Category Archives: Reason

How to Build the Perfect Team and Scale It

Last Sunday I saw an outstanding article published in the New York Times magazine called, “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team” written by the Pulitzer Prize winScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.04.42 PMning reporter Charles Duhigg.  It tells the story of data giant Google’s multi-year “Project Aristotle” which tried to discern why some teams succeeded while others failed.

Google researchers had a really difficult time finding patterns for which teams failed and which succeeded.  People who performed well as individuals or people who were friends outside of work didn’t necessarily make the best teams. Conversely, the best teams did not necessarily have the best individual performers.  What researchers did notice was that teams either consistently succeeded or failed.  This led them to study the social norms, or culture, that prevailed in the group, which they found to be the deciding factor on the group’s performance.  The best teams had two consistent qualities:

  1.     Everyone in the group ended up with roughly the same amount of voice time at the end of the meeting.
  2.     People in the group had a high “average social sensitivity”, meaning that they were cued in to how the others were feeling.

These two “cultural” elements create a psychologically safe place and appeals to us on a deep instinctual level and to our survival-oriented reptilian brain.  When we “feel” safe, we’re more relaxed and have a sense that we can put ideas out there even if they’re not perfect.  There is unconscious recognition that each team member has a role to play and that their role matters.

Google’s findings clearly demonstrate three tenets of Intuitive Intelligence:  think holistically, think paradoxically and notice the unusual.

That the external qualifications and performance of individuals do not necessarily add up to the best performing teams is a great example of thinking holistically (the whole is more than the sum of the parts) and thinking paradoxically (the “best” parts do not necessarily make the best whole).  Noticing the unusual is exemplified in the high “average social sensitivity” of the better performing teams because they have an inherent awareness to the subtle facial and bodily cues of their team members.

Now for the real question.  How do you scale it?

Ironically through an approach that combines reason and instinct, or the rational and the nonlinear aspects of life.  Google had so much data showing that teams perform better when things got real and there was more space to be human, it gave people permission to let everything be a little more messy and fun.  The good news is that having a common language about “employee performance optimization” gives people a way to talk about this messiness that otherwise might feel very awkward.

How to Navigate the Tension Between Reason and Instinct in Social Media Marketing (Use Your Intuition!)

This article is fantastic because it really captures the tension between reason and instinct that must be balanced in order to come up with brilliant marketing ideas. The hard core analytics are essential in getting to know your audience and what they respond to, and yet “There’s an intuitive art to striking a chord with people and making them want to associate with you.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Harnessing the Power of Ritual for Business Innovation

How often do you engage in rituals? Probably more often than you think. From daily routines like the first cup of coffee in the morning or the story you read your child at bedtime to the most culturally significant celebrations, including weddings and bar mitzvahs, rituals are almost certainly a part of your personal life. But are they a part of your professional life? If not, you are missing out on an extremely powerful management tool, especially if what you are seeking from your team is creative innovation and out of the box thinking in the context of a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Research done by neuroscientists shows that 80% of our brain’s grey matter is dedicated to non-conscious thought and that imaginative play is one of the most direct means of activating our creativity and problem-solving abilities. Read More

BP crisis: our shared responsibilities toward a new path to success

BP oil spill nearshore trajectory june18 2010
The tragedy in the Gulf continues. By now we’ve all seen the horrendous images of seabirds, fish, dolphins, and other forms of aquatic life – dead or dying, helpless as they slither about covered in oil, an agonizing sight for all the world to see.  We’ve seen the Cajun shrimpers bemoan the loss of their lifestyle, and we are witnessing a slow, lingering devastation – as the sea itself seems to be gasping for breath. Read More

Michael Schrage and the Intuition Fallacy

There’s a post on the HBR blogTell Your Gut to Please Shut Up – by Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, in which he denounces the current trend about intuition as the key to quick, effective, successful decision-making.
Although Schrage’s argument seems to make perfect sense, and his ideas are well articulated, I think this is just another false debate about intuition. Read More

“Intuitive Intelligence” on iTunes U: Top Download

The “Intuitive Intelligence” conference I put together for HEC MBA – first business school in Europe per FT ranking over the past 5 years – has become one of the top global downloads for iTunes U.

