I am sure many of us have experienced a time where we walked into a situation and had the hairs on the back of our necks stand up. Sensing some kind of danger, we intuitively look around to see what cues we can get from the environment to find out what is happening so we can be safe.

Such was the case for a Formula One race-car driver. He was rounding a corner blind and subconsciously slammed on the brakes to avoid a pileup of cars. When he was asked why he spontaneously reacted, he could not explain why. When researchers showed him a video of the incident, it appeared that he reacted to the crowd.

Why?

The crowd, which should have been cheering him on, was looking the other way in a very frozen static stare. His intuition kicked in, telling him that something around the corner was “not right”, picking up cues from the environment, and he immediately reacted. The consequences of not reacting to his “gut” could have been devastating.

Jim Treliving, Chairman and owner of Boston Pizza International Inc. had a similar situation. His intuition told him that something was wrong with his expansion locations and needed to pull back. If not, Boston Pizza would remain a small provincial chain.

After Expo 86, one of Boston Pizza’s expansion markets was eastern Canada, opening a few locations in Ontario. These locations had to have the same menu, staffing levels and kitchen equipment as the original locations that were based in British Columbia. And why wouldn’t they? Aren’t Canadian eating habits the same across Canada?
Bad assumption.

Boston Pizza customers in Vancouver typically ate dinner at 7:00pm and so these locations would have the required staffing levels to serve them. However, typical Boston Pizza customers in Ontario started arriving for dinner at 5:00pm.

Since these locations were based on the Vancouver model, there was not enough staff scheduled to serve all of them and their food orders were much larger, which the kitchen ovens could not handle. Suddenly, people were waiting 2 hours to have dinner.
What are the chances they would come back again? Close to nil.

Once Jim was aware of the issue, he talks about how his intuition instantly gave him a solution.

Had Jim decided to ignore his intuition and wait, there may not have been a second chance to expand as the brand could have been severely affected. But Jim trusted his intuition and pulled back. It has become an international success since then.

The message?

Trust your intuition each and every time.