Roger Martin, the author of The Design Of Business (on my reading list), makes a great case for futurists:
Fast Company: As we slowly climb out of the recession, everybody’s looking for where the next innovation will come from. Why does our pace of innovation seem to be slowing?
Martin: Most companies try to be innovative, but the enemy of innovation is the mandate to “prove it.” You cannot prove a new idea in advance by inductive or deductive reasoning.You cannot prove a new idea in advance by inductive or deductive reasoning.
Fast Company: Are you saying that the regression analysis jockeys and Six Sigma black belts have got it all wrong?
Martin: Well, yes. With every good thing in life, there’s often a dark shadow. The march of science is good, and corporations are being run more scientifically. But what they analyze is the past. And if the future is not exactly like the past, or there are things happening that are hard to measure scientifically, they get ignored. Corporations are pushing analytical thinking so far that it’s become unproductive. The future has no legitimacy for analytical thinkers.The future has no legitimacy for analytical thinkers.
Fast Company: What’s the alternative?
Martin: New ideas must come from a new kind of thinking. The American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce called it abductive logic. It’s a logical leap of the mind that you can’t prove from past data.
Fast Company: I can’t see many CEOs being comfortable with that!
Martin: Why not? The scientific method starts with a hypothesis. It’s often what happens in the shower or when an apple hits you on the head. It’s what we call ‘intuitive thinking.’ Its purpose is to know without explicit reasoning.
Fast Company: So, if you’re not getting these Newtonian moments from your management consultants, where are they likely to come from?
Martin: In a knowledge-intensive world, design thinking is critical to overcoming the biggest block: overcoming analytical thinking and fear of intuitive thinking. The design thinker enables the organization to balance exploration and exploitation, invention of business and administration of business, originality and mastery.
When I work with large, well-established, successful companies, I find it is helpful to raise this issue at the outset. You can’t motor into the future by looking in the rear-view mirror.