Source from:
September 2017 Business SCAN

We say that our most valuable asset is the knowledge of our employees. However, organisations can often become too focused on using data to create insight and miss out on the intuitive insights of their best managers and experts. According to Dr. Viktor Dörfler, University of Strathclyde, it is all about getting the best of both worlds: analysing data where appropriate (Smart) and using intuition of experts when that is more promising (Art), as well as how the two can help one another (SmArt).

Harness Your Employees’ Knowledge and Intuition

Intuition as expert knowledge

In terms of knowing, we can use our knowledge to understand something through analytical step-by-step reasoning, e.g. comparing and contrasting alternatives, evaluating them, examining their characteristics, the associated costs and benefits, etc. However, such step-by-step reasoning is not the only way of knowing.

Intuitive knowledge is the concept of the knowledge arrived at by means of intuiting. Decision takers and scientists often describe intuitive knowledge as they just ‘know’ in a moment without knowing how or why they ‘know’.

We seem to mistrust intuitive knowledge obtained through ad hoc or, at least, less-defined practices. But this perception is changing and, in business, we are starting to recognise that the deliberative conscious reasoning is not the only way of arriving at valid knowledge.

Intuition in creativity and innovation

Within the management literature, intuition has been primarily examined in terms of its role in decision-taking. Hence, much research is about how intuition is used to produce a judgement. According to Dr. Viktor Dörfler, intuitive judgement is just one kind of intuition. The other is intuitive insight.

The reasoning is, while intuitive judgements are immensely important, they very rarely light the way to original creative leaps. Naturally, the creative process may involve intuitive judgements, for example, judging which path to pursue in the course of a new project. However, the potential game-changing argument is that there is intuition which is not judgement, but intuition that actually produces new knowledge. This is “intuitive insight”.

Companies could have a lot to gain by starting to include intuition more in their processes. Furthermore, by separating intuitive insights from intuitive judgements, there is a chance businesses can increase their originality, creativity and innovation.

Intuitive judgement is most valuable with structured problems calling for a decision. For example, “Can we increase quality by two percentage points by changing our inspection process?”

Intuitive insight is most valuable with a poorly structured problem. For example, try to predict what it will take to succeed in any industry seven years from now.

Sources: Dörfler, V. and Ackermann, F. (2012) Understanding intuition: The case for two forms of intuition, Management Learning 43(5) 545–564,; Bruce Kasanoff, LinkedIn. 2017. The Only Way to Be Truly Original and Creative. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 August 2017], Julian Birkinshaw, London Business School. 2017. Analysis Paralysis. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 August 2017].

Action Point

Think of an example where you used intuitive judgement and an example where you used intuitive insight in practice. Define to yourself the difference of the two concepts.

Other Recent Hot Topics

Discuss topics like this in detail with industry leaders.

Learn More

Techniques Referenced in this Hot Topic

Business Innovation | Knowledge Management | Emotional Intelligence

Build capability with the latest management and leadership techniques

Learn more

This KnowledgeBrief Hot Topic is part of our monthly Business SCAN publication

Stay ahead in business with the latest ideas, innovations and research, in brief – filtered from the finest sources globally.

Harness Your Employees’ Knowledge and Intuition
Learn more