Dave Snowden

Intuition’s Role in Decisions and Innovation

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Last week, Richard Marrs and I presented at KMWorld about “Intuition’s Role in Decisions and Innovation.” The ideas behind the presentation evolved dramatically between the time our abstract was accepted (over the summer) and our preparations were finalized (an hour before the session). The slides for the presentation can now be downloaded here. NOTE: this entry is cross posted on Reflexions, where it includes some of the diagrams we used.

Much of our collaboration over the past few years has focused on the role of intuition in sense- and decision-making, with an assumption that intuition is one way that “tacit” expertise expresses itself in practice.

That is, it operates at the pre-conscious level, which has been shown to have an information processing bandwidth of about 11 million bits per second, compared to only 16-40bps for conscious awareness and explicit communication. (See our article for Competitive Intelligence magazine: “Intuition’s Role in Making Decisions”)

In the end, however, we also focused quite a bit on some ideas that were new to us.

One of these was Max Boisot’s wonderful articulation that knowledge, defined as “justified true belief,” differentiates between four realms: possible, actual, probable and plausible. (More about this here). We were really inspired by a paper Max published with Ian MacMillan titled “Crossing epistemological boundaries: Managerial and entrepreneurial approaches to knowledge management.”)

Another was the notion of “collaborative innovation networks,” which we borrowed from Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing by Peter A. Gloor and Scott M. Cooper. It made us think about the difficulty of defining a network that is always theoretically infinite—and therefore completely useless—until it is mapped by the specific context of a specific purpose.

Finally, Richard introduced an intriguing notion of dividing knowledge into past, present, and future tenses (explained here). The problem, we argued, is that so much of the knowledge currently managed in repositories and processes tends to be past-based and therefore less valuable for taking advantage of immediate and future challenges and opportunities. We’re not sure how Max feels about it, but we have provisionally labeled future-tense knowledge as “possibility, probability and plausibility.”

Curious to know what you think?

Dave also made some incisive comments, which we will respond to shortly.