Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's a time to invest in intuition.

Post 378 - In today's uncertain world, most managers still try to create the future by extrapolating trends and developments in the business environment. However, inventing really innovative futures depends primarily on intuition. The great American artist, Andrew Wyeth, who died earlier this year, once observed, "I spend weeks out doing drawings and watercolor studies I may never use, I throw them in a back room, never look at them again, or drop them on the floor and walk over them. I feel the communion that has seeped into my subconscious will eventually come out in the final picture." Like Wyeth, business owners can also use their curiosity to fuel intuitive creativity.

For example, when Leonard Riggio turned a small Manhattan book store into the Barnes & Noble book chain, he studied industry trends and conducted detailed market analyses. However, he also relied on his educated instincts to tell him what consumers really wanted. Riggio believed shopping was a form of entertainment, so he introduced stores with a soft-colored library atmosphere and plenty of welcoming public space where customers could linger, feel at home, and meet other people. He put coffee shops in his superstores, hosted readings and book signings - anything that would entice and entertain and keep people browsing through the shelves. Riggio viewed books as consumer products and believed people bought them not just for their content, but for what they said about their taste, cultivation, and trendiness. He understood that it took more than a structured, quantified analysis to invent the future. It also took what Wyeth would have called "art."

Synthesizing experience into strategy means developing an intuitive feel for the future that often eludes others. This creative process involves:

• Acquisition (gathering up ideas and impressions)

• Association (putting them together and recognizing connections)

• Expression (giving them a new voice)

• Evaluation (making them better) and

• Perseverance (staying the course until they catch on).

The most creative managers go beyond statistics and reports, mulling over ideas and instincts that lead them in surprising directions that no amount of quantitative research can stimulate. They look to see beyond the data. Relying on many intangible sources of information (hearsay, gossip, etc), they observe, internalize, comprehend, and synthesize as they assemble viable patterns. As John Wooden, the legendary coach of UCLA basketball, once remarked, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

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