Transcript of Turn Your Hunch Into the Next Big Thing

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John Jantsch: Have you ever had a hunch about something or you saw something and you went “Gosh, somebody needs to make that or fix that or do something about that?”

There’s this unmet need. A lot of times data isn’t available for that hunch or for that unmet need and a lot of great business owners … a lot of entrepreneurs over the years have just gone with their gut, gone with a hunch, and it’s worked out spectacularly. I think that there are qualities of people who have those hunches, that do come up with winners, and on this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, we visit with Bernadette Jiwa. She’s done a bunch of research on this idea of a hunch and has a book called “Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into the Next Big Thing”, and I think there’s some tremendous lessons and some tremendous exercises in this thinking, so check it out.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Bernadette Jiwa. She is a recognized global authority on the role of story in business, innovation and marketing and the author of five bestselling books on marketing and brand storytelling, and today, we are going to talk about her newest book called “Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into the Next Big Thing”. So Bernadette, welcome back.

Bernadette Jiwa: Thanks, John. It’s a thrill to be back talking to you.

John Jantsch: So essentially, what we’re talking about now is using intuition to make decisions. Did I sum the whole book up?

Bernadette Jiwa: You summed it up really well.

John Jantsch: How does that play when you go into to talk to somebody and say, “Just trust your gut.” I mean that’s kind of, that’s another … I don’t know if that translates to Australia. That’s a very common US idea of business owners making decisions, just kind of on a hunch, as you’ve put in the title. How do you crystallize that idea and make it more than just luck?

Bernadette Jiwa: Well, there are couple of things, John, that I want to start with, which is you’re not ignoring data, it’s just that there are different kinds of data. There are data all around us. People who … like Jeff Bezos or Howard Schultz, they’re not ignoring data they’re just possibly not looking at historical data or data in the sense that we think about which is in a spreadsheet. So there is a piece to it, which is noticing problems, noticing what’s happening and that shouldn’t be enough seeing what’s not happening that should be and looking at patterns with practice.

There are three traits that I’ve, in my research, noticed and uncovered that these kind of entrepreneurs have and their curiosity, empathy and imagination. So it’s not just a lucky guess. It’s not just a case of crystal ball gazing or predicting which numbers are going to come up in a lottery this weekend. It’s a little bit more nuanced than that.

John Jantsch: Well I’m glad you brought data up because I think that some of the biggest hunches, if you will, actually either didn’t have data to inform them or they kind of said “You know what? The data’s wrong”. Would you agree?

I mean, you have a load of examples in there and it seems to me like in a number of the examples they kind of said “You know what? I see this differently”.

Bernadette Jiwa: Well, let’s think about one example. You know, there’s plenty of common ones. You know, the big ones. You know, the Apple’s, the Uber’s, the Facebook’s, the Google’s. No data for those. You know they just had to go with their guts that they were on to something.

But one of the examples in the book is the woman who invented disposable diapers. She went to the manufacturers and said “Look. This is what’s happening. What we’ve currently got is a solution that’s not working, it’s leaking, it’s giving baby’s nappy rash.” And what they said to her was “We don’t need this product. We don’t want this product. People are buying our product and they’re really happy with it”. Well, there was no alternative so of course they were buying the product.

So we can look at data and skew it, if you like, to our world view.

John Jantsch: Yeah, that’s interesting because there are a lot of industries. The one that I like to pick on all the time is the newspaper industry and how, you know, they were … the classified ads. That was their cash cow. Nobody was going to take that away from them. You look up today and they don’t even exist anymore or maybe are a meer shell because of Craigslist and other things that came around.

So I want … my question is then, do you constantly need to be, kind of, applying this idea to what could happen, you know, regardless of where we are today?

Bernadette Jiwa: Yeah. It’s a couple of things. You’re looking for what’s going on right now. Looking at the patterns that you’re seeing around you and that takes practice. So it’s not just “I’ve seen this today, I think I’m on to something”. It’s “Okay. That’s interesting. I think I’m going to keep looking at that and keep digging there”.

