Finding the Intuitive, Innovative Manager Within (5 Steps)

05/01/2015 10:08 am ET | Updated May 01, 2016

Up until age five, we function in a creative, intuitive manner. Parents, teachers and society ultimately change most of us into individuals who are more methodical and practical along the way to adulthood. This is not all bad, however. Imagine trying to manage a room full of five-year-olds in the workplace!

In a NASA study to measure creativity in order to determine which individuals to place in their innovation groups, creativity was found to diminish over time into adulthood.

The important questions follow: "How do we strip away the layers and get back to our creative essence, or channel our inner 5-year-olds?" We've learned to conform, to be politically correct, guarded and defensive in order not to make waves. Unfortunately, these ingrained patterns tend to deepen as we age.

If our intuition is switched off, can it be turned back on? As one of a certain age, I've discovered that we can indeed turn back the hands of time by bursting out of our comfort zone. We cannot do "the same thing over and over again expecting a different result," as Einstein warned.

Some of us individuals are more self-aware than others, and able to make the connection between our beliefs/behaviors and the correlation with important influencers along the way. For example, a Mensa member, who was terminated from jobs four times in a 10-year period, with some assistance was able to link a phrase his father had uttered to him at age 13 with the disdain and contempt he subconsciously held for authority figures as an adult. His pattern of behavior had proven to be a disastrous one, resulting in his cycling through one company after another until finally understanding and breaking the pattern.

Fortunately for most of us, it's not a dramatic roller coaster ride that has been playing out in our heads. It's more the myriad ways in which we can get stuck and end up less productive and successful than we would like. (The author knows this too well from personal experience.)

What, then, are the steps to becoming a more intuitive, innovative person or manager?

  • A good first step is to understand where we get stuck, or an awareness of the root cause of our behavior.

Some of us procrastinate: "I'll do it later," or "I don't have enough time." There is a slight possibility that we may be swamped. More likely, though, we're procrastinating in order to keep from having to do the more difficult self-examination work. We need to go deep and take a hard look at our thoughts and feelings. If we're able to determine why we're procrastinating, we've taken an important first step.

  • The second step is to understand why this behavior exists.

We may have some suspicions, but it's important to get to the bottom of this issue, as the simple passage of time will not provide an answer. If we cannot discover the root cause of our behavior, we may turn to a spouse, family member or friend for help. If no one here can be of assistance, there is no shame in seeking professional counseling. It is far better than remaining stuck. The author found that many interview subjects were able to gain insights using the unique methodology found in his book.

  • A third step is making new and different choices once an awareness of the problem has been achieved.

If we are habitual procrastinators, this new awareness will make it far easier to start a project shortly after it has been assigned. If we are able to begin without an accompanying feeling of deep dread, we're on our way and will find procrastination easier to overcome.

  • Changing patterns and routines are the fourth step.

Let's try to take a different type of vacation, read a new genre book, arrange to meet with someone we find interesting, try a new sport or exercise, get more sleep, take a weekend retreat (for ourselves), or experience a new type of cuisine. Then let's write about these experiences in a journal, a practice which will capture new ideas and inspiration. Remember that this exercise is not a "one and done" type; we need to disrupt our routines on a continual basis.

  • The fifth and final step involves prepping and conducting meetings in a different manner.

We need to put more time into thinking about management styles, one-on-one meetings or sales calls the night before. Do not simply "shoot from the hip" or "wing it," just because we have done it many times before. Let's ask ourselves the questions "What do we want to accomplish? How best can we make our point? What could we do differently?", actually writing down our answers. The stimulus-response nature of this process will get our brains working in different ways.

For those of us who know how to activate the right hemisphere of our brains (described in Thought Revolution), these questions provide excellent opportunities to gain fresh, independent perspectives using the methodology we have learned. The best part of this approach is that these perspectives come from the part of the brain believed to be responsible for intuition, creativity and problem solving.

Using the above steps to achieve self-awareness will not only lead to a more successful business career, but will also produce a greater zest for life.