Innovation is thinking about the wrong thing at the right time

What are the elements of "strategic intuition," the kind of business insight that doesn't just confer a competitive advantage, but changes the rules of the game for everyone else?

At Innovation Science Brent Edwards interviews William Duggan, the author of a new book entitled Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement. I have not read the book, but any serious attempt to plumb the workings of game-changing insight appeals to me. It is, after all, what the ideaFestival is about.


Duggan starts his book off by differentiating strategic intuition from the expert intuition that Malcolm Gladwell detailed in his bestseller Blink. Duggan goes on to describe how strategic intuition is achieved and how it is necessary for developing creative leaps into unexplored territory. He does so by investigating how strategic ideas get created through an examination of such diverse topics a Napoleon’s wartime strategy, Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific breakthroughs, and Buddha’s enlightenment. Duggan then discusses how strategic intuition has been applied in some well known and not-so well known business and political situations.

Early in the email interview, Duggan further differentiates strategic from expert intuition:

The quick retrieval of the right tactic in the right situation is the essence of expert intuition.  An emergency room nurse is just walking by, glances at a child, and swings into action to save the child’s life. The nurse can act so fast because she has seen that ailment before in some form, and her training or experience told her the right tactic to use. Strategic intuition is different from this in three key ways. First, it applies to new situations. Second, it’s slow.  Third, it brings together many tactics in a new combination.

Much of the remainder of the interview is also spent describing how tactical and strategic innovation differ.

Referring to "countless" cases that he's studied, Duggan, in my favorite quote from the interview, says that "for something complex to work, each piece that makes it up has to have worked before, in some way, sometime, somewhere in the world. Innovators don't dream, they combine."

Give it a read if you get the chance.