Instinct or Insight: Which is Better?

A woman’s intuition — that mysterious ability many of us have to make assumptions, both quickly and accurately — is a real phenomenon. Research shows that female brains  are wired differently than male ones, with our cerebral cortices thicker and, thus, more receptive to forming rapid judgements about human behavior and human emotion. Apparently, women are biologically poised to notice and respond appropriately to many of the subtle clue that others miss. And while there’s little doubt that intuition can lead to some surprisingly precise outcomes (like that time we just “knew” our significant other was cheating), too often, a woman’s intuition is seen as nothing more than the indulgence of whimsy rather than reason. In a business setting, especially, where fact-based decision making is often considered essential for corporate success, relying on intuition can be a risky move. So then, how can women really know when it’s suitable to reside on intuition alone and when it’s preferable to draw conclusions based on something a little more “substantial?” Before you opt for one over the other, consider the following facts:

Woman Do Think Differently

As mentioned, women’s brains appear to be made differently than men’s. Research using tomographic scans reveals that, in general, women have slightly larger amygdalas and a denser pattern of cortical development, which increases the amount of blood (i.e., energy and oxygen) flowing throughout our brains. This helps sharpen our brains’ mental focus and function, possibly making it easier for us to make split decisions. Perhaps these changes have come about because women have had to work harder and notice more to achieve the same benefits as our male counterparts throughout history, forcing nature to selectively evolve the physiological advantages that make existing in an androcentric world possible. Whatever the case, science suggests that, as women, we might very well be better equipped to “think on our feet.”

Data Helps

There’s little question that information enhances decision making; the more facts and figures a person has, the better able he or she is to direct effective action. This is especially true in the corporate world, which relies on the market research process to inform business decisions. Indeed, today’s technologies have made it easier for companies to get a lot of good information quickly, with advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence applications yielding data sets that are bigger and more specific than those from any other point in history. At a time when we didn’t have all the necessary data to validate our decisions, relying on our gut (i.e., our “female brain”) might have given us an advantage. However, the ubiquity of good data that exists today somewhat negates the need for quick thinking: Why base a decision on emotion if you have the facts in front of you?

The Bottom Line: Data = Insight, But It Doesn’t = Solutions

It’s true that good information can help people make good decisions, but only if the data is interpreted in the right way. Data provides insight, but it demands accurate analysis to provide meaning and direct action. Thus, women who use their intuition to inform their insights just might have the upper hand in the business world. All hail the power of the female mind!

Photo by Golden Pixels | Shutterstock

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