How are creativity and intuition related? Can our understanding of the creative process explain intuition?
A lot of people recognize intuition but can’t explain it. Some refer to a “gut feeling” while others talk about a flash of illumination. Some researchers have defined intuition as a way to acquire knowledge without the use of observation, reason, or experience. They claim intuition comes from an unknown psychic dimension of some sorts.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. My research into the art and science of creativity set the stage for an understanding of this phenomenal process. After all, creativity often manifests itself as an intuitive inspiration.
Creativity is the connection of ideas, concepts, frames of reference or levels of experience previously disconnected. Arthur Koestler names this connection bisociation. According to Koestler, we associate ideas when they exist in the same cognitive frame. We bisociate things when we connect them from disconnected cognitive frames. The creative instant occurs at the precise connection.
It took serious inquiries into the theory of creativity, epistemology, and cognitive psychology to gather the raw material necessary to explain intuition. My research has led me to conclude that intuition is the instant subconscious integration of multiple pieces of information coming from both our memory (experience) and our senses. This integration (similar to bisociation) manifests itself as a level of consciousness accompanied with a physiological element. Since we were not consciously involved in the integration, we do not understand were our sense of knowledge comes from. For all practical purposes, it just “popped up” from nowhere. However, our nervous system was diligently working, compiling information from multiple sources, comparing this information to our experience, and checking what makes sense and what not.
Intuition is the subconscious recognition of cues and patterns around us, translated into a level of awareness. Psychologist and cognitive scientist Gary Klein proposes three steps to help develop our intuitive ability. First, we need to identify the key cues and patterns needed for specific tasks and decisions. Second, we need to practice decision making in relevant contexts. The idea is to build a healthy experience database. Third, we need to receive feedback and reflect about the results of our decisions. This includes asking ourselves: What cues and patterns did I recognize? What mistakes did I make? What would have an expert done that I did not do?
Airlines recognize the importance of a pilot with good intuition. They use flight simulators to help pilots develop the experience and the intuition that will allow them to make good decisions quickly, particularly in crisis. Far from being a privilege given to a few, intuition is a skill we all use. Just like any other skill, we can develop it and strengthen it with practice and reflection.
Far from being an irrational burst, intuition manifests the magnificent capacity of our cognitive system. There is no need to match intuition against analysis. What we need to do is recognize how intuition complements analysis in our search for knowledge.
If you want to make good decision, especially under pressure, your best option is to activate your intuition and put your brain to work.
Copyright 2003 QBS, Inc.