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Insight, intuition and foresight

High performers

If you perform at the highest levels then it is almost certain that at some time you will be using intuition, foresight and insight.
These skills are quite nebulous in trying to define what they are and how you can improve your use of them.

Insight, intuition and foresight

The definition of insight is.

  • Insight

‘The ability to perceive clearly or deeply’.

This is slightly different to intuition which has often been put forward as a necessity for good leadership (see The Complete Leadership package).

  • Intuition

‘Knowledge or perception not gained by reasoning and intelligence’.

In other words, whereas ‘insight’ usually requires some action to obtain a clear and deep understanding ‘intuition’ does not.
In the latter case you just know.
Insight is about convincing yourself that you understand the facts or the situation.
The best way to do this is to ask questions.

You must find out underlying reasons and clarify meaning.
When everything is clear a bell rings or a light appears in your minds eye.

  • Foresight

‘Provision for or insight into future problems’.

Foresight is when you are using insight to help you perceive future problems.
You might be using market trends, reading the business pages, subscribing to newsletters, tuning in to your own networks, watching how people act in particular situations etc.

Knowledge, intelligence and wisdom

These aspects are in turn different from other mental aspects, namely knowledge, intelligence and wisdom.

Some dictionary definitions are.

  • Knowledge

‘The facts, feelings or experiences known by a person or group or people’.

  • Intelligence

‘The capacity for understanding; ability to perceive and comprehend meaning’.

  • Wisdom

‘The ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight’.

With wisdom you can exercise judgement which is a necessary requirement for a leader (see The Complete Leadership package).

One aspect of wisdom is to keep it simple if at all possible.


For good performance and motivation it’s a good idea to develop your intuitive abilities.

Leadership and the management of projects (see The Complete Project Management package) is based upon facts and solid data.
However, there are times when just considering bear facts can limit your performance.
A good leader has the knack of knowing when to pursue certain issues and when to modify plans.
This intuition seems more acute in some people compared to others.

What might appear to be intuition could be the rapid assessment of many years of experience and knowledge gained.

Whatever the explanation intuition is a vital tool in the armoury of the best performers.


Insight is the ability to perceive clearly and deeply.
This may require an action to clarify the situation by asking questions.

Before you can get insight into the behaviour of others you must be confident about the knowledge of your own behaviours.


  • Who you are and what you stand for
  • What are your values?
  • How do you interact with others?
  • Why did I do that?
  • How do you impact on others in what I say and do?
  • Why did an action work and why didn’t it?
  • Could I repeat that successful act?
  • How can you do better?

Until you know yourself better it will be easy to have misconceptions of others.
As a leader your action will influence that of others. Hence, if you don’t know your own behaviour well it is more difficult to direct the behaviour of others.

In the theatre an actor will explore the emotions of many characters whilst playing a variety of parts.
The actor will do this naturally and it’s this ability to explore the depths of your own character that is required when getting to know yourself.

Clearly, people are not robots and can’t be governed purely by rule books and regulations.
You must be able to understand their motivation to improve behaviours.
The variability of people is much greater than any machine.

If you know yourself a lot better you are less likely to be judgemental about others.

This constant absorption and interpretation of information about others will allow you to make the best decisions when trying to get the best out of them with improved motivation.

By keeping to the facts and not listening to hearsay you can review the situation and make informed judgements concerning any future implications.


You can gain foresight by assessing information from current information.
To practice gaining foresight you have to encourage the retrieval of the required information.
Ask yourself why it is important to have foresight?

  • What are the current market trends and what if they suddenly change?
  • Where do we need to be in 3 months, 6 months and 1 year?
  • Where is the cutting edge technology?
  • What problems could we expect in the next 12 months?
  • What are our competitors dong?

You could devise many more and narrow them down to say 6 key ones.
The aim is to stimulate discussion of future trends with “What if?” questions which will lead to foresight of the possibility of future events. Knowing what is likely to happen allows you take appropriate action.
This is the cornerstone of contingency planning (see The Complete Time Management package).

It is very easy to be so busy that much information that would prove useful just doesn’t register.
Going through an exercise like the above helps to focus the mind and make you think.
Having foresight will definitely improve motivation.

Foresight is an aspect of developing contingencies for disaster scenarios.
By consciously thinking of the consequences of serious events you can fully explore possible future scenarios and plan for them happening. In some cases, it may be appropriate to act these out in order to make them more graphic.
Carrying out this exercise will help team work.