Chilean Mine “75% Science, 25% Miracle” …

… or so says the WSJ today. “It was 75% engineering and 25% a miracle,” said topographer Macarena Valdes as she was speaking of her own role in the rescue. I submit that maybe only 75% was engineering but the miracle portion occurred within Ms. Valdes’ brain!

She acknowledged using “gut instinct” to help guide the rescuers drills. According to reporters, “Even after about 30 probes failed to find the mark, Ms. Valdes stuck with a hunch: She always shifted the angle of the drill about one degree lower than recommended by geologists in the planning departments, to adjust for vibration in the drilling rig.”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about gut instinct in blink but he didn’t really discuss it taking 31 tries to get it right. The focus there was on the “slice” or instant recognition. Think about it – how many of us would try 31 times without being overwhelmed with other feelings? Granted in a life and death situation, most of us would keep trying but the point I want to make is that our brains are very good at assembling pieces of relevant information into what I call “UPR” or unconscious pattern recognition. “UPR” is delivered to our consciousness via our bodies not our brains – that is literally why we call it “gut instinct”.

We however aren’t so good at systematically developing this skill so that we can use it reliably and pass it on to our junior colleagues. Because our brain is acting as a super-computer and processing enormous amounts of information, it is often hard for us to actually articulate what we are seeing or why. It is not impossible but we don’t typically take (or have) the time in corporate or trading situations to do so.

It pays however to take a look at how one can hone their instincts. Keeping logs of observations and the feelings or thoughts you have related to them is a good place to start.

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