Gut feeling versus analyses

I often struggle with two sides of myself: my gut feeling and my analytical mind. I have a strong entrepreneurial-creative side and an almost paralyzing analytical brain. Sometimes I want to write songs, sometimes I want to look at graphs. It makes it tricky when doing strategy work because these two don't talk the same language.

On one side, people are begging for data-driven insights (whatever that means, seriously) and on the other, others are begging for good common-sense/gut feeling thoughts. This is the never-ending business conversation.

I was down an Internet rabbit hole this weekend looking up documentaries on big consultancies (yes, I was looking for crazy stories from the 80's/90's) and I stumbled upon this interview of Kevin P. Coyne, former strategy co-lead at McKinsey. I didn't know him and if you want to fall into the same rabbit hole, look up his work on HBR.

In this interview, he addresses different topics such as ethics and offers a great framework for the famous 'gut feeling versus analyses' dilemma. It starts at around 25m.

The framework is deceptively simple but quite effective. Break the problem into pieces and apply gut feeling to the pieces, not the whole thing. To paraphrase him:

I try to think from an analytical standpoint what the nature of that problem is and how it breaks down into pieces that would have to work together to form a solution and I then apply the gut feeling (or experience) to the pieces, not just the original problem.
— Kevin P. Coyne

Voilà. I'll probably write another post trying to highlight a specific case of using this framework. But I think it highlights one thing: never oversimplify a problem and try to solve it with your gut OR data. Use both and avoid falling in love with your own thinking.

Be safe on the 'data-driven insights' highway ;-)