And then also, you know, the thing about entrepreneurship is you have to take a leap by definition into the unknown. You have to do something that you’re not quite certain of. We’ve fallen into this trap, I think, of relying on data. Almost using it as a crutch in all kinds of ways, in our marketing and our innovation to I guess mitigate against having been wrong.

John Jantsch: Well, yeah. I mean, certainly a lot of business leaders lean on the data to not have to actually make that risky decision.

Bernadette Jiwa: And every decision comes with risk. Absolutely every one.

I read something recently and I put this in the book late, which was somebody said when they saw Elon Musk doing something incredible, again, and it succeeding. “Elon Musk’s greatest strength is that he’s fearless” and absolutely not. He’s not fearless. You can’t similarly be invested in something and not care about it in the same breath. It’s not that he’s fearless, it’s just that he’s practiced at taking those leaps that perhaps other people wouldn’t take, and sometimes they work.

John Jantsch: Well so, let’s stay there for a minute because obviously you have a lot of examples of people that did this and it worked. But I would suggest there are probably millions and millions of examples of people that did this and it was a miserable failure.

Bernadette Jiwa: Absolutely. And the same with data driven innovation. You know, making predictions in the election didn’t … in the U.S. election didn’t work out even though we had a lot of data.

There’s a story I didn’t include in the book, which I should’ve done regarding that one. Just a couple of weeks before the election my husband and I were visiting New York. He was at a Behavioral Summit where people like Nate Silver and Nobel Laureate’s and super clever academics were speaking about the election and saying, you know, it was 99% certain that Hillary … they didn’t say 99 but it was, there was a high probability that Hillary was going to win the election. And the day after the event we were taking a walk outside the Rockefeller Center and we met a guy selling hats emblazoned with the names of the candidates and he said to us “You know Trump’s going to win this by a landslide” and we looked at him as though he was crazy and he said “I cannot keep stock of these Trump hats. They’re just selling like hot cakes.” and he was having conversations with people on the street. There was data in those stories and we missed it.

John Jantsch: Can people get better at this? So in other words, can somebody say “Oh okay. I need to use this kind of mindfulness and curiosity and empathy”. I mean, is that something you could teach a business leader and entrepreneur you think?

Bernadette Jiwa: I teach my clients this all the time. I invite them to do this all the time.

One of the case studies in the book, it was one of my clients who was opening a café in London and he went and visited 70 different locations looking for his site. He also sat in cafe’s and observed what people did in cafe’s. It’s very tempting to say “Okay. Our cafe’s going to be about the best coffee and the best food”. And he said, you know, a lot of the time in the kind of café he was thinking about opening what people wants is good wifi and you know, nice reclaimed wooden table.

So I think a lot of the time we fall in love with our own idea and we sort of run with it without thinking deeply and caring about the people who are going to adopt it and use it and who it’s going to become meaningful to.

John Jantsch: Yeah that’s interesting. I think in some of those instances where they do a great job with that, the coffee being good is almost just like a bonus.

So do you think that there are … you mentioned some of the qualities that come into play here. Do you think there are people that are just naturally better at those qualities? I mean there definitely are people that are more curious than other people.

Bernadette Jiwa: Hmm.

John Jantsch: What I’m trying to get you say is women are better at this. That’s what I’m trying to get you to say.

Bernadette Jiwa: Are you trying to say that?

John Jantsch: I’m wondering it.

Bernadette Jiwa: You know, people have tried to go down that rabbit hole. I don’t think there’s an excuse for men to use that as a cop out.

The people that we’ve been talking about, the Elon Musk’s of the world, some people would say he’s not empathetic. He’s a genius, but at some point he has to be thinking about the kind of man who wants to … or person, should I say, who wants to buy a Tesla, especially when they were developing the high end sports cars. Who’s the person who’s going to buy this car with their budget? What would they want? How do they want to feel when they get in the car? Other wise they don’t obsess in the way that they do about those tiny details.

