Before You Fall in Love with Data, Try Loving Your Intuition

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” – Gertrude Stein

In a data-driven society, the customer often takes the backseat in product enhancements.  This is unfortunate for many reasons. Anyone who has tried to navigate an automated phone system while angry can agree that automated systems usually do not have intuition, other than to recognize that your tone of voice may indicate that you want to speak to a human. Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, knew this and incorporated it into his designs. Watching the release of the iPhone in the classic Apple keynote shows that his leaps of faith were based on the hope that they would work and the faith that people would like them.

As Henry Clay would say, “Statistics are no substitute for judgement”. That is not to say that the creation of the iPhone has not fundamentally changed the way our society functions, but merely to say that if Steve Jobs had based his profit off preexisting statistics, we would probably not have those nifty pocket computers that everyone has come to love. In fact, studies have shown that only with intuition and insight working together will tech innovations come to fruition. Algorithms may work for many things, but they will not work for everything.

The reason for this is simply that humans expect innovations that work to their best interests. For this to become reality, it is important to train intuition and hone it in to best work with data. In addition, data being used for projects like these need to go through rigorous social engineering to seem less artificial. Social platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, used a successful combination of the two to create website features that were both intuitive and data driven. However, it is important to train intuition before using it. Without properly reining in the random nature of intuition, sometimes putting too much faith into it can have its issues.

The bottom line is that it is critical to understand the nuances of data and intuition before applying the two to automated systems. As Kurt Bollacker said, “Data that is loved tends to survive.” Therefore, companies like Apple and Facebook, who constantly combine intuition and data, are thriving. Without proper nurturing of those two elements, innovations will fail.