A senior firefighter is watching his men enter an industrial building. There is a fire inside, but one of his men radios out to say that it’s contained and they have it under control.

All of a sudden, the senior firefighter shouted down the radio to his men “Get out, get out now!”. They were surprised “It’s OK, we’ve got it covered.” “That’s an order – get out now, fast!”.

As the last man ran out of the door, the building exploded.The senior firefighter had saved the lives of everyone through what seemed like intuition.

But was it?

After much investigation, it was concluded that he unconsciously recognised the way the smoke was behaving as he had experienced the same circumstances years before when he was a junior firefighter. A building exploded then but just before the explosion the smoke had behaved in a specific way. It wasn’t registered as such at the time, but when trying to recall what had alerted him to the dangers of the most recent incident, he realised that somewhere deep in his unconscious, he had recognised that the smoke was behaving in exactly the same way as it had all those years ago, although he didn’t realise it at the time. He saved his men by remembering – below conscious awareness – the same subtle danger signs, a long-forgotten memory deep in his unconscious mind.

This story was reported on a TV documentary some time ago and I quote it in my latest book, “Your Brain is Boss”

In fact, I was recently talking about this to a business owner of a trendy advertising agency. He told me things had been going well, but just lately they were having problems with communicating with their clients. We spoke at length and it transpired that he didn’t have any older people working for him. He argued that the market changes rapidly, and the old ways of doing things were out of date, so hiring older people wasn’t appropriate for him.

It’s interesting isn’t it, that because technology changes at the speed of light, experience isn’t valued as much. It’s also interesting that he didn’t think of the so called soft skills that remain as valuable today as they have ever done. Soft skills such as problem solving using intuition, which is in fact subliminal processing based on implicit knowledge (unconscious).

Communication problems are the same now as they were years ago. Often the keys are transparency and listening to clients and moulding your propositions to them and their values. Having told the ad agency boss the firefighter story he decided to hire someone older with vast experience in the industry.

He reported back recently to say that it was working well.