When do you get your best ideas? You probably answer “At night,” or “In the shower,” or “Stuck in traffic.” You get a flash of insight. Things come together in your mind. You connect the dots. You say to yourself, “Aha! I see what to do.” Brain science now reveals how these flashes of insight happen. It’s a special form of intuition. We call it strategic intuition, because it gives you an idea for action – a strategy.
Brain science tells us there are three kinds of intuition: ordinary, expert, and strategic. Ordinary intuition is just a feeling, a gut instinct. Expert intuition is snap judgments, when you instantly recognize something familiar, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of the opponent’s racket. (Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this kind of intuition in Blink.) The third kind, strategic intuition, is not a vague feeling, like ordinary intuition. Strategic intuition is a clear thought. And it’s not fast, like expert intuition. It’s slow. That flash of insight you had last night might solve a problem that’s been on your mind for a month. And it doesn’t happen in familiar situations, like a tennis match. Strategic intuition works in new situations. That’s when you need it most.