Knowledge, intuition and decision making

What constitutes knowledge and intuition? How are they different?

Krishna returned home after a long ride through the countryside on his bicycle – a new road bike. As he enjoyed a hot lunch after a 40 km ride, he thought about his purchase. The gears shifted smoothly. The bike responded well to each push on the pedals during a tough climb. The brakes were powerful and easy to operate. Overall, he had enjoyed his ride and could not have been happier with his decision.  

This account constitutes Krishna’s knowledge of his bike. Having had an experience, it represents what he consciously registers and remembers. If somebody asked him about his ride, this information is what he would use to describe it. However, let us take a look at the first 300 meters of his 40 km ride in real time:

Krishna mounts his new bike – the seat is higher, thinner and harder than that of his old bike. He bends more to sit on it, considering it is a road bike. He pedals on the cement surface of his apartment’s basement that feels smooth under the bike’s razor thin wheels. The basement echoes with the sound of the cycle’s chain ratcheting as he free-wheels through it. He snakes his way around the  pillars to get used to the handlebar. He leaves the apartment complex and the smooth concrete gives way to coarser tarmac. He now cycles faster and gauges how much thrust is generated with every downward push. Finally, he reaches the highway, and sees an oncoming car. He pulls on the brake-levers and the cycle skids to a halt in response to their effortless application. 

This rich set of interactions with his bike inform Krishna’s intuition. They are all part of how he feels about the ride, without his explicit knowledge. If he were to purchase a new bike tomorrow, this is the information he would bank upon for making that decision.

What we register consciously and remember, constitutes our knowledge. Our intuition comprises the thousands of unconscious perceptions we have during our experiences. Our knowledge is the tip of the iceberg that is visible to us, whereas our intuition is the huge mass of ice that lies under the water. While making involved decisions, our intuition is the agent that is actually responsible, while our knowledge often authorizes this decision regardless of what it is. In the decision making process, our intuition is the Indian parliament, while knowledge is its nominal president.

Companies everywhere are realizing this today. To get somebody to buy a product, giving them a small taste of how it feels to use it product (a test ride or a trial period) is far more effective than bombarding them with a thousand benefits that it offers.

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