I believe the answer is “no” and “yes”. This is an important issue, so let me explain with a short story.

About five years ago, an electrical engineer, let’s call him Tom, contacted me for help to put a business plan together.
With the aid of some photos and diagrams, Tom explained the technology he had developed to reduce the impact of a major problem experienced in the dairy farming industry.

His concept was quite ingenious and appeared to provide a cost effective solution to a costly production loss problem. I established that the business plan would need to address two key issues:

  1. The sequence of action steps needed to complete development and set up marketing and distribution channels.
  2. Provide a business case for an associate who had expressed an interest in investing capital in this project.

For confidentiality reasons, I won’t go into details on the technology. And for this article, it’s not that important. What is important is the intuitive thinking process that was driving this man.

Fairly soon in our discussions, I established that little market research had been carried out. So I suggested that this should be an early and important part of his business plan.

After we had some discussions on what would be involved to do this research, I was quite surprised when he said, he was not keen on the idea.

He gave two reasons why he was not keen on spending time and money (a relatively small amount of money) on market research.

Reason one, was that he was scared someone would steal his ideas.

Reason two, was that in his words “I have this strong gut feeling that the farming community will really go for this technology based solution, so I just want to follow my intuition and get going before someone else beats me to the market.”

I was uncomfortable with the idea of omitting this research step, but my client was impatient and not willing to budge.

As a result, we created a business plan and an action plan that was based on the assumption that there was a valid market for the product.

To cut a long and involved story short, the business project failed. Tom and his partner could not get sufficient farmers to adopt his technology and implementation procedures.

Not a happy ending. But not the end of my story.

The theme of this article was about intuition and business planning. Tom’s situation was an example of the wrong way to use intuition.

So here is my reason for saying both “yes” and “no” to trusting your intuition.

Yes: Intuition can be a God-given creative talent. And you should trust intuition for what it really is. Intuition is an idea or inspiration or option for you to give appropriate consideration to.

No: It does not make sense to blindly follow every idea or hunch that captivates your imagination. You also have other natural or learned abilities, like reasoning and communication.

Intuition used well can give you lots of potentially valuable business options. In other words, you have the idea. Used badly, the idea has you!

I have been involved with several business product and service ideas that have had successful outcomes. However, in every case, there was an evolutionary process. The original inspiration or idea was just the seed that started off, what eventually evolved.

Testing or researching customer perceptions and reactions is the best way to drive this product development process. What potential customers think and say is critical. What we think and do must be in alignment to what people want and are prepared to pay for.

Unfortunately, Tom had different priorities. He had become possessed by his original idea. This blocked flexibility and the objective thinking of others.

There can be no guarantees of business success, but I believe that with reasonable market research and better customer communications, Tom’s business outcomes could be have been significantly better.

A few yeas ago, market research was a difficult and expensive process. The Internet has significantly changed this situation. Most new product or service ideas can be research via the internet quickly and sometimes free of charge.

So my suggestion is that you recognise intuition as a potentially brilliant source of ideas, inspiration and creativity. But be aware that it is only half the brilliance of the human mind.

True intuition, plus reality reasoning, is a pathway to business success.

Andrew Smith – The Business Plan Guy