Intuition Beats Data Driven Insight Say CEOs In New Survey

Data or Intuition?

While Data Scientist is still regarded as the sexiest job in tech, CEOs say they rely more on their intuition than predictive analytics.

In a digital economy where new technologies are constantly reshaping industries and business models, the ability to innovate quickly is a strategic imperative. In a recent KPMG survey, 59% of CEOs say that acting with agility is the new currency of business, and that if they are too slow they will go bankrupt. But while data and analytics have changed how business decisions are made CEOs have not lost sight of the importance of their own intuition, experience and judgement.

“I find it very difficult to imagine that technology itself would replace judgement, but at the same time I think that the best judgement is a judgement that is better informed.” said Fernando A. González, CEO of CEMEX, in response to the report.

Intuition Versus Insight

In the KPMG 2018 Global CEO Outlook 69% of respondents cited data scientists as an important workforce capability in supporting their future growth plans, followed by emerging markets experts at 57% and technology specialists such as AI professionals at 55%.

However, while there is a need for advanced skills in machine learning and data science, leaders acknowledged that sometimes their own insight trumps the data that is put in front of them.

67% of CEOs globally said they had overlooked the insights provided by data and analytics models or computer-driven models because they contradicted their own experience or intuition. The countries with the highest percentile of intuition favoured over insight were the US, Japan and UK, while Germany, Netherlands and France trailed at the bottom end of the spectrum favouring data driven insight over experienced judgement.

Over half of CEOs globally said they were less confident about the accuracy of predictive analytics than historic data.

“I have faced many decisions in life where, after careful analysis, the right course of action was counter-intuitive” added Enrique Díaz-Rato, CEO of Cintra.

“We have seen exciting insights that would be powerful provided they were representative of our overall customer base, but they weren’t. You get fascinated by the degree of granularity you get from customers’ behavior from a certain app, but the question is, are the users of this app representative of the whole population a project is serving? You can be driven to wrong conclusions if you just follow the data blindly.”


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