Don’t shy away from intuition in strategic decision-making 

Jenna Hakkarainen


    Don’t shy away from intuition in strategic decision-making

    Have you been in a situation where you needed to make a decision and there was no obvious right or wrong answer – but you had this inner feeling that one choice may be better than the other? Or perhaps you have been in a situation where data and analysis clearly indicated one path over another, but your gut feeling was pointing to somewhere else?  

    Intuition – aka human judgment developed through experience and close observation – should not be ignored in decision-making.  

    A great book was published on this topic in 2022. It’s called Decisions Over Decimals: Striking the Balance between Intuition and Information (by Christopher Frank, Paul Magnone, and Oded Netzer). One of the key points the authors make is that while data-based decision-making is vital, it too comes with risks.  

    Data and numbers tend to provide the comfortable feeling of accuracy and certainty, but they rarely tell us the full story. What business leaders need are techniques for combining good data with their own good judgment.  

    Do you let your intuition influence your decision-making? 

    Many clients have told me that they feel they should listen to their intuition instead of relying solely on data and numbers, but they are hesitant to do so because it would require more courage and risk-taking.  

    Why does listening to the voice of intuition require courage? Is it because feelings are often ambiguous and cannot be traced and tracked in the same way as the conclusions from a data analysis? Or are we as decision-makers afraid of being seen as too emotional as intuition is still only a feeling – even though intuition is giving us valuable information about past learnings? 

    Luckily for us engineering minded people, there is a buzz word around intuition and decision-making which may give us enough courage to be vocal about intuition in the business context. That word is Quantitative Intuition (QI).  

    QI is about combining quantitative information with intuition, utilizing a specific approach which can be learned over time. It’s a valuable skill. As the authors of Decisions Over Decimals point out:  

    “Successful decision-makers balance data, experience, and intuition. They quickly sort through information, apply judgment, and are fierce interrogators of data to cultivate sharp insights. They know there is more to decision-making than just the data.” 

    The bottom line is that to enable successful decision making, we need to provide the circumstances to hear and respect intuition as a source of information. In the strategy process, it can be as simple as securing enough time and applying different methods to encourage people to listen and reflect on the voice of intuition.  

    I have learned to respect my intuition. In my experience, it often guides me to the right direction – or at least to a direction I can stand behind 100%. 

    If you want to get a good idea of  what “Decisions over Decimals” is all about in 5+ minutes, my colleagues at Strategy& have published an excellent article on the topic: