When it comes to innovation, trust your intuition

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

When it comes to innovation, trust your intuition

by Paul Sloane

MBAMBA students are taught to treat business in a rational, scientific way. They analyze situations, develop financial models, critically examine management decisions and logically examine different scenarios. When they emerge from the hallowed halls of academia, they are often surprised to find that businesses run much less on logic and much more on emotion. It is not cold, intelligent analysis that drives most organizations forward. Emotional energy is often the real engine behind successful people and organisations.

Sure it helps to be analytical, intelligent and rational – but what makes people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs great business leaders is not their undoubted intelligence but their passion and commitment to their cause.

One of the richest men in Britain is Felix Dennis, who made his fortune in publishing. In 1971 he was jailed for publishing an obscene political cartoon but he was acquitted on appeal. His success started with Kung-Fu Monthly in 1974. In the 1980s he published a string of successful computer magazines. His publishing empire now spans IT, motoring, gambling and men’s magazines. A recent innovation was The Week – a brief summary of all the best articles from the press each week. In his book, “How to Get Rich”, he describes how he ignores conventional wisdom and sound advice from his directors, lawyers and accountants. He goes with his gut instincts instead. Time and again he trusted his intuition in making tough business decisions about innovative ventures.

Intuition vs IntellectLuc Mayrand, Concept Designer at Disney says, “If you find your logic is talking you out of a good idea, question the logic first, then question the idea. This is entertainment; logic is less important than the impact of the story and design.”

There are many famous examples where eminent people used logic and analysis to trash an innovative idea which subsequently succeeded. Western Union turned down the telephone because they saw no need for people to chat to one another. IBM turned down Xerography when it was offered to them by its inventor Chester Carlson. Decca Records turned down the Beatles and so on.

Logic and analysis can always find fault with innovative ideas. Use these tools but use them warily. If your intuition tells you that you have a great idea then pursue it a little while longer.


Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.

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