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Today’s data-driven world provides CEOs with more facts and statistics to help make more informed, rational decisions than ever before. So how do the most successful professionals make more of the right moves, and score big? 

Not surprisingly, the executives of the most incredible businesses don’t credit their multi-million dollar string of “right moves” to rational decision making, but rather to an intangible skill; a trust in intuition. 

Commonly referred to as trusting your gut, this “sixth sense” is defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. It’s an (almost) magical mix of complete instinct and a split-second subconscious fact-gathering performed in your brain and based on your own unique life experiences. 

The result of this query is that feeling of absolute “yes” (or sometimes, absolutely “no”) when you’re faced with acting on a new idea or problem. In business, this could be anything from decisions about what your next investment should be, or whether it’s time to pull the trigger on a new marketing campaign. 

However, exercising your gut instincts in business can be difficult. In fact, mastering the art of trusting your intuition is hard in general. It is, however, exactly what sets the average person apart from the stuff of legends. 

Want proof? Here are some of the best brands ever built by CEOs who trusted their gut — and most importantly — why they won.  

1. Miguel Patricio – Anheuser-Busch InBev Chief Marketing Officer (A.K.A the man you have to thank for Bud Light’s VIRAL ‘Dilly Dilly’ commercials)

Fellow marketers may joke about those Dilly Dilly commercials, but one thing is for certain: They were extremely successful. 

If you’ve ever wondered how the marketing team even came up with that, Business Insider’s Graham Flanigan recently had the chance to interview Migueal and ask: 

Graham Flanagan: What the hell does “Dilly Dilly” mean?

Miguel Patricio: “Dilly Dilly” doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty of it. I think that we all need our moments of nonsense and fun. And I think that “Dilly Dilly,” in a way, represents that. A lot of people asked me, “How did you approve that?” To tell you the truth, we never expected this to be so successful…We did that ad, actually, because of the new season of “Game of Thrones” coming, but when we tested, it didn’t test that well. We said, “Consumers will get it.” 

Miguel’s leap of faith — that customers would get in on the silliness — is a perfect example of how to stand out and make big waves without landing so far out of the box that no one gets it. While Miguel did have the grace of time to test the head-turning campaign, the results still stacked against the company’s gut feeling. But, they did it anyway, and it paid off so big it shaped American drinking culture for the past 2 years. Dilly Dilly to you Miguel! 

There’s a real lesson here for business leaders, often intuition-based decision making is dubbed a business asset until it’s exercised when there’s money at stake. The element of risk is what gets people nervous. But pushing the envelope on conventional wisdom in pursuit of your intuition is the way bold leaders win. So when you hear push back, smile, because Masters of Scale podcast says being called ‘crazy’ because your ideas make others uncomfortable, is one of the surest predictors of success. 

2. Henry Ford – CEO of Ford Motor Company

In early 1914, Ford Motors was hit with falling demand for their vehicles paired with high employee turnover and both of those factors spelled trouble for their business profits. While company leaders flocked with plenty of fixes, Ford did something that rebuked their suggestions and left the leaders stunned: He doubled his employees’ salaries. 

Crazy? Most definitely. But just over a year later, employee turnover was a worry of the past because productivity had more than doubled. Plus, with the salary uptick, demand for Ford’s trucks were up: Now his own staff could afford to buy Fords (and buy they did). 

3. Netflix CEO – Reed Hastings

In TED Talk interviews, Reed discusses how leading Netflix in the direction of success over the years has a lot to do with his strong sense of intuition. Nowadays, he uses the gut feeling to help him make decisions about shows.  

When deciding which new shows and features to create, Reed says data science “simply isn’t sophisticated enough to predict whether a new idea will be a hit.” Recalling how he used the fictional series House of Cards to predict the success of the spin-off documentary Making a Murderer, Reed says he makes high-risk investment decisions often, and it’s always a gamble. But around the office, C-suite Netflixers have dubbed Reed “the golden gut” since he’s landed a hit so often — House of Cards has won seven Emmys, and Making a Murderer has won four. 

In business, sometimes leaders have the luxury of relying on rational data for insights and sometimes there’s no data to prove a positive hunch because, well, other’s never got past the fleeting idea or untapped opportunity in their head. So the next time your inner voice is nudging you to pursue a direction most rational people would dub “nuts,” remember Apple’s iconic ‘’Think Different” commercial: the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 

Whether you’re acting on a grand idea that sparks the creation of a new product for an untapped market, or making smaller decisions like launching that out-of-the-box marketing campaign, one thing is certain: Professionals who trust their gut win more often than those who don’t. The key is to learn how to listen to your inner voice, then follow up with action and rational decision making.

Here at Marketwake, we practice this regularly and believe it’s the secret sauce to our winning marketing strategies. Ready to take the leap? Reach out to us to talk more about taking a risk and trusting your gut with your marketing. And here’s to building something legendary! 

Brooke Little

Author Brooke Little

More posts by Brooke Little

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