The Corporate Inquisition of Intuition

While there are clear benefits of data and analytics when applied to growth efforts, a widespread, unhealthy dependence on a purely analytical approach to business cripples too many corporations.

While small- and mid-sized organizations still welcome some calculated risks backed by and bet on a team of spirited rising leaders, corporations appear more risk averse to their approach to launching new products in the market. In fact, the gestalt is that we’ve entered a second age of enlightenment where nothing gets signed into action unless analytic models, predictive tools, and others first bless it with a numerical score.

Note that these tools, while helpful, base their judgment on risk-averse human inputs; as well, they seek to envision a future outcome by using a snapshot of the present or past. While this theory may work in accurately forecasting some aspects of the future by looking at past behavior, which is the theoretical basis of a credit score, many market categories do not fit into this paradigm.

Other than a handful of renegade and famous exceptions who lead by their intuition –Steve Jobs, Iger of Disney, Juszkiewicz of Gibson Musical Instruments – global corporate culture distrusts leaders who rely on more intuitive decision making. This theme runs so strong, and cultural bias is so much in the favor of data and analytical types, that you could call this era of global business the witch hunt of intuitive types.

Call it the corporate inquisition of intuition. From board meetings to executive retreats to project-based huddles, we see chart after chart imported straight off a dashboard, too often without human interpretation or in-depth critical thinking. The clear unspoken rule of this ubiquitous, prevalent trend is that God is a computer to be trusted implicitly and unthinkingly.

What gets lost in this data-drunk era? The impetus to take risks. The will to take a stand and lead. The heart of creativity that drives culture forward. And an engaged sense of the fullness of our humanity in the workplace.

Need proof? Ask any marketer. Here’s one: David Roman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Lenovo, cautioned that there is a risk of becoming too enamored with data: “The risk is that we get so caught up in data and the analysis of it that we lose sight of the ultimate objective.”

The idea of a whole mind – right- and left-brain, analytical and creative, analogue and digital – needs a resurgence in the global world of business. Data can present facts in new patterns, but outside of cost-cutting big data hasn’t lived up to the hype. Data equals information, not actionable insight, not wisdom. Yet, we have become addicted to the false assurance of data in too many areas where it shouldn’t be applied.

Anyone making the case for new products or services, innovation, or marketing knows how monolithic a corporation can be and how biased it can be against some of the key growth levers like strategic thinking, customer experience, and intuition. Some branches of business require both art and science – let’s learn to value the art side of the equation.