Intuition is fed by experience. Since we are born1, we learn from experience to intuitively avoid bad situations, and seek nice situations. If we enter a room, we intuitively know how to move around, without bumping into the tables. The more experience we gather, the more complex situations we can intuitively handle.
Intuition is not perfect. If intuition would be perfect, everything we do would be perfect. Not everything we do is perfect, so apparently our intuition sometimes points us into the wrong direction. Probably we don't have the right experience for all of the situations we encounter in our projects. Many things we should do to make the project a success are counter-intuitive. That's why they don't automatically happen.
Intuition is free, we always carry it with us. We cannot even switch it off. It's so strong that it's almost impossible to go against it.
In order to improve the performance of people in projects, new experience has to be created to improve the intuitive response. A Coach2 can help to provide new experience.
Intuition versus a Quality Manual with written procedures. Procedures are formalized good practice: to our current knowledge, this is the best way to do it, if the circumstances didn't change. Documenting procedures in a Quality Manual is not bad at all, but in practice the document is hardly read by the people who should execute the proper procedures, and even if the person knows the procedure, it's a discipline risk (see next) that the procedure is not always properly followed. Once we put the procedure into the intuition of the people, it will be executed "automatically", without the need for "following" the written procedure. Still we should make sure that at the same time we also learn to apply continuous improvement, so that we learn to challenge our intuitive reactions all the time, in order to continuously tune these reactions to the actual situation, which may change over time. Challenging our intuitive reactions itself is a counter-intuitive activity!
When it's in the intuition, things go automatically. That is not to say that written procedures are not necessary. After all, only when you write it down, you can discuss it, and change it.
In many cases the head knows, the heart not. We think that we make decisions logically with our mind. However, we mostly decide with our hart (or call it gut-feeling, or emotions, fed by our sub-consciousness). If you think that this is wrong, it actually proves the point. Logically we think that people should decide with their mind, but in practice we see people react emotionally, with their intuition, fed by their perceived experiences. All we can do is feeding the intuition with our thinking, and trying to bias or intuitive decision process into the right direction.
Sleeping on it. Recent research (Dijksterhuis3) indicates that with complex problems, logical thinking produces worse decisions than 'decisions' made by intuition, because our mind isn't capable of balancing more than a few elements at the time. With logical thinking we often focus on less relevant factors, 'forgetting' some more important factors. However, we can make an even better decision if we first think logically, set a deadline to decide, in the meantime do something entirely different and then decide. Apparently our sub-consciousness went on processing when we did the other thing, and presented us with a better solution. Sub-conscious processing proves to be much more powerful, and more capable of complex correlations than our conscious thinking. Hence the saying that we should "sleep a night on it".