FF Daily #454: The importance of intuition

August 20, 2021: Vaccine politics; How managers can help introverted colleagues speak up; You are what you are

Founding Fuel

[Photo of US Airways Flight 1549 after crashing into the Hudson River in New York City. Photo by Greg L, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Good morning,

In The Art of Judgment, John Adair says managers tend to avoid using their intuition because they feel intuition is not scientific enough. It might be a good call early in one's career. But as one gains experience—or when someone is dealing with experienced people—it's important to give intuition its due.

Here are two stories from the book.  

“On 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 was struck by a flock of Canada geese shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport, New York. The bird strike rendered both engines on the Airbus A320 inoperative. In an incredible feat of judgment and professional skill in the context of impending disaster, pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger took the decision to land the stricken plane on the Hudson River. All 150 passengers and five crew were rescued from the plane as it floated intact on the river. After the incident Sullenberger modestly told CBS News anchor Katie Courie, ‘One way of looking at this might be that, for 42 years, I’ve been making small regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training and on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.’”

“Hotelier Conrad Hilton (1887–1979) was once trying to buy an old hotel in Chicago whose owners promised to sell to the highest bidder. Several days before the deadline date for sealed bids, Hilton submitted a hastily made $165,000 offer. He went to bed that night feeling vaguely disturbed and woke the next morning with a hunch that his bid was not high enough. ‘That didn’t feel right to me,’ he later wrote. ‘Another figure kept coming, 180,000 dollars. It satisfied me. It seemed fair. It felt right. I changed my bid to the larger figure on that hunch. When they were opened the closest bid to mine was 179,000 dollars.’”

What has been your experience with following your instincts? Share your stories with us.

In this issue,

  • Vaccine politics 
  • How managers can help their introverted colleagues to speak up
  • You are what you are

Have a good day.

Vaccine politics

Matt Stoller made some interesting observations on his blog after pharma firms raised prices for vaccines effective against the Delta variant of Covid. “(T)he European Union must now pay an extra 25% than it did for the Pfizer vaccine, and 10% more for Moderna’s. The extra revenue is purely a result of market power, not higher costs. Pfizer has already raised estimates to investors, telling them it will generate $33 billion this year selling the vaccine. At the same time, these vaccine monopolists are not making enough doses to vaccinate the world, because they are focused on production to sell to rich countries, rather than ending a pandemic.”

Stoller is research director at American Economic Liberties Project and author of Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.

This is a situation, Stoller argues, the Biden administration had anticipated and so they “supported a waiver of intellectual property… Such a waiver would suspend monopoly rights, and let third party companies use industrial designs, patents, or copyrights without needing permission from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, though any producer would still pay royalties to these firms…

“mRNA vaccine technology would get out into the world, and Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech would make tens of billions of dollars. They wouldn’t, however, be able to control who got to manufacture the vaccines. In addition, the pandemic would be more likely to be brought under control, meaning their market for vaccines would eventually shrink. It’s no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry opposed Biden’s plan vehemently.”

Stoller goes on to talk about what may have happened behind the scenes. “When I first wrote about the TRIPS waiver, I waxed eloquently about Biden’s announcement. Some sceptics mused that Biden wasn’t serious, but I was open-minded. The sceptics, though, have been proven right.”

Dig deeper

How managers can help their introverted colleagues speak up

In an essay that’s pegged on Naomi Osaka’s fear of public speaking, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, offers some insights on how one can get more comfortable with it. Cain suggests we start exposing ourselves first in “small, manageable doses”. “From there, people work up to more challenging situations. The idea is to build on small, dependable successes that train the brain that the source of its fear is more benign than it had thought.” 

In the context of online meetings, she says managers have a role to play too. Cain writes, “They can design work environments so employees with public-speaking anxiety can flourish. For example, they can make some meetings audio only, since video conferences are distracting and tiring for everyone.

“But even video conferences can be structured more thoughtfully. Moderators can make a point of asking for comments before moving on with the agenda, for example, to dilute the influence of the dominant and the talkative. They can promote the meeting’s chat function as a channel for written contributions as an alternative to spoken ones. They can even designate someone to summarise the chat comments orally, or message their authors privately and invite them to make their case to the camera, giving them both encouragement and time to prepare.

“Perhaps most of all, managers can urge quieter workers to learn to speak from the heart, out of a desire to share valuable information and insights. Many leaders, from Warren Buffett to Mahatma Gandhi, overcame their aversion to the spotlight because they had so much they wanted to say.”

Dig deeper

You are what you are

(Via WhatsApp)

Found anything interesting and noteworthy? Send it to us and we will share it through this newsletter.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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