A couple of years ago I attended a great presentation by Prof. Sadler-Smith on intuition. It was lively, visual and intriguing. What struck me as particularly interesting was that it was given at a conference not on the creative industries or the arts but on human resource development. We all know that there is a difference ‘between the cerebral, which is based on words and numbers, and the insightful, which is based on images and feel’ (Campbell, 1991: 109)
Yet our formal learning environments often foreground the rational–analytic paradigm—the “diagnose, decide, design, and decide” approach. (Mintzberg & Westley, 2001) That is not to say there isn’t a role for that approach but it is most appropriate when;
the issue is clear, the data are reliable, the context is structured, thoughts can be pinned down and discipline can be applied. (Mintzberg & Westley, 2001: 93)
There are of course many situations that do not have these characteristics, much of what we experience in our daily lives is open ended, ambiguous, fuzzy and messy. This is where the creativity and divergent thinking of our intuition come into their own. Where our emotions and gut feelings allow us to sense the situation and weigh up the options.
It also seems to me that the way our educational disciplines have evolved have further shaped these divisions – with science and management being mainly associated with the rational and the arts and design, and to a certain extent entrepreneurialism, permitted to be intuitive. It is also my experience that for the most part one is valued more than the other.
Surely what we need is not the either/or approach that has tended to dominate but a both/and approach. I know I have a natural bias towards an intuitive approach so I am mindful in my own development of reflecting on how I achieve an appropriate balance between my rational and intuitive domains.
Campbell, A. (1991). Brief case: Strategy and intuition – A conversation with Henry Mintzberg. Long Range Planning, 24(2), 108 -110.
Mintzberg, H., & Westley, F. (2001). Decision making: It’s not what you think. Soan Management Review, 42(3), 89-93.