Together, a bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Your answer to this question will show how the way you think will affect your innovation strategy.

If your answer was ten cents versus the correct answer of 5 cents, you are likely to possess an intuitive thinking style as opposed to an analytical style. If your answer was 10 cents, you are also in good company. When the same question was posed to MIT students, the majority agreed the answer was 10 cents.

This “thinking breakdown” comes from a book by the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnaman titled Thinking Fast and Slow. In this book, he explains the difference between the two and how they work together.

“Expert intuition strikes us as magical, but it is not,” Kahnaman says. “Each of us performs feats of intuition daily. We are pitch perfect in detecting anger in the first word of a phone call, recognize instantly that we were the subject of discussion before we entered the room, and instantly react to subtle signs that the driver in the next car is dangerous.”

Intuitive thinking is recognizing patterns quickly through experience, but that alone isn’t enough. Balance is needed. If your innovation team has mostly intuitive thinkers, you may end up with skewed product designs and faulty directives. You need to add in analytical thinkers, who will deeply review and analyze the direction needed to increase your success in new product development.

Of course, if your team is overly analytical, the direction will be slow and soulless.

We can also start to understand how our own thinking can be compartmentalized into the two styles.

While brainstorming, we enhance the intuitive side of our thinking. The goal during those early sessions should be to capture your knowledge of direction and design. When those sessions end, we should strive to be very analytical, using known tools to refine direction.

An example of a new product that was brought to life by a balance of intuition and analysis is the float glass process we use today. In 1952, Alistair Pilkington was washing glass dishes and noted the plates could float on the water. His intuition told him that the same idea could be used to float molten glass. It took seven years and $80 million to analyze and test the idea and an additional four years to turn a profit, but the balance worked.

Here’s how to take action:

  1. Take time to understand the difference in thinking and how it affects your team;
  2. Purchase and read the book above, Thinking Slow and Fast;
  3. Restructure your innovation team for balance;
  4. Institute training of your team to enhance their intuition;
  5. Understand that analysts are easier to find than creative intuitive people; and
  6. Continually improve the understanding of the team dynamics.

And by, the way the answer to the bat and ball problem is that if the ball costs 10 cents, then the bat must cost 1.10 (one dollar more than the 10 cent ball) which would equal 1.20. So the only solution is the cost of the ball is 5 cents.

Let me know how your innovation is progressing at and see innovative ideas at Fenestration Innovation Network.

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