I have intentionally included a lot of examples in the book of female entrepreneurs because I think we don’t do enough of that. People are tired of the age old examples of Uber and Apple and Airbnb and Warby Parker, of course I’ve told stories about them in my previous books and they’re fantastic companies, too.

I think there’s also room to tell stories about smaller ideas and you don’t have to be a billion dollar unicorn or aspire to do that to come up with a break through idea or a successful idea.

John Jantsch: You even reference a model for acquiring maybe the skills to do this. The Dreyfus Skill Acquisition model.

Bernadette Jiwa: Yeah.

John Jantsch: So tell us how … ’cause I do know that some people need something academic like that.

Bernadette Jiwa: Yeah. The thing about the Dreyfus Model, the reason I put that in there was just to show people that their last two levels where we get to mastery in any skill he quite neatly put intuition in there as one of the attributes … in one of the things that are a part of that.

So, if people want to google the model it’s freely available. They can have a look at it on there and just see how Dreyfus has laid it out. It’s interesting, it was interesting to me though to see in an academic model that intuition came into play.

And the other thing, probably, to mention is that intuition’s gotten a really bad rap lately because of the great research of behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman because what he and his colleague have pointed out is that intuition can be flawed when it comes to making decisions. And on the flip side of that, someone like Kahneman cannot do the work that he does without starting somewhere and he begins with a hunch.

And what was lovely when I was doing my research for this book, was I found so many quotes from scientists. From Einstein to Steven Hawking about making intuitive leaps and having to trust your intuition and how intuition was more powerful than other things or how it had influenced their work. So even scientists, whose job it is to find proofs, start with a hunch.

John Jantsch: Okay. Thanks for listening to the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. If you like this one, you might also like my other podcast, The Consulting Spark where I interview independent marketing consultants and agency owners. We talk about how they built their business and the struggles they face and what they love about being in this business. So you can check it out and

I read a quote, I’m going to get it wrong and I’m going to attribute it to Jeff Bezos which may be wrong as well, but I think it applies here.

They were talking about this idea of coming up with innovation and constantly coming up with ways to optimize what you do and essentially said that the key ingredient was that you had to actually care about the people you were doing it for. And I think that that really applies to this idea of … especially when you’re thinking about somebody meeting an unmet need. I guess in some cases, they just they go and they try to find something and they can’t find it and it’s like “wait, there’s an unmet need here” but a lot of times they’re innovating … people are innovating things out of thin air because they’ve discovered an unmet need that, you know, requires them to sort of care deeply about the people they’re trying to serve and I think that a lot of ways that might be the essence of what you’re talking about.

Bernadette Jiwa: Well, Jeff Bezos famously keeps an empty chair at his meetings and says to his team “That’s the chair for the customer”.

John Jantsch: Oh yeah, right.

Bernadette Jiwa: He puts empathy front and center in everything that he does and when you think about the decisions that he’s made, they point to that. They point to understanding what it is people are struggling with and what’s, you know, what those unmet needs are and filling those gaps.

John Jantsch: Yeah. You do have to get, like, inside their home and inside their closets. You know, that kind of stuff to really get level of empathy I think almost.

Bernadette Jiwa: And some of the people, let’s think about one of the examples, which is, hair razor … shaving, subscription shaving brand. Those guys realized how hard it was to get good razor. How much you were paying for it? Similarly with Dollar Shave Club “How much are we paying for this product and it doesn’t work? It really sucks. What’s going on here?”. They were using that product every day, they were talking to their friends about razor burn and all of the things that you don’t have to be a woman to know about. These guys could be empathetic and curious and imaginative and intuitive.

John Jantsch: So other than what you already referenced, this idea that sometimes intuition gets a bad rap. Clearly that reputation maybe holds people back from embracing this idea. Is there anything else that holds people back from fully embracing this idea of hunches and intuition? Particularly in the entrepreneurial setting.

