Two limits of intuition

Intuition, the brain’s process of interpreting and concluding without resort to conscious thought, has its place for law department managers, but they also ought to know its two major limitations.  A piece by Eric Bonabeau in CSFB’s Thought Leader Forum (2003) stresses two inadequacies of intuition.

  1. “Intuition is not always good at evaluating options and solutions.”  One reason for this is that people tend to fixate on the first idea they have. Another reason is that few of us can understand the interaction effects between many different components of a situation.  Intuition allows a speedy conclusion when the current situation resembles previous situations, not when conditions have changed.

  1. “Intuition is never good at exploring alternatives.” .It is not, Bonabeu writes, adept at seeking out potentially original solutions.  Bonabeau encourages people to use “evolutionary computation” to promote creativity.

If you have seen a legal issue many times before, an intuitive, quick grasp of yet another minor variant lets the in-house lawyer solve the problem and move on.  But if many choices exist for courses of action, and if the challenge is sorting out the good from the bad, don’t wholly trust your intuition.

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