Thinking Outside the Data Box: Is There Room for Intuition in Today’s Data-Driven Decision-Making?

Author: | Category: Pyramid News | Tags: intuition in decision-making, data-driven decision-making, AI, artificial intelligence, AI intuition | Published: 11/6/2015

Thinking Outside the Data Box: Is There Room for Intuition in Today’s Data-Driven Decision-Making?

There have been abundant articles and research on the subject of intuition vs. data, and their respective roles in decision-making within today’s increasingly data-driven business environments.

And with good reason. More often than not, we talk about data-driven decisions, and it’s obviously true that data is pivotal to business decision-making. Still, it seems remiss not to look at the role that intuition plays—to whatever degree—in helping to interpret the facts, make decisions, or to boldly go where an organization hasn’t gone before.

Think of Steve Jobs, for instance. How much influence did intuition have on his creative, innovative vision and leadership strategy? As he himself put it, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” Putting knowledge in the realm of the heart and intuition rather than exclusively in the realm of the brain can certainly yield unexpectedly rich and rewarding insights.

Intuition vs. logic of humans and non-humans

There’s an undeniably complex interplay between intuition vs. the logic of the human brain, a relationship which we can’t even fully understand yet. But what about the “intuition” and brain of analytics, algorithm-based data, or artificial intelligence (AI)? It’s only natural to wonder how something that isn’t human—such as analytics or AI—can have intuitive qualities, in particular. The idea of “anthropomorphism”—where something has human characteristics—might come to mind. It really isn’t total science fiction, though.

A recent article—AI Intuition Beats Out Humans In Data Analysis—showcases how researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have devised a data machine known, logically enough, as the Data Science Machine. When it comes to analyzing data and interpreting data patterns, the artificial intelligence and intuitive powers of the Data Science Machine quite simply trump those of humans.

“It’s a highly effective system that has been widely considered a breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence. This high praise is due to the fact that it successfully worked without a human in an area where our very own intuition was thought of as critical…It seems not to be limited by the lack of the human element, and instead is taking on tasks without the need of a person’s intuition. And, it’s actually excelling at it.”

Think of purely subjective human intuition on one end of the spectrum, and the “brain” of purely objective data, facts, analytics, and algorithms on the other. When you can bridge the two with the human brain that’s influenced by both ends of the spectrum, by both intuition and logic, the result can potentially be not only more holistic but more interestingly insightful. Add to this mix the intuition behind not machines or systems that are capable of pattern-interpretation—not just pattern detection—without any risk of subconscious, human bias, and things become even more exciting.

Holistic decision-making approach in nursing

There have been many studies done on the incorporation of intuition in the nursing profession, along with the main decision influencers of evidence-based research and data. Certain studies have shown that those nurses who have more experience and expertise are more likely to use intuition as a supplementary tool in making decisions.

In State of the Science: Intuition in Nursing, a Generation of Studying the Phenomenon, intuition is seen as a key component of decision-making, whether in critical care, neonatal intensive care units, pediatrics, or other areas:

“Much of the nursing literature published in the past 2 decades has focused on the use of intuition in nursing practice, teaching students about using intuition, and applying intuition to nursing management…We concluded that intuition was imperative to complex decision making in nursing and neglected in the nursing literature.”

Making sense of it all

It can be tricky, but when you can combine some form of instinct with solid, trustworthy facts, there’s the potential to tap into a whole new world of available insights, ones that go way beyond what’s apparent to the senses.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think intuition can figure into decision-making in the culture of today’s data-driven organizations? If so, how?

Related resources

  1. AI Intuition Beats Out Humans In Data Analysis
  2. State of the Science: Intuition in Nursing, a Generation of Studying the Phenomenon
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