General Thinking

Sensibility, Intuition and Good Judgement

There is a expression that I simply hate: counter-intuitive. Counter-intuitive implies that something is contrary to intuition, but in most cases people describe things that are counter-sensibility as counter-intuitive. When someone says something is counter-intuitive, I just assume that they have no clue what intuition is. Read my previous blog about ‘Intuition‘ if you wish to know what I think intuition is.


So what is sensibility? According to me sensibility is whatever convention teaches us. Sensibility tells us that if you throw a log of wood up, it is going to fall on your face or if you say something unflattering to someone, they might get pissed off. It is what you come to expect based on the norms that you are used to.

Is there a situation where, when a log of wood is thrown up, it goes up and does not fall down? Under water?

Saying something unflattering to someone might actually cause them to do what they must.

The norms that we are used to, make us think sensibly. They do not allow us think intuitively.


Intuition can be counter-sensibility. It is born out of a great deal of observation and assimilation by the sub-conscious which is hard to define or justify.

“This is going to be by the most appreciate book.” You know intuitively that this sentence is wrong. What is wrong? Gerund? Infinitive? Article? Past participle? I am sure you can’t put a finger on the rule that I am flouting but you know it is wrong and you know what to do to correct it.

Observation and assimilation causes you to know this. Most of the things that we learn are like this. In fact we hardly learn anything consciously.

Intuition is hence extremely hard to explain to another person. It usually flies in the face of sensibility. You feel, ‘I should probably tell this person something unflattering in order to push him to achieve his potential’. How do you know if you will get the reaction which you expect or not? Intuition lets you know.

Its just impossible to explain why.

Intuition at first glance looks stupid.

Good Judgement

Given that most times intuition is going to be hard to explain, justify or defend; it is important to have good judgement.

Let us say, you are running a startup and have a key employee who is based out of the client’s location. This person has had a chance to observe things that you might not have. This observation would contribute towards building an intuition that you would not have. Any call that this person makes on the basis on their intuition is going to be hard to explain and may fly in the face of sensibility.

As a teacher, parent, mentor or leader one of the most important things you can hope to lend to anyone is good judgement. Even if the decision taken does not seem sensible, if its based on good judgement, you can rest assured about the decision. It may work out favourably or not, but the basis would be sound.

So where does this good judgement come from?


All judgements are based on the value system that a person follows. Providing great values is the best way of ensuring good judgement.

Values are extremely important; whether you are the head of a team, a business or a family. Articulating it clearly is even more important.

Strong values breed a way of thinking within an organisation. It develops a culture over a period of time where there are certain things that are appreciated more than others. It also begins to define the incentives within the organisation to encourage a particular nature of behaviour and decision making.

Values breed culture.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Strategy is just an approach and the approach changes all the time.

Culture determines incentives, if the right things are incentivised the outcome will always be good in the long term.

General Thinking


Steve Jobs famously said ‘let intuition be your guide’.

Most people seem to think that there are people who are just genuinely intuitive and others who are not. What is intuition and where does it come from? Is it some kind of talent? Is there some way to inculcate it?

All of us have intuition built into us; we do not give it a chance. Intuition is a sub-conscious process and hence, it is very difficult to be aware of it. Or in other words if you are aware of it, you would negate it (It would then be a conscious process!).

Nevertheless, all of us have the ability to arrive at these insights and epiphanies. The reason that these do not arrive at insights with striking frequency is because we are not doing a great deal of the ground work that is needed to arrive at them.

According to the dictionary:

Intuition ~ The faculty of knowing or understanding something without reasoning or proof

I have a different definition; Intuition is the subconscious processing of information that we have acquired over a period of time, which leads to an insight. The reasoning is subconscious and hence not obvious.

Our subconscious mind is better at solving problems than our conscious mind.

In an experiment conducted in the U.S., researchers asked students to sit in front of the screen with four quadrants. An X would appear in one quadrant at a time and they were asked to hit a corresponding button. Amongst random Xs they put in a complex pattern which was governed by an algorithm. After 4000 trials the students were much faster and accurate.

