Innovation; Intuition or Intellect?

Your innovative idea came to you one day. Do you recall, was it based on intellect? Or was it intuition? Recently, this topic has been on my mind. I hear people talk about new ideas; on which they are basing their business. When challenged with the common question, “aren’t others doing something similar; how are you going to compete”? I am often surprised that the response is “yes, we will figure that out”.

There are an innate belief that the idea has a unique value. Something every business book will tell you is build your business based on your passion. Is this not intuition? “A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. 1

Does this fly in the face of what we learn and how businesses are run? Are we not required to justify our ideas in a logical manner before we can execute? There is no room for presenting an idea as a gut feeling in an established business. Or at least this is the illusion. I believe that much of business is about justifying our gut feeling into a logical business idea.

How do we innovate in an established company, if the idea has to come from a linear well thought out idea? We start with our intuition, our gut feeling. Every idea starts with a seed thought. The seed is nurtured through both intuition and intellect. We apply rigor to the idea, to answer all the intellectual challenges we will encounter. Only after we have crafted an idea, tested the idea, and iterated to perfection, can the idea be called innovation. It happens almost organically, regardless of whether we use a formal process.

In both Design Thinking and in Lean Startup principles, this concept is formalized into a process. In Design Thinking it is done through “free thinking sprints”, which are later organized and patterns emerge. In Lean Startup, the concepts are formed into testable hypothesis, which are validated with potential customers. Both require iteration to refine the idea into a viable offer.

My conclusion is intuition is alive and well in our business life. It is time for all of us to take a moment and get in touch with our own intuition. In doing so, we will thrive in both our professional and personal lives.

1 Google search definition of intuition

Note: Blog inspired by Dianna Amorde, who spoke about her book “Aha! Moments: When Intellect & Intuition Collide” at the Women Communicators of Austin: Careers over Coffee meeting.