The Role of Intuition in Creating Breakthrough Solutions

Eureka! This sudden, unexpected and exciting moment of finding a new solution remains a mystery with respect what precedes and triggers it!  Insight – a scientific term for the eureka moment – is a crucial cognitive act that allows to find a new solution in unstructured problems. My research aims to discover the process of gaining insight and to create a theory that could be used to design Decision Support Systems for situations where procedures fail to be utilized.

A young patient was feeling dizzy but none of many doctors could have find the source of her symptoms; all was in norm. In such moment of medical impasse, no more procedures to pursue, no more hypothesis to verify. What is wrong with the patient? Finally, an eighty-year-old doctor, well known for her ability to solve medical mysteries, decided to take matters into her own hands. “The moment I’ve looked at patient’s neck, I had intuition that there is something wrong. There wasn’t anything specific but the neck was a bit like asymmetrical. I didn’t know what it was but it was suspicious”. Despite the lack of explicit indications, the doctor asked the patient to do tomography of her neck and… eureka! There was a tumor. Not just a tumor – enormous tumor but hidden inside – that’s why invisible for less insightful observers.

This is the case where lack of procedures paralyzes majority and only expert’s intuition might be helpful to solve such a critical situation. In order to enhance decision-making process in situations where procedures can’t be used, we need to know how experts succeed to find themselves in such situations and to transfer this ability in form of an efficient Decision Support System others could utilize.

Observing experts in action and conducting interviews, I have collect a vast number of cases where experienced; police criminal intelligence analysts, doctors and executive search consultants were able to find breakthrough solutions being guided just by their intuition. Based on these cases, I’ve created a model of experts’ decision-making in unstructured situations I plan to test in form of neuro-experiments. Measuring changes in skin conductance and heartbeat while solving unstructured problems will allow me to verify occurrence of thinking processes we utilize but we are unaware of their existence.

Neglected by decision making theories, intuition appears to be the principal process supporting solution creation in the absence of procedures. Describing theoretically the cognitive processes engaged in solving difficult problems would allow to design a Decision Support System that enhances decision-making in situations that preclude the use of procedures. What is more, each of us would gain a lot by knowing how to use intuition to create breakthrough solutions!

About the Author

Matylda GerberMatylda Gerber is a PhD student at Warsaw School of Economy. Her research interest is to discover the way intuition supports decision-making in unstructured situations. After a scholarship in London, where she studied decision-making of criminal intelligence analysts, she continues her research in Poland. She presented her concept on the following conferences: NDM, HFES, EISIC, GDN and SJDM, in US, Europe and Canada. Her second part of life is playing, composing and improvising on saxophone.

Her scientific publications you could find under this link:

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