When asked after the experiment not one had noticed any pattern. When asked specifically about a pattern none of them had identified one or could figure the algorithm.

To make sure that this was not the way things naturally functioned, they run the experiment again but this time the algorithm was changed after 3500 trials and accuracy plummeted. They said it was as if their fingers lost the rhythm.

Their subconscious minds had successfully solved the complex algorithm while the conscious mind was completely unaware of it.  We are capable of learning things that we do not even know we are learning.

Nobody ever taught you your mother tongue!

The first step to inculcate intuition is to acquire a great deal of information. This does not mean that you have to be on a survey mode all of the time. It means talking to people who have varied points of view. If there is a particular thing/subject that you would like to know better, talk to more people who are involved in that industry or area. That is all you need to ever do. The subconscious would take care of the rest.

I think there would be little argument against the fact that Steve Jobs had great intuition. If you read any book about him, the one thing that really stands out is that, he used to spend a great deal of time talking to people. He would speak to most of them about life, technology and how technology was evolving. These were general conversations in the minds of those who spoke to him but he was collecting the information from all of them and letting it stew.

Talking about a wide array of things instead of being boxed into a single subject is very important. Human behaviour is rich and strange. Every outcome in life is somehow influenced by human behaviour. Talking about topics that are varied results in understanding human behaviour better.

The better you understand human behaviour the more successful you will be in life. Human behaviour is completely unpredictable and fundamental basis of every business.

Once all of this information has been acquired, the mind then plays the part of slow-walking you to an epiphany. If you need to utilise the insight, you will realise the value of it. If not, it is just another observation that is stored away somewhere in the corners of your mind.


Why drop-outs succeed in business

Our entire existence in this world hinges on survival. As we survive, we learn.

We pass on what we have learned, in the form of education.

Our education system is structured in a manner where we need to pass tests to prove our proficiency. Unfortunately, it is fairly simple to game the system. In a test all you need is for the examiner to believe that you have learnt.

Since we use examples to teach, we use examples to test. It is rather easy to learn up the examples and ace the test. You do not need to be a genius. (I am not saying that the same questions are used, but the same structures are used)

Coming from the background of having gamed tests, it is only obvious to seek to game the business as well. Take the best example that fits what you seek to do and solve the puzzle in much the same manner. We feel that if we are able to looking at sufficient examples, we would find a solution that fits. In the real world, this does not work.

When your maths teacher puts together the problems, he/she limits the number of variables that you need to deal with. The real world unfortunately has far more variables; some visible and some invisible. When one tries to study another business as an example they figure out the visible variables but for obvious reasons miss out the invisible variable.

This is what they mean when they say – “Don’t look at the success of another person; their story is different from yours”.

Customers seek value for their money. It is far and away the ONLY thing that the customer is seeking. That value may be delivered in the form of a better product, service, packing, feeling, etc. This is where the story of each startup differs from that of the other and gaming the system becomes extremely hard. It is the hardest test to pass.

A customer will not consistently put money in your hands unless he/she feels value delivery is actually taking place. The variables which lead to the perception of value are very complex to understand. Hence, it is dangerous to look at someone else’s success and use that as a template for your own.

There is no gaming the customer here. No examples. No shortcut. No optimum solution (which is part of the reason disruption occurs).

As Paul Graham puts it – The customer is like a shark, there is either meat or there isn’t.

The only gauge is to see, if the customer is happy after having paid for the product or service. That should be the only focus at the initial stages. Do people love using what my business offers? What do they love? What don’t they love? How to improve?

Drop-outs are usually not burdened with the baggage of learning how to ace the test. They respond to the movement of the market, they are more flexible and look to solve problems in their own way. They do not seek to do the things that others did to be successful, they just do their own thing. They do not know how to study examples, they only know how to respond to a given situation.

They trust their intuition, spend a lot of time understanding their customers and do the best that they can; which is the best way to run any business.