Management requires data, leadership requires something more

tennis playerOur brains have evolved to notice change because change can mean one of three things: food, sex, or danger. But when so much of the world is changing at once, our brains can easily become overwhelmed.

One response might be to shut out some of the information. But then we would risk missing out on something important. Another approach would be to allow blind instinct to take over. But if we want to remain responsible leaders of ourselves and other people then it makes sense to look for more controlled responses. We need to find ways to analyse and interpret more data more quickly.

Computers can do this for us. But the information they provide is not reality. It is based on the assumptions and interpretations programmed into the computer by other (flawed) human beings. In a time of change, these assumptions may no longer hold true. As this article in the Harvard Business Review points out, the raw data itself can also be flawed.

Computers might seem to allow us to understand more information about more things more quickly, but their interpretations can often be flawed. And they don’t fix the underlying bottleneck: our own capacity to make sense of what is happening. With computers we can quickly reach a new bottleneck, with more information to consider about a wider range of factors.

Instead of relying on computers, we need to expand our own ability to access and process information.

Our brains are 30 times more powerful than the best supercomputers. Neuroscientists estimate that we are only conscious of about five percent of our cognitive activity, 95 percent is unconscious. So we can achieve this goal by learning to draw upon the power of our unconscious minds.

When a sportsperson leaps and stretches in a split second to put the ball exactly where they want it to go; when you suddenly remember something incredibly important that you thought you had forgotten; when the perfect solution suddenly pops into your head out of nowhere, this is not our conscious, thinking mind that is bringing us the answers. It is our intuition. When we stop ‘thinking’ we can achieve great things.

We all have this ability. Often it happens best in the moments of most extreme dynamic change, stress, and improvisation. What we need is a structured way of accessing it reliably.

Management requires data. Leadership requires something more.

How often do you call upon your intuition about a situation? How much of the time do you let the decision be driven by the data? Might you want to shift the balance?

Adapted from Inner LeadershipBuy the Book

Photo By anuarsalleh via

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