Friday, September 26, 2008


I found myself on the top roulette table at Wynn, the leading casino in Macau [now the world’s largest gambling centre by revenues, larger than Vegas], wondering whether to bet on the next roll of the dice being even, or odd. The last four rolls had been odd, and I had lost all the past bets. Though the laws of averages – and my wife – were screaming out ‘even’, my intuition was screaming harder to be the ‘odd’ one out. Well, my intuition had almost always seen me through such crucial life-threatening situations [my wife, remember?!], and then, don’t even the top CEOs of the world depend mainly on gut feel and intuition?

Fred Smith received a ‘C’ grade [just escaped failing] in his college economics paper where he gave an overnight delivery business idea. “C was a very good grade for me,” he later explained, as his gut told him the idea would work. He started FedEx! Eric Bonabeau in HBR says “the stories are certainly seductive,” with Disney’s Michael Eisner [who, “knowing in his heart,” pumped in millions into the killer show ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’], George Soros [who sensed “in his bones a big shift in currency markets and... made a billion-dollar killing”] and R. Pittman [who “had a vision...while taking a shower,” and created AOL] leading the gut-wrenchers gang! A. Hayashi, Senior Editor, HBR, writes, “Obviously, gut calls are better suited to some functions [strategy, planning, PR, marketing...].” Surely, as Chuck Porter, creator of the historic BMW Mini campaign, comments, “When it comes to creating advertising, we don’t research it!”

But it is not that intuitions are purely figments of irrational imagination. Professor Smith [Surrey] and Erella Shely of the most respected Academy of Management Executive prove that intuitive decisions are viewed by executives as “expertise that has been built up... and influences conscious thought and behaviour.” The Burson Marsteller CEO Survey, 2006, shows how “no effective CEO is driven solely by numbers.” The survey further proves that 71.4% of high-revenue-company CEOs believe that “intuition and gut feeling” are very influential in guiding their decision making [compared to 54.8% who depend on “analyst reports”]. The PwC Global Data Management Survey 2004 amusingly shows that globally, companies in fact feel low level of confidence in their own data, and “an even greater degree of scepticism over outside data.”

In his commencement address to Stanford students, he revealed how his mother [“a young, unwed college student”] rejected him and put him up for adoption, how the folks who were supposed to adopt him backed out at the last moment, how even his ‘final’ parents weren’t graduates, how he himself dropped out after joining college, how he would later sleep on dorm floors returning Coke bottles “for 5 cent deposits” to buy food, how he would “walk 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.” And how he loved it all, as, much of what he “stumbled into” by following his “curiosity and intuition, turned out to be priceless later on.” He says, “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny... This approach has never let me down... And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition... Stay hungry, stay foolish!” On Fortune’s March 17, 2008 issue [where his company is ranked The World’s Most Admired in 2008], he says, “We do no market research. We just want to make great products.” He’s Steve Jobs, my hero! I went against the law of averages and bet on ‘odd’. I walked away from that hall resolute in what I had learnt from that one man... I’ll stay hungry, I’ll stay foolish! Yes, even though I lost...


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