You can download it for free >>
iTunes U gathers more than 250,000 free podcasts of lectures, films, interviews from 600 prestigious universities and institutions from all over the world. The weekly statistics provided by Apple, routinely show 60,000 to 70,000 visitors. Read More

Strategic Intuition: Lessons Learned from Iraq

Intuitive intelligence can be a matter of life and death.

In Iraq, we learn that the use of intuition by US soldiers has led to numerous close escapes. This article in the New York Times gives us a glimpse of how soldiers may use their intuitive senses to avoid danger:

“On one route sweep mission, there was a noticeable I.E.D. in the middle of the road, but it was a decoy,” said Lt. Donovan Campbell, who in 2004 led a Marine platoon for seven months of heavy fighting in Ramadi and wrote a vivid book, “Joker One,” about the experience. “The real bomb was encased in concrete, a hundred meters away, in the midst of rubble. One of my Marines spotted it. He said, ‘That block looks too symmetrical, too perfect.’ ”

These life-and-death decisions must be made instantly, with little, if
any, time for rational analysis.  And what’s more impressive, the Army
has discovered that this ability to think intuitively can be improved through training.

Time after time, the Army learns from its feet on the ground, that “the speed
with which the brain reads and interprets sensations like the feelings
in one’s own body and emotions in the body language of others is
central to avoiding imminent threats.”

Of course, intuitive intelligence is not a new idea for the Army. In COUP D’OEIL: STRATEGIC INTUITION IN ARMY PLANNING, a 2005 document produced by Strategic Studies Institute at US Army War College, we see a serious attempt to blend both analytic and intuition.

The Army views the analytic approach as follows:

Analytic decision-making approaches a problem systematically. Leaders analyze a problem, generate several possible solutions, analyze and compare them to a set of criteria, and select the best solution. The analytic approach aims to produce the optimal solution to a problem from among those solutions identified. This approach is methodical, and it serves well for decision-making in complex or unfamiliar situations by allowing the breakdown of tasks into recognizable elements. It ensures that the commander and staff consider, analyze, and evaluate all relevant factors.

It may help inexperienced leaders by giving them a methodology for their lack of experience. The analytic approach to decision-making serves well when time is available to analyze all facets affecting the problem and its solution. However, analytic decision-making consumes time and does not work well in all situations–especially during execution, where circumstances often require immediate decisions.

Intuition, on the other hand, is viewed as a “creative” approach:

Intuitive decision-making is the act of reaching a conclusion that emphasizes pattern recognition based on knowledge, judgment, experience, education, intelligence, boldness, perception, and character. This approach focuses on assessment of the situation versus comparison of multiple options. It is used when time is short, or speed of decision is important. Intuitive decision-making is faster than analytic decision-making in that it involves making decisions based on assessment of the situation rather than a comparison of multiple COAs (Courses of Action). It relies on the experienced leader’s ability to recognize the key elements and implications of a particular problem or situation, reject the impractical, and select an adequate (rather than optimal) COA.

Intuitive decision-making is especially appropriate in time-constrained conditions. It significantly speeds up decision-making. Intuitive decision-making, however, does not work well when the situation includes inexperienced leaders, complex or unfamiliar situations, or competing COAs. Additionally, substituting assessment for detailed analysis means that some implications may be overlooked. Commanders use intuitive decision-making when time is short and problems straightforward. It is usually appropriate during execution.

The Army, especially in light of Iraq, has revised their thinking. The author of the report, a Columbia Professor William Duggan shows how to reconcile analytical and intuitive methods of
decision-making by drawing on recent scientific research that brings the
two together. He applies this new research to the Army’s core methods
of analytical decision-making as found in Field Manual (FM) 5-0, Army Planning and Orders Production. The result is “strategic intuition,” which bears remarkable resemblance to von Clausewitz‘s idea of coup d’oeil in his classic work, On War.

