Instinct – and what it means today.

Here’s a spine-tingling anecdote about the Monaco Grand Prix. 

I’m not a car buff (mine looks like it was assembled by Picasso), but I was interested in this one. 

Nelson Piquet once likened the experience of racing at Monaco to “riding a bicycle around your living room”. Back in the early days, when cars were miracles of rivets, rattles and contained explosions, a daredevil driver, all moustache and googles, found himself in the lead on the course. 

There is a famous tunnelled section on the Monaco circuit, which is followed by a sharp left turn. 

As he approached the tunnel, his lead was increasing and he accelerated into the void. 

He knew about the turn, of course, and intended to take it at the fastest possible pace to cement his lead. 

The tunnel causes all sorts of difficulties for drivers. The air conditions create drag, the driver is thrown from bright light into near darkness, and back then, cars produced an array of disconcerting noises accentuated by the tunnel’s echo. Distractions and demands on drivers were plentiful. 

At the end of the tunnel is raked seating, filled with people watching the race and looking directly down the tunnel. As the driver approached the tunnel’s end, against expectation he suddenly, instinctively, slowed more than he had intended to.

He turned the corner and directly in front of him was a major accident. He swerved, successfully, and avoided it.

Had he not braked, he would have hit the other cars at force. By slowing, he was able to avoid collision.

After the race, reflecting on why he had slowed, he recalled that the faces in the crowd ahead of him, each of them indistinct, had momentarily changed. Where he had expected to see pink, he saw mostly brown. The faces had turned to their right to look at the crash and he was looking at their hair.

The processing of this information, amidst the cacophony of noise and changing light and reacting in fractions of a second had saved his life and those of others.

This is classic example of ‘current thinking’ – absorbing, interpreting and reacting to what is happening around you. By ‘current’ I mean ‘now’ and the ‘ever-changing now’, the stream of information that surrounds us, entangles us and requires decisions. Today, more than ever, we need this to secure and maintain competitive advantage.