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Managing Through Intuition
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Just as artificial constriction can cause a plant to develop into a bonsai, so too
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it is with managers. A bonsai manager is one whose growth has not run the
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natural course because he has failed to draw sustenance from his natural
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environment. The consequence is inadequate intuition. As a result, bonsai
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managers are not able to work at their full potential. To achieve that,
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managers should explore new vistas of their being, drawing on their innate in Football Find
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genius. Intuition will be a key differentiator for excellence in the future, more news, scores,
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BW-Leadership Several years ago, as a young, travelling sales manager in Hindustan Lever, I
Interviews spent the night at a forest rest house at Dandeli. This little town nestles in a
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Deal Tracker — a series of clicks, buzzes, shrieks, whistles, croaks and caws—that I had General (1) ओनलाइन इ वेःट
Cases never heard in the city. I developed a naïve curiosity about the world of करे आज ह .
Books and Guides animals and insects. This curiosity caused me to collect facts about nature Venture Capital (11) ICICIdirect.com
Events little-known to lay people. I learnt that such communication methods among Media & Entertainment
BW-Plus birds, animals and insects constitute an amazing language system. (1)
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About a decade ago, I started to see a curious connection between such facts Business of Sports (3) Advice.
Subscribe BW from nature and anecdotes from my professional career as a manager. I began Pharma & Healthcare New To Investing
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courses. Encouraged by a positive reception, I gradually expanded the Internet & Telecom (3) Experienced And
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managers in other companies. Archives
Where the two circles — nature and management — intersect, lessons on
intuition can be born. Using anecdotes about a vast array of living creatures,
and my own experiences in the world of business, I feel that managers should
let their gut and instinct guide them after all the analysis has been done and
when faced with difficult decisions.
Why, when imported into China from Thailand, did crocodiles lose their sex
drive? What was the purpose behind the Arab bonding with his falcon all day
long? How do squirrel gangs scare off snakes? Why are grizzly bear cubs
trained for two years to hook salmon? There is a management lesson in each
of these endearing stories from the animal kingdom.
Future managers will face vastly different challenges as the world around
them changes dramatically. In this world, the inclusive, intuitive and humane
style of management will work, not the top-down approach. Increasingly,
managers work under a great deal of pressure to perform. As a result, they
often do not consciously separate the problem at hand into ‘technical’ and
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Pressured with performance targets, modern managers quickly analyse a
situation, identify the issues and problems, and plunge headlong into the
implementation of their solutions. In the process, they generate and receive
masses of data to acquire all the rational opinions and analytical information
available. But, after all the analysis has been done, it is often on the basis of
unclear data that their mind is still to filter that a decision hinges.
* Should we or should we not acquire that company?
* When everybody advises against this project, should we persist or abandon?
* Will posterity see me as the idiosyncratic genius who ploughed a lone
furrow or as a huge disaster?
* Is the entry into this new line of business an act of folly or foresight?
Intuition At Work
Business history and entrepreneurship is full of stories about leaders who trusted
their intuition after exhausting their powers of analysis.
The great Indian industrialist of the nineteenth century, Jamsetji Tata, had
bought some marshy land near the Nagpur railway station in 1874 at a low
price. He floated a company called The Central India Spinning, Weaving and
Manufacturing Company. When asked to subscribe to its shares, a local
Marwari banker refused to invest in support of ‘a man who was wasting gold
by sinking it into the ground.’ This person later admitted that Tata had put
earth into the ground and pulled out gold.
R. Gopalakrishnan has been a professional manager
for 40 years, of which 31 years were with Hindustan
Lever. He began his career as a computer analyst with
HLL and worked in marketing before moving to
general management. During his years with Unilever, he
worked as chairman of Unilever Arabia, based in
Jeddah. He was later appointed managing director of
Brooke Bond Lipton. After the company’s merger with
HLL, he was designated vice-chairman of HLL.
Gopalakrishnan joined Tata Sons in 1998 where he is
executive director. He also serves on boards of other companies. This article
is based on his just released book, The Case of the Bonsai Manager
In the late 1980s, ignoring all the market research evidence, Bob Lutz, then
president of Chrysler, went ahead with the Dodge Viper car model. This was
an outrageously powerful, eye-searing roadster launched at a time when
Chrysler was down and out. Bob Lutz felt that the company had to take a lot
of chances because it would go out of business if it did not. So he did a lot by
intuition and ‘cut out all the crap normally associated with a new product.’
