A few years ago, Dr Eric Dane, Dr Kevin Rockman and Dr Michael Pratt, researchers in organisational behaviour and human decision making recruited around 200 college students to watch clips from some basketball games in return for extra credit in their business classes. Some had played several years of basketball and the researchers called this group “high expertise” and the rest were relative newbies.
The researchers sat the students down and instructed them to watch video clips of 2 basketball games and rate the difficulty of each shot that the players took.
Half were instructed to make their assessments based on their gut - based on intuition alone - the first thought that they had.
The other half were instructed to use careful analytical reasoning to assess each shot and to ignore their gut instincts.
Before the test began the 2nd group created a list of factors on which to assess the shots, such as the number of nearby defenders, whether the shooter was stationary and how many points the shots were worth. The answers were to be compared to a key created by top basketball coaches.
When the results from the intuition group came back the high expertise students performed close to 50% better then those with low expertise - this is what we might expect.
The surprise was on the analytical test…
In this group - the high and low expertise students scored nearly the same…but not only that…they scored BETTER than the high expertise intuition students.
The low expertise students who used their gut to guess at a shots difficulty did poorly…but when these same students used thoughtful criteria, they outperformed even the high expertise students intuition.
The researchers then conducted a similar experiment where they asked people to identify counterfeit handbags - and the results were the same.
It is for this reason that understanding the DATA in business is so very important.
Sure, if you have high expertise in an area then intuition can get you a long way…but as we have seen from these experiments…the DATA wins the day every single time.
Now…just for clarity…I am NOT saying to ignore your intuition…it is super important…but DO look at the data…DO understand that data…and DO use the data in your business.