Today’s knowledge worker and future senior leader should be an “Informed Intuitant.” This latter word you won’t find in the dictionary, but the idea is that a decision maker should base his/her judgments on a combination of analytics and intuition. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) calls this individual an “Informed Skeptic” whereby both analytics and insight play key roles.
With the proliferation of new degrees and concentrations in business analytics, data analytics, big data, and other allied fields, how can we best develop and educate these Informed Intuitants? According to CEB, critical thinking skills are essential. As applied to analytics, these include problem solving, intellectual curiosity, issue diagnosis, insight generation, synthesis of internal and external data, problem framing, and synthesis of financial and qualitative data. Other skills integral to the Informed Intuitant include:
- Collaboration abilities, such as team building, project management, and interpersonal communications (oral and written)
- Creativity-enhancing skills to think outside the box
- Business-speak, summarization, and data visualization techniques for the analyst to explain their results to C-level executives
- Learning by doing or testing by learning methods to sharpen the analytical and decision making skill sets.
At the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), we launched a new online M.S. in Data Analytics degree in September 2013. This program seeks to develop basic and advanced skills to support strategic and tactical decision making in the new big data world. With increasing industry, product, and customer data, organizations are looking for individuals who can analyze large data sets to discover hidden knowledge, to develop modeling solutions, to present results effectively, and to manage the analytics lifecycle successfully. This new degree will also address the shortage of individuals with the requisite analytics experience and skills.
One key component of this program is to be sure that the graduate will be able to effectively combine analytics with judgment to strive to be an Informed Intuitant. Courses on executive decision making and exercises to provide the necessary soft skills to complement the hard ones are important elements of the program for fostering the yin-yang coupling of analytics and insight. Joe LaCugna, the Director of Enterprise Analytics at Starbucks Coffee Company, once told me that he could find all the applied mathematicians and statisticians that he wants, but the real challenge is finding an analyst who can understand the business and explain the analytics results in a way that the typical C-level executive can fully comprehend. That’s part of the formula in developing both analysts and decision makers to be Informed Intuitants.
As organizations move forward, having Informed Intuitants will be a critical success factor for organizational growth and prosperity. The literature on “intuition research in management” is growing, and as the big data era continues to unfold, the coupling of analytics with intuition should ultimately result in better decision makers. We, as educators, need to create these new analytics programs with these thoughts in mind.
Dr. Jay Liebowitz is the Orkand Endowed Chair in Management and Technology in the Graduate School at the University of Maryland University College. His new books include: Big Data and Business Analytics (Taylor & Francis, 2013); Business Analytics: An Introduction (Taylor & Francis, January 2014); Bursting the Big Data Bubble: The Case for Intuition-Based Decision Making (late 2014).