A Deeper Business Intelligence

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It concerns me that business leaders are investing so much time and money into analyzing huge amounts of data for decision making, while at the same time ignoring our innate abilities to make wiser decisions. Business Intelligence initiatives are commanding millions of dollars in most large companies, where leaders believe the holy grail of making wise decisions is to make them all fact-based, or data-based, by analyzing such things as customer transactions and employee performance. As an IT leader by trade, I understand the value of data, but I’m concerned that we’re ignoring a huge part of our human potential. We have the ability to perceive at a more profound level through intuition and would benefit from putting more effort into understanding and honing this skill.

Scientists have proven that we’re able to read the emotions of other people, which can help us make better decisions about how to provide the best service to customers or where to focus our management time. There’s also credible evidence that we’re able to intuit information about future events. Consider the results of numerous controlled experiments.

From the 1930’s, there have been recorded experiments to determine if people have knowledge of future events. The experiments have taken many forms over the years. Some tested a subject’s ability to guess a playing card before it was pulled from a deck, and after the advent of computers, the experiments were more likely to test a subject’s ability to guess the symbols that were going to appear on a computer screen. In 1989, two researchers, Charles Honorton and Dianne Ferrari, performed a meta-analysis by gathering all the controlled experiments that had been conducted over the previous fifty years. In total, there were about fifty thousand test subjects and 2 million trials. The researchers found that 62 scientists had found proof that subjects could substantially predict future events at a rate greater than chance. Taking into account all of the studies, the odds that the results were due to chance was 10 million billion billion to one.

We’re finding out so much about the power of our emotions. In previous articles, I’ve presented evidence that we can read the emotions of other people. There’s also evidence that our emotions gear up for future events. Consider experimentation conducted by the American parapsychologist Dean Radin and his colleagues at the University of Nevada. They used the fact that the electrical activity of human skin is impacted by the emotional state of test subjects, and the variation in the electrical activity that is conducted by the skin can be measured and charted. As a person’s emotions change due to exposure to emotionally charged words or pictures, the electricity conducted by their skin changes measurably. Radin and his colleagues used emotionally charged photos to determine if a person’s skin would show a reaction to future events.

The researchers measured the electrical conductivity of the skin of test subjects as they clicked through a series of photographs displayed on a computer screen. Most of the images were beautiful scenes of nature, but there were a few photos of dead bodies or pornography interspersed. The computer randomly picked the next image from a large database and would display a blank screen for five seconds before showing an image for three seconds. The experiments revealed that three to four seconds prior to the disturbing images being displayed, the subjects would have a noticeable change in their skin response. This kind of reaction was not present prior to the beautiful images being displayed. These kinds of experiments have been replicated successfully by other universities.

These intuitive abilities can probably be explained by what physicists say about time being only an illusion and that the past, present and future are all really happening now. I don’t claim to know how it works, but the fact that it does work tells me we should pay more attention to our intuitive abilities. It reminds me of my experiences in deciding which IT projects to pursue. In determining which projects to fund during a budget year, we would gather endless data about the return-on-investment and the readiness of the targeted users. We would create huge spreadsheets to rate and rank each project and come up with overall scores for decision making. But every time we made decisions that didn’t feel right, they didn’t turn out well, even though all the data pointed to them being right. Business Intelligence will never be able to give us this type of insight on highly complex, human dependent, business alternatives.

Let’s understand, hone and use our intuitive abilities. For starters, we know that employees are more intuitive when work environments are positive and when we suspend our analytical brain.

As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a writer, speaker and consultant helping organizations strengthen agility and performance by shaping emotional energy. She is a thought leader bringing to light the new science of group emotional energy and connecting it to business performance. She has had a 28-year award winning career as a C-level Fortune 500 executive and Big Four consulting firm professional.
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  1. Yvette Meursing  April 9, 2012

    Great to read this and very recognizable, thank you very much.

  2. Ronald V.  April 9, 2012

    [This doesn’t happen] Simply because that (data analysis) BEHAVIOR is what is being educated at “business and leadership” institutes Jacky. It keeps “business-leading-individuals” locked in their left-(somebody elses) logical (mindframe)-pre-programmed brain halve.. which causes a firm isolation for their intuitive skills and a connect with the Higher Selves. That is the way the real leaders, architects of this society want those individuals to behave, act, operate.

    I call this technique “brainwashing” instead of educating business intelligence.
    Simply force the student to repeat the trick that have you are being told, without allowing the students to even questioning if that “trick” is right for you, yourself and/ or your business.

    Look around you to see what has happened to this world, with all that data-analyzing behavior of the “world / business leaders”… :-(. Humanity has been successfully brainwashed into interpreting pools of emotionless! data / numbers / figures according to somebody elses rules reasoning and logic.

    Make me wonder if todays “leaders” had a heart and had the guts to use and follow it, how their way of heart-leadership could have transformed this world into a better place for us all.

