Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Wed 20 Sep

At September’s Innovation Day, we welcomed Dr. Viktor Dörfler from University of Strathclyde to share how intuition is just as important a tool as data analysis in successful decision making.

We say that our most valuable asset is the knowledge of our employees. However, organisations, especially in Western thinking, seem to “believe” data over what we can’t explain or prove, such as intuition and gut-feeling. What we seem to forget is that data can be wrong or misguided. In fact, research shows that in most cases the prediction of an expert is more likely to be right. The difference between a successful and a less successful company is good intuition. Yet too many organisations are missing out on the intuitive insights and judgements of their best managers and experts.

At the latest Innovation Day, Dr. Viktor Dörfler from Strathclyde Business School shared some of his research on how Nobel Laureates think, how the best chefs in the world think, and how the best strategists think. In short, these experts have one thing in common: they use their intuition. They can see how every little detail affects the big picture and they are very good at alternating between analysis AND intuition.

Dr. Dörfler makes it very clear that organisations need to get the best of both worlds: analysing data where appropriate and using the intuition of experts when that is more promising, as well as how the two can continuously help one another in an ongoing cycle.

However, it can be difficult to introduce intuition in a working environment. We rely on data, not just to provide insight or direction, but to also have a fall back option if anything goes wrong. No one really wants to explain to the board that the decision causing a failure was based on their intuition.

Many organisations could benefit from not placing all their belief in data. To start harnessing intuition, consider these key insights taken from the Innovation Day:

  • Intuition and data analysis are equally important. One cannot go without the other.
  • Create environments where analysts and intuitors can co-exist and respect each other. Make it easy for people to move from analysis to intuition and vice versa.
  • Apply all three faces of knowledge: facts, skills and intuition.
  • Have people learn from each other. Think about how to create apprentice-master environments.
  • Provide a rationale behind your intuitive thinking to get buy in. To get people on the same page, share the success stories of using intuition.
  • Rely more on imagination, experimentation and communication. Hard science is good for something that is permanent but not for a complex, dynamic problem.

These are just some key highlights taken from September’s Innovation Day. Each month, clients of the Innovation Programmes receive a full ACT report, capturing the guest expert’s research, the implications and next steps for leaders to apply back in their team and organisation.

Next month, clients will explore how the trade-off between organisation and customer is turning upside down. For more information, please view the Innovation Day page.

Source: Dörfler, V. (2017) ‘SmArt Strategising for the Knowledge Era’, KnowledgeBrief Innovation Day Presentation, 13 September.

We are not always the calculating man, we are also sometimes ‘homo ludens’, the playing man. Our imagination can be more important than our analysis.

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