Gut versus data – the eternal question

Gut versus data

I used to be a math geek. When I was a grade school and high school student, I displayed advanced behaviors with regards to numbers and their interrelationships. I nearly attended a technical university in order to continue exploring mathematics.

Funny track for a designer, no?

Today, as someone who designs experiences for other humans, I rely less on my knowledge of numbers and more on my intuition. The ubiquitous head-versus-heart argument has always intrigued me so I recently scoured the web for some additional insight. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

But that means us too, as leaders, need to have the guts to go with our intuition sometimes instead of hiding behind the numbers. Hiding behind the numbers is the easy way, because even if it goes wrong, it’s easy for us to say that with the information we had it seemed pretty clear that that was what we should have tried blah blah blah. What’s harder is making a decision because you feel like it’s the one that needs to be made. Your gut tells you it’s the right one. You won’t have the luxury of hiding behind the numbers if you’re wrong, but at least you’re actually thinking and making decisions instead of doing what the numbers tell you to do. – workplace MOJO

Don’t get me wrong — you need data. You should be gathering all the data you can from the very beginning. But you also need to know that your data is not absolute — it’s incomplete, and you simply don’t have enough of it to base your decisions fully on data. You gather all the inputs you can, but your decision really boils down to both using your head AND trusting your gut. So while there’s no exact formula, when it’s time to make the decision of whether to make a change or stick with your original business plan: gather your data, consider all the advice, and take some time to listen to what your gut has to say. – The Accelerators blog

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor and psychologist, said “gut instinct is basically a form of pattern recognition.” Our brains can process more information on a more sophisticated level than most of us realize. These complex systems — battlefields, financial markets, company cultures and corporate strategies — require a different kind of thinking based on the informed gut. In these situations, you will never collect enough data or be able to weigh every alternative in order to rationalize an analytical decision. However, your subconscious has already amassed sufficient cues to tell your gut how to move forward. All you have to do is listen to it, trust your instincts and make the best decision you can with the limited information available. – Austin Business Journal

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards… you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, June 2005

Did you need data to choose your life-partner? How about your alma mater? Was there deep analysis that led you to choose the name of your first-born? Likely, not. But you still can’t tell your board or your leadership team that you need to launch a new service offering, because ‘your gut says so’.” The Reaganesque ‘Trust But Verify’ works for us. Use your guts to lead you to a hypothesis. Use your intuition to decide on how best to verify it. Then, go get the data and build the case to win over your peers and bosses. Sooner or later, the decision-makers will need to trust their guts to make the call. After all, even when the evidence is beyond the shadow of a doubt, the decider needs to take a leap of faith when the time comes to choose.” – Corporater World

In the end, the debate continues, but one strategy remains clear: balance helps with decision-making. Both your gut and the numbers need to play critical roles in both design and business decisions.

Mower

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Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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