be incomplete or overly abundant, intuition can help in cutting through the noise and focusing on what truly matters, making the decision process more efficient.

Flexible Problem-Solving: Intuition adds flexibility to decision-making processes. It enables individuals to adapt quickly to new information or changes in the environment. Intuition, drawing from subconscious insights and past experiences, can provide unique perspectives on problems. 

Emotional Intelligence: Intuitive decision-making often involves understanding and interpreting emotions and interpersonal dynamics. This can improve leadership and negotiation outcomes by fostering a deeper connection and understanding between parties.

The disadvantages of intuitive decision-making are:

  • Subjectivity and bias
  • Difficulties in justification
  • Potential for overreliance

Subjectivity and Bias: Intuitive decisions can be highly subjective and prone to personal biases. This can lead to decisions that are not in the best interest of the organization or that overlook important data.

Difficulty in Justification: Intuitive decisions can be hard to explain or justify to others, as they are based on feelings or perceptions rather than concrete data. This can make it challenging to gain buy-in from stakeholders or to defend the decision if it is questioned.

Potential for Overreliance: Relying too heavily on intuition can lead to ignoring important data or analytical insights. This overreliance can result in poor decision-making outcomes if the intuitive judgment is flawed or if critical information is overlooked.

Intuition in Business Decision-making

In the business world, the power of intuitive decision-making cannot be overstated, especially when there's a need for swift and inventive solutions or groundbreaking creative ideas. Leveraging business intuition enables leaders to forge decisions that not only resonate deeply with their company's vision but also respond adeptly to the evolving demands of the market.

An intuitive marketing manager, for example, might successfully predict market trends or understand customer needs without extensive research, leading to successful campaigns and strategies.  

For entrepreneurs and executives looking to enhance their intuitive decision-making skills, booking an intuitive session can be a transformative step. The Business Intuition Institute offers a complementary brainstorming session tailored to help leaders unlock their intuitive potential:

Balancing Intuitive and Analytical Decision-Making in Business

Achieving success in business decision-making frequently hinges on striking the perfect balance between intuitive insights and analytical reasoning. This perfect balance not only shapes decision-making processes but also influences the overarching culture of an organization. A workplace that values intuitive thinking tends to foster a culture rich in creativity and openness. It encourages employees to think outside the box, to embrace paradoxes, to recognize unique opportunities, and to lead with transformative influence. Such an environment nurtures holistic thinking and allows for a dynamic interplay between intuition and structured analysis.

Contrastingly, in sectors like the oil industry, where precision, safety, and technological rigor are paramount, cultures lean toward analytical decision-making. However, even in such contexts, intuition can serve as a crucial heuristic, guiding decisions when data is incomplete or too complex to parse through conventional analysis alone. By acknowledging the nuanced role of intuition as a complement to data-driven strategies, organizations can devise strategies that are both innovative and grounded, ready to tackle complex challenges and navigate uncertain futures.

Incorporating both analytical and intuitive approaches allows for a more adaptive and resilient organizational structure, capable of responding to both the predictable and the unforeseen. Balancing these modes of thinking encourages a culture of continuous learning and agility, where the diverse strengths of each approach are harnessed to drive the organization forward. This balanced approach not only enhances decision-making but also cultivates a more engaged and innovative workforce, prepared to meet the demands of a rapidly changing business landscape.

How to Develop Intuitive Decision-Making?

To develop your intuitive decision-making skills, consider:

  • Building trust in your instincts
  • Reflecting on past decision-making experiences
  • Balancing intuition with rational analysis
  • Seeking diverse perspectives to enhance intuition.

Building Trust in Your Instincts: Developing intuitive decision-making skills begins with fostering a deep trust in your own instincts. This means learning to listen to and to value the gut feelings and internal cues that arise in various situations. Trusting your instincts requires a conscious effort to quiet the noise of external opinions and data overload, allowing your subconscious insights to surface. Over time, as you acknowledge and act upon these instincts, you'll build confidence in your ability to make sound decisions based on internal guidance, enhancing your decision-making prowess in unpredictable situations.

Reflecting on Past Decision-Making Experiences: Reflection is a powerful tool in strengthening your intuitive decision-making skills. By looking back on past decisions—both successful ones and those that didn't yield the desired outcomes—you can identify patterns in your decision-making process and learn from them. This reflection helps in understanding the contexts in which your intuition leads you in the right direction or where it may have been overshadowed by other factors. Such introspection can sharpen your ability to discern when to rely on intuition and when to seek additional information or analysis.

Balancing Intuition with Rational Analysis: While intuition can guide you towards innovative solutions, balancing it with rational, analytical thinking ensures that your decisions are well-rounded and grounded in reality. This balance involves acknowledging the value of instinctual insights while also considering empirical data and logical reasoning. By integrating intuition with analytical processes, you create a comprehensive decision-making strategy that leverages the strengths of both approaches. This synergy allows for more nuanced and effective problem-solving, especially in complex or ambiguous scenarios.

Seeking Diverse Perspectives: Business intuition is enriched by a breadth of experiences and viewpoints. Actively seeking out and considering diverse perspectives can significantly enhance your intuitive decision-making capabilities. Exposure to different ideas, cultures, and problem-solving approaches broadens your understanding and feeds your subconscious with a richer array of insights to draw upon. This diversity not only strengthens your intuition but also helps mitigate the risk of bias, ensuring that your instinctual decisions are informed by a more comprehensive worldview.

By honing these skills, leaders and professionals can make more effective decisions in various business contexts.


Intuitive decision-making represents a dynamic and invaluable skill in the modern business landscape. By understanding the intuitive decision-making model, its advantages, recognizing its role in business, and learning how to balance it with analytical thinking, professionals can enhance their decision-making abilities. Remember, the best decisions often come from a blend of heart and mind, intuition and analysis. Continue to explore and refine your decision-making skills, and you might find that your intuition is one of your greatest assets in the business.

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