At least 95 per cent of “thinking” occurs outside our conscious awareness. All kinds of things are going on in our bodies, and in the shadows of our brains, that we’ll never become aware of. And this unconscious processing is, to a large extent, what drives our behaviours.

As Daniel Wenger puts it in The Illusion of Conscious Will: “Most of what we know we don’t know we know. It usually seems that we consciously will our actions, but this is an illusion.”

Gerald Zaltman in How Customers Think suggests imagining a filter that enables you to see, in colour, the variations in the heat intensity of objects. Through such a filter, a fresh loaf of bread would look like a rainbow as it cooled. Wonderful!

“Now imagine a similar filter applied to consumers’ unconscious thoughts,” he suggests.

“More colours appear than any firework show could ever hope to display. These new colours represent the hidden treasures in the shadow of the mind.”

X-Ray Listening provides such a filter, a particularly effective way of seeing these colours. No wonder I love it!

Zaltman is in the marketing business: he’s Professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School and runs his own consumer research business. So his book is firmly focussed on the practical.

“Learning to see and use these colours is the major frontier managers must explore as they seek new insights into consumers’ thinking and behaviour… Firms that most effectively leverage their explorations of this frontier will gain crucial competitive advantage,” he says.

“Equally important, consumers will benefit as well… Consumers are empowered when research methods are used that allow them the freedom to explore and express their innermost thoughts and feelings along with those on the surface.”

Now, a questions for you. How are you leveraging your explorations of this frontier? If you’re involved in coaching, NLP or Clean Language, you already have filters of the kind Zaltman describes. You can see those colours. Most people can’t.

How are you using what you know to gain competitive advantage? And if not, why not?

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