Intuitively Obvious

I had a lightbulb moment the other day.

Twice, in short succession, with two different groups of people, I was sharing the conclusions I had formed from the proceeding discussions. In each case, my answer was simple and to me it was obvious that it was the only conclusion to draw. But in each case, every member of the group was dumbstruck with silence, they each cocked their heads to one side and stared at me incredulously. Gradually they started with questions like, “Why do you say that?” or “How do you figure?” All I could think of was, “What are they missing?” I did not even know where to begin and started to question myself.

The light bulb came on later while I coincidentally happened to be going through some of the groups personality preferences as exhibited by their Myers-Briggs assessment results because of some team studies I was doing. It turned out that I was the only “N” in a group of “S” types. That is, I was intuiting while they were sensing. I was looking at interrelationships and theorizing future possibilities. They were looking at the facts and details of the present reality. Our two different perspectives kept us from seeing the same conclusion. The one that was intuitively obvious to me was not even a possibility to them.

To be clear, this was not a matter of intelligence, but purely a matter of the way they preferred to take in information from the world and what kind of information they trust. At the same time, it was not about right and wrong. I can cite many exam problems that are designed to trip up intuitives and remind them to focus on the facts presented. However, sometimes when there is not sufficient detail to draw a conclusion, intuition is all you have to work with to make progress.

The light bulb was that something that is intuitively obvious is only obvious if you are intuitive.

I realized I had an extra burden to illustrate my vision. I would have to do it in a way that would show how it was rooted in reality. That would let them sense the concrete connections to the details they could see without trying to persuade them with logic.

The next time you discover an answer that is intuitively obvious, do not assume that your answer is actually obvious. Be prepared to show your work.

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