“There is no data,” said Breaking Bad producer/director Michelle MacLaren in a recent interview, “To say that a show about a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and ends up selling crystal meth… is going to be a hit.”
To create an original, breakout hit like Breaking Bad, its creator had to experience an intuitive leap. That is, he had to somehow connect several disparate ideas into one original concept that either was the worst – or best – idea ever.
It turned out pretty good. The TV series ran for five seasons on AMC and TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz listed the series as number five on their list of best television series ever.
Data and logic are useful for evaluating the results of a program or for making decisions about problems that are well-understand. “Was our new advertising program profitable?” is a question that can and should be answered with cold, hard facts.
But data alone is not enough to produce truly innovative and original ideas. Why? Because original ideas are unprecedented. Try imagining Google before the Web was invented. It just wouldn’t have been possible.
Here’s the problem: most companies are unintentionally designed to ignore, ridicule, and otherwise kill intuitive leaps.
They have committees, rules, and processes. They require managers to justify every new idea with facts and figures. They abhor risks.
But the only way you get a show like Breaking Bad is by trusting its creator to deliver superb quality despite the fact that there are no facts to warrant moving forward.
The only way you get truly original ideas in your company is by giving your team members room to experiment, develop out-of-the-box ideas, and test them.
This is what startups do so well. They experiment and then test new ideas, generally without risking a lot of money (because most don’t have a lot of money).
In Jeff Bezos’s 2016 letter to Amazon shareholders, he wrote, “Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.”
Bezos continues, “I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.”
In other words, don’t rely so much on arms-length procedures and processes. Instead, create the conditions that make intuitive leaps possible.