4 I’s, a hole, addition and subtraction
I was recently listening to the Rich Roll Podcast (1) with guest Guru Singh talking about instinct, impulse, intuition and intelligence - the 4 I’s. The discussion on impulse then led to comments about how marketing seeks to tell us we have a hole in our lives and that the marketeers have exactly the product/service/programme we need to fill that hole.
I call this addition marketing, adding more and more to our already full lives. Actually what I think many of us need is some subtraction, in the form of purging, pruning, and generally getting rid of things in life. Sometimes this is because we’re too full and just need space, or sometimes we need to make space for the right things.
Here’s my interpretation of the 4 I’s:
- Instinct: our animal nature/behaviour built into our DNA.
- Impulse: an action or reaction primarily driven by our emotions.
- Intelligence: is an accumulation of knowledge and experiences - physical, emotional and spiritual - that have been processed and embedded into our conscious cognition.
- Intuition: an instant pseudo/sub-conscious gut feel for something also based on an accumulation of knowledge and experiences - physical, emotional and spiritual.
Developing my understanding of these different terms has been helpful as some are often interchanged and can be misleading or cause some confusion. To simplify I correlate them this way: instinct/DNA, impulse/emotional, intelligence/brain, intuition/gut.
Let’s think about impulse.
The marketing world reaches out to us mostly to tap into our impulses - we’ve all heard the phrase “it was an impulse purchase” to which the marketeers and shareholders sing a chorus of “cha-ching!’ While reflecting on this and listening to Guru Singh as he talked about the hole that we may not have, I find this very helpful. Marketing tries to persuade us that there’s a metaphorical hole in us that needs filling with their latest product, service or programme of diet, exercise, meditation etc.
How often have we been convinced/suckered in by these messages and made the purchase or signed up to a programme? I for one am guilty.
In my coaching, there comes a point when I often ask, “if you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” This can have quite an arresting effect. We cannot keep adding more and more to life thinking we’re filling these non-existent holes in our lives. There comes a point when we reach capacity and perhaps we need to think about subtracting things from our life rather than adding. How many of us have too much stuff, have too much going on, have consumed too much etc. (When reflecting on this constant adding of stuff it made me think of the word addiction, and just how appropriate a term this is.)
Maybe “subtraction” is a more appropriate thing for us to be thinking about? At the extreme end of this you have the minimalist movement which really has something to offer/challenge us and how our world is being ruined by a plague of consumption. I am not a minimalist myself but I do feel it has something to say and I am personally challenged by it. Terms like pruning, purging, decluttering, lean, are all good things to take some time to reflect on.
I have taken some baby steps - recently I took time to have a good purge of my wardrobe, working towards restricting myself to a maximum number of certain types of clothing - socks, underwear, T-shirts, jeans etc. I made three piles: Donate; Recycle, Bin. Things that still have life in them went to charity shops, scrappy old T’s went to the rag draw and the rest recycled or binned as appropriate. And now before and when buying I focus on quality, responsibly sourced goods. I also still have a long way to go!
For the second half of this article I offer some thoughts on intuition and intelligence:
Recently I have read two books that have really helped me think more deeply about these. Daniel Kahneman’s tome Thinking Fast and Slow(2) that earned him the Nobel prize for his contribution to behavioural economics and Blink(3) by Malcolm Gladwell, which is all about intuition. At surface level these books seem at odds with one another, however, I find them to be really complementary.
Kahneman talks at length how he worked with one of his academic rivals Gary Klein. Klein’s work focuses on the validity of expert opinion (in the field of naturalistic decision making) and much of Kahneman’s text systematically shows how well thought out algorithms beat experts in predicting outcomes.
However, the examples of outcomes given refer to predicting events somewhat into the future - the performance of stocks and shares in 12 months being one example used. Kahneman credibly demonstrates how traders keep stock that under performs and sell stock that performs better, and there’s a statistically significant difference between their performance and solid formula, where the formula wins each time.
Klein’s work on the other hand shows how experts in certain fields are able to make decisions that cannot be replicated by models - examples are cited of how fire captains have sensed something’s not right about a situation and pulled out their crews moments before roofs would have collapsed on them. Which is right?
For me both are valid and not at all contradictory. Both rely on expert knowledge gleaned from years of studying, observing and experience in their field. Neither would be able to make good decisions without this knowledge and experience, but the application is significantly different in that one looks at “in the moment” decisions and the other looks at longer term outcomes.
What’s interesting about Kahneman’s work is that he then goes on to show how regular economic theory is abandoned time after time because of other behavioural factors such as loss aversion, endowment theory, possibility, certainty and many others. Fascinating stuff!
The key is the expertise that “experts” have worked so hard to achieve. Too many of us like to think we are experts while having minimal knowledge or experience. Classic example from British culture: Observe a group of blokes watching sport on TV in a pub - they all seem to know way more than the people they are watching on the TV! Really?
As I reflect on these things and my values I challenge myself to remain courageously curious and maybe, before offering opinions, predictions and pearls of wisdom, I should consider my own level of expertise? How about you?
- Rich Roll Podcast episode 634.
- Thinking Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman. 2012. Penguin Books.
- Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Malcolm Gladwell. 2006.