August 16, 2013 |  by

If you don’t know what you’re looking at—you’ll never see it.

That’s how intuition works. Herbert Simon once said, “Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.”

Intuitions are recognitions of the bigger picture—through the noise.

But recognition requires expertise. We need to have seen something over and over (or at least once) to recognize (re-cognize) it. It’s said that certain primitive peoples—who’d never seen a square—could only recognize four connected lines when shown a square for the first time.

Everything we’re not expert at follows the same principle: we only see lines instead of the square. Speak to an expert on de Bruijn graphs—you’ll be seeing lines (if you’re lucky) while he’s seeing squares.

That’s what Simon means by recognition. To recognize/intuit what others don’t/can’t, we need a level of expertise. Like Neo in the Matrix, we need to see the patterns. That’s intuition.

A big part of recognition is naming. Names (like square) give identity. It’s like a file name for the mind. What if none of your computer files had names? How would you ever find anything?

Edward de Bono has said, “90 percent of the mistakes in thinking are indeed mistakes of perception.” There’s a part of the problem we don’t recognize. Maybe we are caught in the details. We see the lines but not the square.

In short, intuition can be cultivated by 1) introducing names and 2) developing expertise.


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