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Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement Hardcover – October 18, 2007

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


The best strategy book of the year.

(David Newkirk Strategy+Business)

A concise and entertaining treatise on human achievement.

(William Easterly Wall Street Journal)

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 800-CEO-Read)


This book will be the first to introduce formally, authoritatively, and convincingly the notion of strategic intuition. All strategic leaders can benefit immensely from it.

(Douglas C. Lovelace, Senior National Security Strategist)|

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.

(Gilman Louie, partner, Alsop Louie Partners and former CEO of In-Q-Tel)|

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.

(Robin Harper, vice president, marketing and community development, Linden Lab, creator of Second Life)|

William Duggan's book is really on point. His work has enormous implications for the teaching of strategy.

(Glenn Hubbard, Dean, Columbia Business School)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1St Edition edition (October 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231142684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231142687
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Fung on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been looking for a book that answers the question "How do I go from my SWOT analysis (a chart that puts on one page strengths, weaknesses, external opportunities and threats) to a plan that really works?" Most of the books I've read recommend that a manager work up their analysis and then use it to write their plan. But I've noticed that going from analysis to an awesome game-winning plan is extremely hard to do, and is something I and my managers do with less success than I would like.

This book addresses my very specific but important question by describing what the right person needs to do to set the right conditions to have the right flash of insight, and how our usual planning techniques actually go against this natural process. Duggan makes a clear and non-technical argument and, for what it's worth, seems to match my experience.

The few shortcomings of the book, in my mind, are that it is difficult to clearly apply this approach to an organizational setting. His one example using the GE "What Works" matrix is a bit thin and without clear results, making me wonder why he could not find a better example with real results, and why GE ultimately discontinued the method. Secondly, this book does not help someone become more able to have flashes of insight. Setting the right conditions is great, but it is no guarantee of brilliance. Perhaps this would be a question for his next book.

Overall, I loved this book because it gave a solid framework for an important and longstanding question I've had, but I only gave 4 stars because of the shortcomings mentioned above.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By James E. Schrager on March 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I teach strategy in graduate business school and have done so for over twenty years. I routinely judge strategy books to be without much practical use. This book takes an entirely different approach from most others and is thoroughly successful. Rather than simply tell stories or provide backward looking analytical tools, Prof. Duggan takes you inside great strategy decisions and shows how they were made. The first one he details is amazing, but it takes several before you really understand what it is all about. The more the better, as each example shows the thoughtful reader yet another way the concepts work. A must read for anyone who wants to work on making better decisions, rather than just analyzing those from the past. This book has the potential to change the way we think about strategic decisions. Many students who have read it have reported to me they are unable to put it down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Merkel on April 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
We all know how to be logical; at least most of us do. But logic only takes us so far. Real progress comes through those who are willing to take old ideas, combine them, and use them to solve an unrelated existing problem.

Breakthroughs do not come from ordinary activity, but from those that are willing to look beyond, and consider new possibilities. They take what is known from the past, and generalize it to a new situation.

Even in writing the closing, the author writes, "My opportunity to write this book arose from when I saw a gap in the field of strategy at the same time that I saw the existing elements that might combine to fill that gap. In all these chapters, not a single idea, not a single example, is my own. I borrowed them all. But the combination is new, and I am grateful for the opportunity to present it here to you."

The author looked at many different areas of human endeavor, looking for commonalities for when leaps of progress were made. The areas were science, war, entrepreneurship, the arts, and social work.

It's not enough to be knowledgeable about the past, and to know the theories of the present. Can you take them to come up with a solution to a current problem, by using ideas from one area of knowledge, and apply them to an area where they have not been previously applied?

What is ordinary is when you know a goal, and create a plan to achieve that goal. If you have enough resources, and your plan is adequate you will succeed at an ordinary goal.

What is extraordinary is trying to achieve something that is totally new. Those that do so achieve it by using what is already known (by some) in a totally new way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
How do breakthroughs actually happen?

It's not because some Grand Planners get around a table and decide to brainstorm. It happens in the shower, or stuck in the traffic, or sleeping, or any other point of the day. It's a TV cliché as well (see House), but it has happened to all of us at some point. The author shows that many or most of the best ideas come not as the source of planned research, but because your brain, through intelligent memory, combines elements of knowledge into something new.

So, yes, you should set goals and strive to reach them. But these goals can change at any moment. The ability to abandon your prior target and seize the emerging opportunity is what defines strategic intuition.

If I have any issue with the book, is that it may be too long. I think Duggan first wrote the book with his core concept, realized that it was about a hundred pages long, and felt embarrassed because all "serious" books are at least 200 pages. So then he added a few more pages to each chapter by restating the points he had already made and adding some examples. It's fine for a book to be short. Sometimes, a really good idea can be expressed in few pages. This book is an example.

I also felt the examples he used were a bit tired, but perhaps that's my point of view from a non-American perspective. One gets quite sick of reading about Bill Gates, the Google Guys and Martin Luther King. So that's nitpicking and not a real flaw in the book's structure.

Other reviewers have had issues with the book because it doesn't give specific advice on how to get more of these flashes of insight. But that's the point: you cannot rush an epiphany. There are no 7 steps to creativity or 5 ways to be more innovative, and the author is quite honest about it.
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