Fast Company

The Magic of Intuition at Work

BewitchedSometimes we wish that we had the magical powers of the lovable witch Samantha Stephens in the situation comedy Bewitched; at the time (1960s and 1970s) it was the highest rated television series ever for the ABC network. Starring the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery, we remember most vividly Samantha "twitching" her nose to perform a spell and release her magical powers to accomplish whatever task or overcome whatever challenge she faced.

For those readers who may be too young to have seen Samantha (or didn't see the 2005 movie version starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell), imagine having the magical powers of another, more current television personality, Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos, better known by his stage name, "Criss Angel." An illusionist (magician) by trade, he is best known for creating and starring in the highly-rated A&E Network television show, Criss Angel Mindfreak. In this popular show, Angel manages to "freak-out" people's minds with his incredible-- seemingly impossible and even supernatural--feats of magic. Whether we possessed the powers of Samantha or Criss Angel, we definitely could use some "magic" at this time in history.

We have written many times before that we are witnessing and experiencing a period of "creative destruction" in the U.S. today. The same holds true, of course, in many other countries around the world that also are struggling with economic crises and existential challenges. Creative destruction, in this regard, presents both a "crisis" and an "opportunity." On the one hand, it confirms that what may have worked in the past is no longer a viable option; social psychologist Kurt Lewin, the founder of force field analysis, would have called this disconfirmation. On the other hand, with "breakdown" always comes the opportunity for "breakthrough." In other words, the destruction of the old inevitably heralds the creative potential of the new. But this potentiality depends on our willingness to plant and cultivate the "seeds of innovation" that exist within and around us. And, of course, in order to do so, we must not be "prisoners of our thoughts!"

Most discussions about innovation and, by implication, creativity would be remiss if they did not in some way touch upon the topic of intuition. To many people, in fact, unleashing the creative spirit is simply another way of animating one's intuition. In this important respect, intuition cuts at the very core of our individuality and may actually be the final arbiter of how each of us manifests who we really are as living beings. Intuition represents the essence of our personal and collective identities and contains the spark of life energy that we often refer to as "spirit."

Intuition as spirit is certainly not a new concept. On the contrary, it is deeply rooted in a variety of philosophical traditions, both Eastern and Western. For example, Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian-born scientific, literary and philosophical scholar, asserted that free spiritual activity, which he basically understood as the human ability to think intuitively, is the appropriate cognitive path for human beings to take in order to express fully their "freedom" as individuals. To Steiner, by experiencing and living intuitive thinking, that is, "the conscious experience of a purely spiritual content," true freedom as a creative force for socially responsible action would become manifest. Intuition in this way can be viewed as a source of animation providing the energy that brings the cartoon characters we call humans "alive."

Intuition at work, then, is about being alive, wherever one may be. Speaking about the creative spirit in the workplace, Anita Roddick, the British businesswoman (founder of The Body Shop), human rights activist and environmental campaigner, years ago asserted that "all people want is to be alive in the workplace." Unfortunately, even today this notion is easier said than done. From personal experience working with/in hundreds if not thousands of organizations over the years, we have witnessed firsthand what appears to be a scene from the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Sixth Sense in which a young boy "sees dead people." Yes, we've seen many "dead people" at work!

We've also learned through our own research and practice, including writing a book on the subject, that intuition is as much a process of self-discovery as it is a tool for decision-making. Moreover, because this process is grounded in personal experience, it is the individual who is responsible for charting his or her course towards increased intuitive awareness. At times, the path may seem unclear and the journey may appear unpleasant. Then, almost like magic, the force of intuitive knowledge becomes evident and new expressions of self emerge.

Criss AngelIs this really magic? And, if so, must we become magicians or wizards, like Samantha or Criss Angel, in order to tap into this mystical resource? For starters, we believe that everyone is "creative," that everyone is "intuitive" (yes, even men!), and that everyone is a "magician." Intuitive thinking, which Steiner has described as a "philosophy of freedom," is indeed a magical journey. According to popular author Deepak Chopra, "A wizard exists within all of us. This wizard sees and knows everything." Perhaps this is where our own "sixth sense" comes into play.

The journey to build the "Camelots" in our lives involves an evolution of consciousness of magical proportions. Each one of us, like Merlin in Arthurian legend, already has the capacity to do the "magic" that is necessary to transform ourselves and our institutions, including and especially during a period of creative destruction. However, some of us just don't know that yet. It is going to take a shift in awareness for this potential to be realized and for the intended personal and collective transformations to occur. In the final analysis, as NBA coach Phil Jackson so astutely observed, "Being aware is more important than being smart."

Dr. Alex Pattakos is the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts (now in a second, revised and expanded edition) and Dr. Elaine Dundon is author of The Seeds of Innovation (www.seedsofinnovation.com). They are co-founders of The OPA Way!®, an initiative to help people "live a happy, healthy, meaningful life" inspired by and based on Greek culture. They invite you to visit their new Web site and join the "OPA! Village" (it's free!): www.theopaway.com.

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