I’ve seen more than one news story recently where experienced hikers have stumbled off cliffs while giving full attention to their GPS devices. Funnier YouTube videos show similarly focused urbanites navigating sidewalks with their smartphones only to head-butt a lamppost or tangle into a street sign.
There are people who know where they are, yet are lost. There are others who don't know where they are, yet are not lost.
Explorers have a sense of direction. They have good hunches. They have a sense of what’s important for their expedition and what’s not. For some these senses appear to be innate, God-given and keen; others have to work at them. Yet all these individuals understand that their sense must be nurtured.
With all of today’s business and management tools giving us direction and supplying us answers, many executives and leaders think they know where they are and they think they know what’s going on. But really they are lost.
What’s worse is that management tools can actually obscure the reality of being truly lost. When a loss of direction is hidden, it allows leaders to stay lost even when it appears they're moving forward. In the 21st-century an over-reliance on tools without sensible thinking can allow organizations to go confidently in the wrong direction with disastrous consequences.
When executives and leaders naively trust what’s on paper they don’t look up, they miss the landmarks and they don't ask the right questions. By failing here they stumble and lose key opportunities to cultivate what Dr. William Duggan of Columbia Business School calls Strategic Intuition.
To quote Duggan, “Suddenly it hits you. It all comes together in your mind. You connect the dots. It can be one big “Aha!” or a series of smaller ones that together show you the way ahead. The fog clears and you see what to do. It seems so obvious. A moment before you had no idea. Now you do.”
Strategic Intuition is flashes of insight. It's your inner GPS.
But as I said earlier, not all sense of what’s important is innate or necessarily intuitive. Great Explorers actively look for the North Stars that will guide them. They hunt for the landmarks that allow them to get from where they are to where they want to be.
Look for landmarks and feed your inner GPS. Get started and keep asking these four questions.
Do I know where I am? Do I know why I'm here? Am I lost? Am I about to walk into a lamppost?