At some point in my childhood I needed glasses. When I got that first pair of spectacles, I began to notice all the other people in my milieu who also wore glasses. It’s not that they just started wearing them at the same time as I did. No, they’d been sporting them all along, I just hadn’t noticed.
And that’s the way it is for most of us. When something that was previously hidden breaks into our consciousness, we then see it all over the place. And sometimes we forget that there was a time when we didn’t know it existed.
That’s how I feel after having completed the maverick research project over the summer. The hypothesis we set out to prove is that decision making needs to rely less on data and logical thinking and more on emotion and intuition. This work sensitized me to the over-emphasis we put on logical, left brain-directed thinking at the expense of utilizing right brain-directed capabilities such as synthesis and empathy.
Now I’m noticing how tightly the preference for data-based decision making has gripped the business world. This morning l listened to a webinar hosted by a tech company in which they discussed a newly released research report which favored an analytical approach to decision making. The company touted its analytics prowess and its ability to make sure that machines armed with information saved people from making stupid decisions.
I’m not denying the value of virtual personal assistants helping with decision making. My previous research confirms that people and machines can make better decisions than just people alone. This is true when the decisions rely upon facts and verifiable truths. If I know the speed of the Acela train heading from Boston to NYC – along with a few other facts like how many stops it will make and how long it stops at each station – then I can calculate its ETA in ‘the city.’ What’s concerning me is the diminishing respect intuition and experience seem to be getting. When the need is for creative solutions to wicked problems, data alone will not suffice. In these volatile situations that defy explanation and have no precedent, a more humanistic approach is desirable.
Why do I bring this point up now? As I research the evolving digital workplace, I’ve noted the need to provision friendlier, more intuitive technology to various worker segments. Not everyone does the same work, so not everyone needs the same stuff to be effective. I’m afraid our concept of ‘knowledge worker’ is too heavily biased toward the person who needs facts and figures to get their work done. We have to be careful as we identify the needs of different worker segments that we encourage and enable collaborative interactions, too. The digital workplace must have a balance of people who can analyze and people who can synthesize.
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