The Columbia professor states emphatically:

This divide between analysis and intuition reflects an outmoded view of the human mind that science no longer supports. Recent advances in how the mind works have overturned the old idea that analysis and intuition are two separate functions that take place in two different parts of the brain. In the new view, analysis and intuition are so intertwined that it is impossible to sort them out. There is no good analysis without intuition, and no good intuition without analysis. They go together in all situations. Some scientists call the new model of the brain “intelligent memory,” where analysis puts elements into your brain and intuition pulls them out and combines them into action.

It is important to note that this ireport does not criticize the Army or its commanders. When strategic intuition was used as a lens to analyze Army officers in action, they tend to comment, “That’s what we do.”  The report states: Good commanders use intuitive intelligence. They treat manuals only as guides, and adapt procedures as they see fit.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you need Intuitive Intelligence – it is the bridge between analysis and intuition, and it explains how we, in fact, really make decisions. Despite the limited visibility in these uncertain and turbulent times, we know that Intuitive Intelligence is the necessary strategic aptitude for decision-makers both in the Army and in the chaotic world of today’s business.

Case Study: Creativity versus Results at L’Oréal


According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, L’Oréal SA, the world’s largest cosmetics maker, reported flat sales
for the first quarter of 2009 as consumers shied away from its luxury
skin creams and shampoos in favor of its cheaper brands. The maker of products ranging from Giorgio Armani perfume to Lancôme
skin cream and Maybelline eye shadows said sales increased 0.3% to
€4.37 billion ($5.83 billion) in the first three months of 2009.
Jean-Paul Agon, L’Oréal’s chief executive, said that he would not offer
specific guidance for the year but that results would “improve” during

After accounting for the effect of currency fluctuations, sales fell
9.3% in Western Europe and 5% in North America. This shortfall was
partly offset by an increase in revenue in Asia.

Sales at L’Oréal’s luxury cosmetics division fell, while sales of its consumer drugstore lines increased slightly.

This is an unfortunate turn for L’Oréal which has always been known for its commitment to scientific research and exceptional financial results.

In fact, you might say there is an unresolved tension in its culture between creativity and business results. This tension is visible even on its website. If you read about the “profiles they are looking for” under the marketing category, here’s a description you’ll find:

Creativity, imagination, openness to new ideas – coupled with the highest professionalism.
• Project-oriented, natural team player, at ease working with others in an environment of entrepreneurial challenge.
• Global-minded, flexible, able to juggle multiple priorities.
• Strong analytical thinker, excellent communicator.

You have a keen eye on the latest fashions, a finger on the pulse of emerging consumer and cultural trends. Highly developed interpersonal skills, a passion for results. The personality to make a difference.

Diagnosis: L’Oréal – When East dominates West…                

For the past few years I have been working with L’Oréal to change this dynamic.

The challenge: help marketers and managers develop a sensitivity to the creative nature of the beauty
product development process and specifically gain an understanding
for the process of research and development.

When the cosmetic group decided to develop a world wide talent appraisal process Sir Lindsay Owen Jones articulated the need to develop a competence key to the success of the group in the eye of the CEO, and that is: sensitivity to métier. What Sir Lindsay Owen Jones was aiming for was to develop a global, shared understanding for beauty products development, for L’Oréal customers, and for a number of other confidential important characteristics identified by the CEO as key factors for success in the beauty industry.

The Human Company was commissioned to research how to define this specific aptitude and how to develop it and train for it. We developed an international training track that is seen today as one of the most successful and inspiring training program available at L’Oréal.

Our approach consists in helping marketers understand how to engage and inspire creative people to contribute the best of their creativity.  We used the The Intuitive Compass™ to highlight the tension between results-driven managers and creative teams.


