You may be on to something big! Don’t ignore your hunches | Sunday Observer

You may be on to something big! Don’t ignore your hunches

How often had you wanted to kick yourself when you saw a new business opportunity based on your hunch but never acted upon? For example, you wanted to buy an apartment at cut-down start up price as a 5-year investment. Unfortunately, like most others, you understood the value of your intuition about the future only retrospectively. Thankfully, there are exceptions.

Back in 1903, a woman named Mary Anderson noticed during a visit to New York that rain made driving very challenging. Drivers were forced to open the windows of their cars in the rain, to see the road ahead. That’s when she visualized a ‘swinging arm’ with a rubber blade that drivers could operate from a lever within the vehicle. By 1916, her windshield wipers were standard on all cars. Her patent made her rich.

That’s the thing about hunches. They can occur to anyone, at any time. The challenge often, is in getting people to share their hunch with the right people, at the right time. Generally, people don’t consider their hunches good enough to act on or even share.

On-the-job creativity

Usually, we assume, creativity belongs to architects, artists,decorators and such. But often, while the creative types are painting the same bowl of fruit and designing the same glass-box skyscrapers, a harassed sales manager somewhere is figuring out a new way to move an overstock of galvanized iron, or a tool-and-die maker is designing a power take-off that will do three jobs simultaneously. On-the-job creativity is everybody’s property, and hundreds of people have discovered that it can make almost any line of work into an adventure, a career.

I have known one of these people who was a mechanic for a large manufacturing company. He knew that the company was planning to purchase some expensive new machinery to speed the manufacture of automobile engine bearings.

Having his lunch in the office, he suddenly pictured a device which was installed on the company’s previous machine, but now discarded. He thought it would streamline the production just as effectively as the costly new equipment. He found an A4 paper, diagrammed his idea on it with explanations, and dropped it into the company suggestion box. The device worked. And the company rewarded him with a promotion.


The principal arena of creativity is the workday world of people who are smack up against getting a job done. Therefore, there is always an important aspect of a hunch. How can an individual recognize and nurture a hunch? And, what should he do?

Before that, let’s take a minute to understand how hunches originate.

Maybe, you’re stuck in a traffic jam and realize that a food delivery app that allows you to get snacks delivered at traffic signals might work beautifully in your city. It sounds crazy but such environmental cues are the most common source of a hunch.

Hunches can also originate from a new piece of information that you encounter. You’re looking at past sales data and suddenly see that 60 percent of your new customer-wins have come from a certain region in the past six months. You realize that focusing your marketing efforts on that region is likely to yield great results – and a hunch is born.

Sometimes, a small change in scene or routine – whether deliberate or lucky, can result in a big ‘aha’ moment. It can be as simple as offering a special scheme to your customers around a certain holiday or event and realizing that it makes sense to offer it all year round.

Also, a hunch can originate from practically anyone in the business – from a customer service executive to the sales team or even the CEO.

On-the-job creativity is often merely a matter of imaginative combinations. I knew of a tyre selling and servicing shop located near 3 business-lunch restaurants.

The manager had a hunch and put it into operation. He allocated 3 salesmen to visit the car parks of the restaurants and check for vehicles with worn tyres and leave a note under the windshield wipers. The note said, “We have a variety of original tyres. See the catalogue pamphlet. Pick up what you like. Call us when you are here again; we’ll pick up your car, replace the tyres, check the pressure and bring it back before you finish eating.”

Where do creative ideas come from? For an answer, observe yourself. Do you do your best thinking at your desk or when you’re away from the job? Do your hunches come in a flurry for several days, then dry up for a month or so? You can study and take advantage of these patterns. Do your ideas jump out at you when driving? Pull out of traffic to write them down while the bloom is on.

Ask other people about their creativity tricks and adopt any that suits you. An industrial designer confided to me that when he’s really stuck, he walks through an old surplus store; there he invariably finds some gadget that helps break the idea jam. A middle-management friend pretends he’s chairman of his company, and imagines what he would change first.

Many people abandon a good idea when they get hung up on a “missing link” that they can’t resolve.


Professionals in creative jobs encounter the same gaps, but handle them differently. Whatever the problem, they keep the good idea burning a hole in the pockets of their mind. They keep the idea simmering. Their subconscious mind will work on it while they’re eating, sleeping, doing chores. They don’t give up.

If we look at the world around us, all major developments are based on hunches that people chose to follow through. While data may be king, the ability to make sense of the data and see what is not obvious, makes all the difference.

So, don’t underestimate your hunches. Share them, talk about them, and see how they might translate on the ground. For all you know, you may be on to something big!


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