Strategic Intuition

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How "Aha!" really happens.

When do you get your best ideas? You probably answer "At night," or "In the shower," or "Stuck in traffic." You get a flash of insight. Things come together in your mind. You connect the dots. You say to yourself, "Aha! I see what to do." Brain science now reveals how these flashes of insight happen. It's a special form of intuition. We call it strategic intuition, because it gives you an idea for action-a strategy.

Brain science tells us there are three kinds of intuition: ordinary, expert, and strategic. Ordinary intuition is just a feeling, a gut instinct. Expert intuition is snap judgments, when you instantly recognize something familiar, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of the opponent's racket. (Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this kind of intuition in Blink.) The third kind, strategic intuition, is not a vague feeling, like ordinary intuition. Strategic intuition is a clear thought. And it's not fast, like expert intuition. It's slow. That flash of insight you had last night might solve a problem that's been on your mind for a month. And it doesn't happen in familiar situations, like a tennis match. Strategic intuition works in new situations. That's when you need it most.

Everyone knows you need creative thinking, or entrepreneurial thinking, or innovative thinking, or strategic thinking to succeed in the modern world. All these kinds of thinking happen through flashes of insight—strategic intuition. And now that we know how it works, you can learn to do it better. That's what this book is about.

Over the past ten years, William Duggan has conducted pioneering research on strategic intuition and for the past three years has taught a popular course at Columbia Business School on the subject. He now gives us this eye-opening book that shows how strategic intuition lies at the heart of great achievements throughout human history: the scientific and computer revolutions, women's suffrage, the civil rights movement, modern art, microfinance in poor countries, and more. Considering the achievements of people and organizations, from Bill Gates to Google, Copernicus to Martin Luther King, Picasso to Patton, you'll never think the same way about strategy again.

Three kinds of strategic ideas apply to human achievement:

* Strategic analysis, where you study the situation you face
* Strategic intuition, where you get a creative idea for what to do
* Strategic planning, where you work out the details of how to do it.

There is no shortage of books about strategic analysis and strategic planning. This new book by William Duggan is the first full treatment of strategic intuition. It's the missing piece of the strategy puzzle that makes essential reading for anyone interested in achieving more in any field of human endeavor.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Strategy+Business - David Newkirk

The best strategy book of the year.

Wall Street Journal - William Easterly

A concise and entertaining treatise on human achievement.

800-CEO-Read - Jack Covert

This book might just change how you look at human thought and strategy, and influence how you organize yourself and your team strategically.

The best strategy book of the year.Strategy+Business

— David Newkirk

Wall Street Journal
A concise and entertaining treatise on human achievement.Wall Street Journal

— William Easterly

This book might just change how you look at human thought and strategy, and influence how you organize yourself and your team strategically.

— Jack Covert

Gilman Louie

Whether finding the next great game designer or the next great entrepreneur, I always try to find those special few who have made the 'giant leap' to the next big idea. William Duggan finally explains how the mind forms great leaps and how throughout time individuals have used strategic intuition to change the world. Strategic Intuition should be required reading for anyone in the venture capital business.

Robin Harper

Whether the subject is art, science, or business, William Duggan takes us on a fascinating exploration into how the human brain connects experience and knowledge to create entirely new ideas in momentary flashes of insight. A definitely important read for anyone charged with bringing innovation to strategic leadership.

Wall Street Journal

A concise and entertaining treatise on human achievement.Wall Street Journal

— William Easterly


The best strategy book of the year.Strategy+Business

— David Newkirk


This book might just change how you look at human thought and strategy, and influence how you organize yourself and your team strategically.

— Jack Covert

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231142687
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Series: Columbia Business School Publishing Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 624,809
  • Product dimensions: 0.63 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William Duggan is senior lecturer at Columbia Business School, where he teaches strategic intuition in graduate and executive courses. He has given talks and workshops on strategic intuition to thousands of executives from companies in countries around the world. His most recent book is Creative Strategy: A Guide for Innovation, a sequel to Strategic Intuition.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Flash Vs. Blink: An Introduction to Strategic Intuition2. Revolution on Earth: Flashers of Insight in Scientific Discovery3. Two Halves of a Brain: Intelligent Memory in Neuroscience4. Lieutenant M Saves Your Life: Expert Intuition in Action5. The Corsican Conquers Europe: Coup d'Oeil in Classical Military Strategy6. Warrior Buddha: The Path to Beginner's Mind7. Gates and the Google Guys: Strategic Innovation in Business8. Mouse, Minister and Moneylender: The Art of What Works in Social Enterprise9. Picasso Dines with an African Sculpture: Creative Combination in the Profession10. Do We Do Dewey? Teaching Strategic Intuition11. Kennedy Shoots for the Moon: Progress Through OpportunityAppendix: Strategic Intuition Online

Columbia University Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating guide to generating innovation

    Management professor William Duggan has written a book that's rare in several ways. First, his clear writing makes complex concepts accessible. Even more importantly, Duggan synthesizes perspectives from an array of traditions to explain how to change the way you understand and use strategic thinking. He convincingly argues that most books on strategy and strategic planning are wrong, and then he presents an alternative approach that builds on modern neuroscience and historian Thomas Kuhn's theories of scientific revolution. Duggan illustrates his concepts by discussing innovators in several fields. He combines scholarship with candor to provide specific steps for developing your intuition and using it strategically. The book isn't perfect - the discussion of education is a bit too brief and the conclusion is rushed - but it is highly useful. getAbstract recommends it to leaders who are responsible for planning, and to anyone interested in innovation.

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