Collective Intuition in Strategic Decision Making: A Research Program, Development and Validation of New Measures, And an Exploratory Study

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Firm outcomes of decisions made by senior managers have been the subjects of intense scrutiny from strategy researchers. Three dominant approaches to strategic decision making pervade this literature: rationality, political behavior, and intuition. Although several commentaries have been written on intuition, little is known about its essence, and its use in and impact for organizations. Nevertheless, managers are increasingly adopting this decision tool as an important and effective alternative or addition to more comprehensive and extensive approaches to strategic decision making.

Fundamentally, intuitions are nonconscious, holistic and fast associations of information elements that result in affectively charged judgments. While helpful, this definition of intuition is generic, and is thus limited in its function of isolating and substantiating the nature of intuitive decision making. In this work, I define intuition as a multi-construct and multi-level phenomenon and then attempt to answer the following question: “in making strategic decisions, do senior managers use their intuition when they actually should?”

My dissertation seeks to extend intuition research in the context of strategic decision making. Specifically, I aim to shed light into the intuitive phenomenon, its use in the context of strategic decision making, and its outcomes. This is an important contribution given that managers and researchers may have bought into intuition hastily and treated it too casually given its complexity. In short, I make several theoretical contributions to the literature: (1) conceptual refinement of intuition that delineates and define its major constructs; (2) conceptual development of collective intuition; and (3) theoretical development for factors driving the use and effectiveness of collective intuition.

On the empirical aspect of intuition research, measuring this organizational phenomenon has so far been a rather difficult and intimidating task. Definitional issues highlighted in the theoretical work may have played a role in slowing the progress of intuition research. Sound measures stem from strong construct definitions, and further contributions of my dissertation rest on the quality of the measures of intuition I use to test my models. Therefore, I developed and validated four new scales that reflect the multi-construct multi-level nature of intuition. The new measures of collective intuition show good reliability and construct validity. In addition to the multi-phase and multi-sample scale development process, I describe an exploratory study, in which these new scales were used to test a subset of my hypotheses. Finally, post-hoc analyses reveal promising findings concerning the interplay among the three dimensions of the strategic decision making process--collective intuition, rationality, and political behavior.

Collective intuition, Strategic decision making process, Socio-cognition, Emergent strategy, Scale development, Validity