There is untapped potential for companies looking to get ahead in today’s competitive environment. While the C-suite has, for decades, been accused of doing nothing but implementing the next management fad, there is a small, but emerging industry that could revolutionize how we approach strategic decision making. Services provided by professionals, per a video from Fast Company, that amount to about a $2 billion industry, and that certainly has the capacity to grow in this age of data-driven technologies and a renewed emphasis on evidence-based decision making.
That industry is composed of professionals who serve in the role of “corporate intuitive.” It involves training people to use “their psychic awareness, their intuition, whatever their gut response is to ascertain what the person needs in their business.”
Um, come again?
Did Fast Company really produce a segment on the use of psychics in business?
Why, yes, yes they did!
So, while society in general wrestles with the issues of fake news and alternative facts, CEOs and others are spending money (remember, about $2 billion per year) on strategic initiatives that are equivalent to Peter Venkman’s ESP test from Ghostbusters (1984).
Not surprisingly, the scientific merit for the claims of these corporate intuitives is rather dubious. There is no systematic credible evidence (yes, credible, not the flimsy, anecdotal, confirmation bias, or retracted kind of evidence) for the existence of psychic powers of any kind. The CIA has even attempted to conduct a number of experiments to find evidence for the existence of psychic powers, but that has not worked out in the psychics’ favor. No, in fact, when any kind of rigorous controls are put in place, psychic powers surprisingly disappear.
So, at the end of the day, these consultants emphasize the need to embrace intuition and rely more heavily on gut instincts, except that a great deal of research shows that is likely to lead to some major decision-making errors. The Fast Company video even concluded by arguing that “you should take the chance” because “you have nowhere to go but up,” but as Simons (2002) pointed out, there is a high cost paid by organizations, managers and senior leaders who lose credibility or sacrifice the trust workers place in them.
I caution organizations to avoid reliance on corporate intuitives to assist them in solving any of their problems. I will not attribute any malfeasance to those who claim they possess such skills (as most of them seem to be genuine in their belief that such skills exist). However, the evidence for the existence of those skills is largely based on anecdotal evidence and storytelling, which leads to an overemphasis on hits and an increased likelihood of attentional bias. This is akin to developing a wellness program using the guidance of those who practice alternative and complementary medicine.
Decision making, in general, can be difficult, and strategic decision making can be even more difficult. There is a lot of risk, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of data to be considered. While it may sound like a low-risk shortcut to employ a psychic to assist in guiding you, honing your inner psychic abilities, or advising you based on their unique insights, remember that the recipe for effective decision making involves a systematic process, the use of evidence, and the inclusion of various credible perspectives. None of these characteristics have ever been used to describe those who claim to possess psychic powers.