Similarly, in the 1950s, Brooke Bond, the leading tea company, wanted to sell
to the lower income consumer. After reducing packaging and other costs,
their sales people made an intuitive observation—lower income households
did not have cooking gas at home, so lighting the kitchen fire meant wood or
coal. That meant a lot of effort and cost just to boil some water for tea. Hence,
the men went away early in the morning to the nearest ‘hot tea shop’ (HTS in
Brooke Bond terminology) to enjoy a ready-made cup of tea. The cost per sip
was higher than homemade tea, but it made sense to the consumer. Based on
this intuition, Brooke Bond developed their HTS distribution system—and it
was to stand them in good stead for decades.
In the 1970s, international companies were targeting lower income customers
to use shampoo to wash their hair. Their market research and logical analysis
confirmed that the price was too high. So their effort was to reduce the price
per litre, principally by focusing on achieving lower packaging costs. An
entrepreneur, trusting his instincts, figured that the cost per litre was not
relevant; the unit price was the key factor. He launched a sachet of a few
millilitres of shampoo for single wash at Rs 2 per sachet. The cost per litre of
this product was higher than the bottles, but the unit price was affordable.
Velvette shampoo captured the market; soon others followed.
All the above decision turned out to be great ones. Nobody has a magic
formula to develop intuition, but is there a common thread?
Knowledge, Intuition And Wisdom
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Knowledge is what you know you know. Knowledge can be taught, and you
can acquire it from external sources.
Intuition is what you do not know you know. It cannot be taught, you learn it
on your own. At the core of intuition is a set of understandings that the owner
just does not know about.
When knowledge is integrated with intuition, it becomes wisdom. The value
of intuition increases as a person rises in the organisation and finds that he has
to solve more complex issues. Senior leaders are, in fact, paid for their
intuition, their knowledge is taken as a given.
The absence of intuition at crucial times is one of the reasons for the
surprising failure of top leaders, who have established a reputation of success
already. In the practical world of the manager, human ambition, motivation,
and social relations play a very important role. Intuition does not just
‘happen’, it can be developed.
There are six simple messages:
Intuition does exist and it is very important for the manager, especially at the
more senior levels of leadership
Analysis and intuition are not substitutes, they are complementary. A
manager can develop intuition by viewing issues holistically, with the
’surrounds’ of the issues, and not in isolation. He should observe and learn
from the peripherals of his vision, hearing, experiences and relationships.
The manager’s intuition is enhanced through varied experiences and
relationships, contemplation and reflection
A manager can develop his intuition by exploring and sensing beyond what is
visible and audible
The leader needs to think about issues at the ‘edges of the spectrum of the
I am reading The Undercover Economist by Tim
Harford. It demystifies economics and presents its
forces and effects in our day-to-day life. I liked the
author’s lucid insights on perfect markets, game theory,
pricing strategy, globalisation and corruption. I had
previously read and enjoyed, Steve Levitt’s
Freakonomics. Harford’s book was highly
recommended by Levitt and that added to the thrill of
picking up this book.
I mostly read non-fiction, management related, self-help or money matters
and India-related economic books as well. I buy them based on
recommendation from friends, Amazon.com and The New York Times
bestseller list. I also browse through my favourite bookstores.
Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here
By David Verklin and Bernice Kanner
The tagline, ‘Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the
Media You Constantly Consume’, sounds like a mismatch. Read
the book and you will feel differently. Written in 17 chapters with
funky titles like ‘Why outdoor companies pray for traffic jams’,
‘Why Oprah gives away Pontiacs’, this guidebook explains how
media, marketing and advertising companies work. Authors
Verklin and the late Kanner have traced recent trends and if you are the sort
who follows the subject, this book is for you.
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Mastering The Wind
The Rain Maker
How To Tackle Reasoning
The Red Shift
A Nose For Money
Cross-Border M&A Summit October 25, 2007 - Mumbai www.ventureintelligence.in
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