Balancing Intuition With Analysis

There’s a nice article in Innovation Excellence contrasting the roles of intuition and analysis in cultivating innovation. It features an interview with Roger Martin who writes on business matters for Business Week, The Washington Post and the FT.

“The most successful businesses in the years to come will balance analytical mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay that I call design thinking.” – Roger Martin

Some extracts are:

1. When it comes to innovation, what is the biggest challenge that you see organizations facing?

It is the dominance of analytical thinking which holds that unless something can be proven by way of deductive or inductive logic, it is not worthy of consideration or investment. No new idea in the world has been proven before being tried. So as long as analytical thinking is allowed to dominate, innovation is deeply and profoundly challenged.

6. People often talk about not having time to innovate. How can people find the time for themselves or their employees?

That is a lame argument. People have time to do anything for which they are passionate. People blame lack of time for every single thing that they think they would like to do but lack the sufficient passion for. Innovators innovate regardless of their environment. Some get fired for it and go somewhere else and start over again. A leader can make it harder or easier for employees to innovate. But the innovators innovate regardless and the non-innovators complain about the difficulty finding the time to innovate – regardless.

I strongly agree with this. Often people ask for ‘time and resources’ to develop ideas and if they don’t get them, simply give up.

In my experience, one quite effective way to develop rough ideas is to simply do as much as you can whenever you can (market research, rough designs, thinking things through in broad steps). This demonstrates passion and commitment which will influence and impress people.

If your manager is open to new approaches then he/she will discuss your ideas and could well be a useful first ‘sanity check’. If promising then the next step is to just go directly to someone who can make things happen. In my experience, this may cause a combination of shock and pleasant surprise eg Idea Helpers And Killers.

You can do this even if your manager is not supportive and you’re convinced you have a good idea – this relates to Point 1 above.

7. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?

They need to nurture their originality. Very few people in life are good at anything without practice. If you practice mastery all your life, you will be masterful. If you practice originality, you will get good at innovation. Most managers spend their time deepening their mastery and not nurturing their originality. Over time, they become fearful of innovation.

This is a tricky one as managers are often judged on numbers and other analytical aspects. Even if originality is nominally being cultivated, it often gets transformed into ‘and what is the return’. It’s an interesting idea though to ‘practice originality’ with the idea of steadily improving – I guess this can be done and can be reasonably substantiated, at least descriptively.

8. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation workforce of tomorrow, what would it be?

Make art a required subject for as long as we make math a required subject. We send a powerful signal to students that analytics are important and artistry is not. Artistry is the foundation of innovation. Most technologists will never innovate a single thing because their training drove out any artistry from them.

This is a long term approach of course but it would be good as a first step to encourage people to think of the ‘arts with the sciences’ instead of the ‘arts or the sciences’.

Picture credit: here (related article).


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