No explanation, just gut

Photo by Shawn Allen

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This is the second post in a series of post I am writing after reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (see the first post here).

As someone who is going to graduate with an MBA from a business school in a few months I respect the power on analysis. I respect the use of data and the importance of facts and figures. I have deep appreciation for forecasting models and analysis models and to rational, structured approach to decision-making and strategy. In God we trust, for everything else we need data.

At the same time, if there is one thing that I learned over the last year and half is that the although modern technology allows us to be exposed to so much data and even sometime turns it into information for us it does not guarantee that data and information will be transmitted into knowledge or even will allow us to make better decisions. Sometimes, we have to trust of judgment and gut feeling. Cause sometimes, the best decisions, those which represented a big risk but were also a big opportunity, cannot be explained rationally with analysis and data.

Gladwell writes in Blink:

When we ask people to explain their thinking – particularly thinking that comes from the unconscious – we need to be careful in how we interpret their answers…when it comes to romance, of course, we understand that. We know we cannot rationally describe the person we will fall in love with: that’s why we go on dates – to test our theories about who attracts us. There are times when we demand an explanation when an explanation really isn’t possible.

And Roger Martin writes a post on HBR.org called Management by Imagination:

We need to get away from all those old sayings about measurement and management, and in that spirit I’d like to propose a new wisdom: “If you can’t imagine it, you will never create it.” The future is about imagination, not measurement. To imagine a future, one has to look beyond the measurable variables, beyond what can be proven with past data. While Motorola was projecting future sales volumes of “feature phones,” Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion, was imagining what executive life would be like if you could receive your emails on a handheld device. How compelling would an ordinary phone be if you could have a BlackBerry attached to your belt? He couldn’t “prove” that this would be a good idea. There was no data on the demand patterns for smartphones, because smartphones existed only in his imagination. But a mere 11 years after the launch of the product of his imagination, RIM leads Motorola by an ever-accelerating margin in sales, market share and profitability.

And this is what I wrote a few months back:

It seems to me that success, in art, science or business, comes from integrating intuition and analysis. That is one of the reasons diverse teams have trouble working in the short-term (they speak different languages – one of intuition while the other analysis) but in the long-term, they tend to outperform homogeneous teams (which do not take the full picture).

Thus, if we are unable to use both (and most people will struggle doing it consistently) we need to complete our own biased point of view, with the opposite point of view. Or just remind ourselves to re-check the other point of view every once in a while.

Reading Blink in many ways just made me realize that it is not only that intuition is important; it is many times much more powerful than the other methods. The problem, obviously, is that we don’t know when that is. It is easier for us to think that rational thinking is always superior. That more information, more facts, more analysis, more questions will lead to better results. Blink, and many other examples, reminds us, that this is not true. And that is a lesson that we need to teach that rational part of our brain again and again.

Maybe trust is not only for God.

Elad

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