The Container Store

Training and Intuition Go Hand in Hand

Training and Intuition Go Hand in Hand

*This post is part of Co-Founder and Chairman Kip Tindell’s Thoughts on Thriving Blog Series. Read other posts in the series here.

We live in a society where people are brought up to believe that only logic and not intuition should be used in business. But someone very wise once said that “intuition is the sum total of one’s life experience.” If that’s the case, why would you leave it at home when you go to work in the morning? Sure, we all need to use logic and analysis in our lives, but you’ll be so much smarter if you use both logic and intuition—your left brain AND right brain.

What I’m saying is that you don’t want to straitjacket employees with a manual about how to do their jobs. Instead, unshackle employees and let them follow their own individual creative genius. That’s when you get achievement and excellence and wild amounts of creativity and productivity, plus great happiness from your employees.

The truth is, many employees are afraid of using their intuition because they don’t want to make a mistake and be humiliated, reprimanded, or fired. That’s why it’s so important to create an environment that’s safe and secure and warm—so people feel brave enough to take chances and make mistakes. They must know that their managers and coworkers have their backs in an atmosphere of great mutual respect. When managers create a climate of fear, rather than love, this approach won’t work. You get nothing close to full productivity, innovation, or individual creative genius.

That all sounds wonderful, but  intuition also requires proper training. The better you are at something—whether it’s dancing, playing the violin, or Man in the Desert Selling—the more reliable, brilliant, and touched by genius your intuition will be. To give you an example, I’ve been a lifelong fly-fisherman, so if I’m teaching you to fly-fish and I intuitively think there’s a trout under that rock, there probably is. But if you’ve never fished before and you think there’s a trout under that rock, there probably isn’t.

Of course, training is more than just receiving information from management. We want our employees to have an obsession with learning and to seek out new information to further their development and career. If they forget some bit of training, that’s okay. All they have to do is ask somebody, because everyone at our company wants to help.

One reason training is so important at The Container Store is because our motto is “We sell the hard stuff.” It may seem crazy to base a store around things that are hard to sell (such as our elfa shelving system) but we make it work, selling solutions to countless organizational projects that keep people come back for more. And the reason we make it work is that our deep commitment to employee training creates unparalleled customer service!

In order to accomplish this, our training managers provide our first-year, full-time store employees with more than 200 hours of training—virtually unheard of in retail—beginning with Our Foundation Principles. This extensive training also includes such topics as selling elfa, using the cash register, company communication, order processing, and our various sales campaigns. Plus, everyone hired at our home office in Dallas works at one of our nearby stores for a period to help them truly understand our company culture, store operations, and the customer experience.

People always ask me, “How can you possibly recoup your investment in all this training?” The most obvious answer is that our employees stay with the company practically forever. They can tell we really mean it when we say we want this to be the last place they ever work—why else would we spend so much money training them? We save millions of dollars by not having to go through the long process of searching, interviewing, hiring, and training employees who meet our high 1=3 standards. So many people join our company and they never leave!

After all, doesn’t it make more sense to hang on to your employees and let all their training and life experience accrue so they perform their jobs brilliantly?