Bernadette Jiwa: Fear. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of being wrong. You know we’ve been conditioned for a long time not to want to say “I don’t know”. When we were kids, when we were three years old, we were quite happy to admit we didn’t know things. We asked questions all the time, which is also part of being a successful entrepreneur is asking questions. Now it’s really not a good thing to, as you grow older, to say “I don’t know” because knowledge is currency.

If you get all the right answers on the test, you go to the best college, have the best chance at the best job and the best life and you win. So therefore when you’re a leader, when you get to the point when you’re a leader in an organization, or when the buck stops with you, it’s very difficult to say “You know, I’m not sure about this. I don’t know if it’s the right answer but let’s give it a shot”.

John Jantsch: Yeah and that’s … that is interesting because I’m sure a lot of leaders suffer from the belief at least that well “I’m supposed to have all the answers so I can’t go down to the front line and start asking the people that probably do have the answers what they think”.

Bernadette Jiwa: I listened to an interview with Ron Johnson yesterday, as you know he was the guy who helped Steve Jobs conceive the Apple Stores. And he was telling this story again, I’ve heard it before, about they were deep into designing the Apple Stores and he just said to Steve “You know, I think we’ve got it wrong. We’re designing around products instead of experiences, instead of what people want to do in these stores” and he said Steve went off and went away and they went into a restaurant … sorry went into a meeting that afternoon and Steve said “Ron says we’ve got this wrong and he’s right”. To have the courage to go up to Steve and say “you know I’m not sure, but I think we’ve got this wrong” he wasn’t sure, he wasn’t certain, but to have the courage is a mark of a leader.

John Jantsch: Absolutely. So, you have exercises in the book. You want to share a couple? Like if somebody’s thinking “Okay, give me a sense of what I would have to work on if I were going to do this”. You want to share an exercise or two? Give my listeners an assignment.

Bernadette Jiwa:  So one of the biggest, the first assignment is to put your phone away some of the time. If you’re at an airport, waiting for a flight, you look around you in the lounge and there is not one single person who’s not on a device and it’s tempting to try and optimize our lives 100% of the time and actually what we’re doing there is stopping ourselves from being creative and innovative. So, that’s their first assignment.

The second assignment is to ask these questions when you’re looking around you or in your own business. These questions don’t even apply to new innovations, they can just be what’s current in your business. So, what’s happening that shouldn’t be? And what’s not happening that should be? So, if you think about any innovation from Uber to the iPhone to the GoPro camera to Tesla Cars and anything you can think of, they all started with that premise. You know, what’s not happening that should be, or what’s happening that shouldn’t be?

So those are the three things. Put your phone away. Ask those two questions. And practice.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Bernadette. Speaking with Bernadette Jiwa, author of “Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into The Next Big Thing”.

So do you get to the states very often these days Bernadette?

Bernadette Jiwa: I’m just back from the states.

John Jantsch: Oh yeah.

Bernadette Jiwa: Yeah, just back from the states. Had a really great trip. I get to the states a lot and what’s lovely for me is I’ve got, as you do, an international audience. You’ve got people listening in Australia and I’ve got people, a lot of people, in the states and in the UK and all over the world. That’s the fabulous thing about the digital world we live in.

John Jantsch: Yes it is. Well, I typically end this show every week, for those of you that listen and say, hope to see you out there on the road. But I haven’t made it to Australia yet so I’ll have to do that.

Bernadette Jiwa: I know. Lots of people are trying to get you here. You know, even Seth Godin’s been here. You’ve got to come, John. And he hates flying!

John Jantsch: I’ll do it. Thanks again Bernadette and good luck on the book.

Bernadette Jiwa: It was great to talk to you. Bye.

John Jantsch: Okay, thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Wonder if you could do me a favor. Could you leave me an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and reviews really help and I promise, I read each and every one. Thanks.


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