  3. Mark Adams  April 23, 2012

    Jackie I have two thoughts arising from your post.

    First, I would suggest that in any significant decision situation the need for information, balanced against, time constraints, balanced against costs of getting further useful information, against what we already believe/know is the appropriate course of action need to be considered. What will analyzing large amounts of data do for us anyway?

    I often consider and suggest that if there was one more piece of information that I/You/We could easily obtain that will give us a 80% type comfort that we will choose the appropriate course, what would that be? Personally I put a premium on using the most helpful information rather than the volume of it to make my important choices.

    Second, you raise the value of intuitive abilities. What are these but the “rules of thumb” and patterns of experience that we have incorporated into our minds (sometimes unkowningly)? We all acquire these as we get experienced. These are extremely useful in that they can speed up decision making and they work often enough that we are reinforced to apply them again in the future. When faced with a decision that is similar to one we have dealt with in the past, we reasonably draw upon these lessons in life. But what if we are dealing with a decision that is new/novel/strange to us?

    Personally I have been bitten enough by immediately using intuitive hunches to decide. So the rule of thumb I use when in the unfamiliar context is to ask what additional information could help me determine if my intuitive hunch is flawed in this situation? The orientation for additional information is to refute my hunch rather than confirm it.

    The value of seeking quick refutation is it helps me move my decision making process along.

    Thank you, you raise some intriguing (for me at least) thoughts by your question.

  4. Jackie Barretta  April 23, 2012

    Mark, your comment sparked a few more thoughts. Research is showing that we can access information that is not bound by the classic limits of time and space. This means we can intuit future events. You say you have been bitten by using intuitive hunches, but I propose that may be because you haven’t learned to use intuition proficiently. I just received some research material from the HeartMath Institute that cites research showing that our heart fields are most receptive to info about future events, and we need to be in a positive emotional state to perceive it. Once I digest the research, I’ll wreite another article on the how to’s.

  5. Bruce Hazen  April 23, 2012

    We, as a work culture, are seeking the balance of intuition and quantified measurements of the world around us. I see the last bastion of unmitigated intuition in the work I do as a career management coach. It’s the interviewing process. In less sophisticated organizations it’s often driven by the “hunch” of the hiring manager. The “hunch” if often wrong but I don’t see this as an inditement of “intuition” as Jackie is speaking about it. Intuition, like any other ability, benefites from being refined. Many hiring decisions would improve if intuition ability was refined.

  6. David Mullin  April 23, 2012

    I am often presented with intuition by itself in textbooks that are written for graduate and post-graduate students. In fact, Robbins and Judge (14th edition) recommend implementing intuition with…drum roll please..systematic study and evidence-based management (EBM). These people are just kicking the tires at this junction. Don’t wait for them to say it’s OK. Intuition, imagination, and inspiration go together. These are not flights of fantasy tweaked with hallucinations. (They are for the sham artists, liars, and cheats.) Gee, we’re right back to trust; cornerstone of the leadership pyramid.

  7. Ophelia Bernal  April 23, 2012

    Analyzing data is ALSO needed in order to come up with WISER DECISIONS. The data is the tangible proof why such decisions came about. I do not discount the fact that INNATE ABILITIES of managers to make WISER DECISIONS play a major role is decision making.

  8. Carlton Conrad  April 23, 2012

    Interesting article. I believe that it depends on the situation at hand. If the ‘intuition-based’ decision failed, are stakeholders likely to accept the reason was based on a feeling? Or, would they be more sympathetic if data suggested it was a wise decision? As I work with clients, I try to strike a balance and avoid paralysis by analysis; therefore believing there is a purpose for both, and the balance needs to be struck based on an assessment of internal and external equities/interests.

  9. Jackie Barretta  April 23, 2012

    Carlton, I agree with striking a balance. And actually, I would hardly ever tell someone that I made a business decision based on intuition. Instead, I would find data to back it up and present it based on the data.

  10. Lee Johnston  May 2, 2012

    Good read. Your articles are enjoyable to read and reflect a way of being that leads to a more cohesive, humane world inside and outside of the corporation.

  11. Raj Kumar  May 2, 2012

    Jackie I agree with you.In Yoga we say we have Five Sheeths/Bodies/Koshas.
    Annamayakosha-physical sheeth
    Pranmaya kosha-Energy body
    Manomayakosha-mental sheeth
    Vijyanmayakosha-Knowledge sheeth
    Anandmaya kosha-bliss body
    As per this when we access knowledge sheeth we get the truth/knowledge about every thing,they say there is law of conservation of knowledge like law of conservation of energy.The solution to every problem/situation is available(we can say creative solution/crative problem solving)Through meditation(dhayana) we develop intution.Based on this we (my self,Prof K.N.Krishnaswamy from dept of management studies I.I.Sc.Bangalore and Dr Pallavi Dham Nayyar,psychiatrist) have developed a neuro programming method BMP for self transformation and finding creative solution to problems.There is a great need to work further on this approach for management decision making process.


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