Earlier this week I attended a presentation by Roger Martin, the author of The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage. There is a great article about the book in Businessweek as it was one of their top recommentations for 2009.
The event was held at the new, and very cosmopolitan Ziba Design building on Ninth and Northrop in Portland. The crowd was large, hip, and enthusiastic.
As his thesis, Martin poses this question: “Why aren’t companies more innovative, especially since innovation is such a competitive advantage?” He investigated the obvious answers–that companies like what they already have or that they don’t have the resources–and he found they were not true. Companies really do want to be innovative.
Martin then outlined three ways that people think. The first is analytical thinking which looks at data from the past to predict the future. Its goal is a reliable outcome, but the limitation is that when you are looking to innovate you cannot use inductive or deductive reasoning to prove something new. In fact, Martin goes so far as to say “prove it” is the enemy of innovation.
Another way that people think is intuitive thinking, which has the goal of creating “what might be.” Its purpose is to know without explicit reasoning. This method of thinking has 100% validity, he said, because it lacks parameters.
The combination of both approaches is called abductive thinking, and its purpose is to integrate the past and future, and to combine reliability and validity. The intersection of analytical and intuitive thinking is where innovation occurs.
He argued that corporate life is dominated by analytical thinking, and that it has been pushed so far that it is counterproductive. He gave suggestions for intuitive thinkers to understand and empathize with analytical thinkers. He also challenged analytical thinkers to share reasoning and data, but not conclusions with intuitive thinkers.
If you change structure and process, then culture shifts occur. Cultural shifts lead to innovation.
As SLA looks to become Future Ready and posits “what might be,” we need use analytical and intuitive thinking to engender new processes and structures to support our members.
What’s your dominant way of thinking? Analytical, intuitive or abductive?