Our analysis: L’Oréal has a product innovation driven business model whereas most of its competitors have often a market-driven model. The company believes in scientific innovation to promote growth. Its founder was a scientist. It is how L’Oréal sustained 20 years of double-digit growth and became the world leader in cosmetics. There is, as I mentioned earlier, a tension in its culture between creativity and business results.

Results: We helped L’Oréal’s teams understand the perspective of the different teams.  The creative teams learned about the business aspects they had neglected, while the managers and marketers were helped to understand the creative process. The bridge is intuitive intelligence. Our training program is seen today as one of the most successful and inspiring training program available at L’Oréal. (Average rating: 19.5/20) because it is very relevant with the innovation imperative prevailing in the beauty Industry, articulated by the CEO Jean Paul Agon in his mandate. 

FIT: New Intelligence for the New Economy

I just got back from delivering the keynote at the Fashion Institute of Technology‘s 2009 Capstone Presentations and Graduation Reception.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen how teams of students have used the ideas we discussed, both on creativity and applied intuitive intelligence, to learn more about the possibilities for exploring new avenues for growth. They are full of enthusiasm and passion for their work – and that is what true education is about. May they keep the fire with them always!

Thanks to everyone for such a wonderful evening: FIT’s Dr. Joyce Brown and Professor Stephan Kanlian, our gracious hosts;  my industry colleagues: Karen Grant, Marc Gobe, Candace Corlett, and Mark Pritchard; and of course, Ellen Byron from the Wall Street Journal.

And most importantly, thank you to the students.  Yours is the task of building a tomorrow that keeps us alive, hopeful, and yes, sometimes, truly joyful!

My keynote presentation is available here >>

The Intuitive Compass™: A Framework for Intuitive Intelligence

We know that innovation is more about people and culture than it is about process and structures. Yet many executives find themselves unable to inspire their teams and foster a culture of innovation. This is not a new theme in management thinking, but it is one that has never been more important.

Early on, as my work took me deep into this realm – the world of intuitive intelligence –  I struggled to build a model to explain why this was so.  And so it was by accident, and by now we know that there are no accidents, that the model of The Intuitive Compass™ took shape:


Oddly enough, I was using Cartesian coordinates to explain the flaws in our linear thinking. The two principal axes, Play-Results and Instinct-Reason, give us four quadrants (NE, SE, SW, NW). Each of these quadrants represents a function or even a mindset in an organization. Let’s make a few generalizations to explain the framework:

The NE quadrant is the area where reason and results prevail. This is the realm of business administration and management. Most companies excel in this department, led by teh twin beacons of “maximizing shareholder value” and “cost management.”

The SE quadrant is the area where instinct is at the core and results are the rule of the game. This is the mindset one finds in a sales department, or in an athlete.

The NW quadrant is the area where reason engages in a creative thinking process as in strategic planning or marketing (think of an architectural firm or engineering company).

Finally, the SW quadrant is the area where instincts are at the heart of the creative process to invent and create from the unknown and the depth of the unconscious. This is where creators, scientists, researchers, and inventors experience eureka moments. Most executives and almost all companies, even those engaged in creative fields, lack a way to connect this quadrant back into the rest of the business.

The Intuitive Compass™ becomes a tool we can apply to assess and chart progress as companies (and executives) learn to harness intuitive intelligence in four key areas:

Strategy: how to employ intuitive intelligence to create sustainable, innovative business models which deliver real value to customers in their local environment.

Leadership: the transformative power of intuitive intelligence energizes, and builds movements – with clarity of vision and purpose.

Work Culture: the ecosystem health of your business culture is reflected in your bottom line results. The Intuitive Compass™ helps create the open culture you need to succeed in the intelligent economy.

Consumer Needs: map your customers needs and wants using The Intuitive Compass™ – creating a value innovation agenda for your customers.

The bottom line is convergence – with customers, employees, management and leadership.

Going forward, we’ll use The Intuitive Compass™ to chart how companies and leaders can use intuitive intelligence to shape the future – both in their industries and in the larger world.