Friday, March 13, 2015

Asta Raami: Intuition Unleashed

In the 1970s, I remember wondering how poorly the Nobel Prize winners were able to answer the question on intuition. Each time the moderator posed the same question and the well established researchers in physics, chemistry, medicine and other areas has actually no clue on what intuition is about. Today Asta Raami is defending her thesis closely related to the question. Suitably for the academic context, the School of Art, Design and Architecture of Aalto University, the focus is in how intuition is used in design tasks and how designers can be helped to further develop and use their intuition.

The opponents of Raami's dissertation "INTUITION UNLEASHED – On the application and development of intuition in the creative process" are Charles Burnette, PhD, FAIA, Former Professor and Director, Graduate Industrial Design, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and Jorma Enkenberg, Professor Emeritus University of Eastern Finland. As the Custos serves Professor Lily Díaz from Media Lab of Aalto University.

In her lectio precursoria, Raami emphasized that designers consider intuition to be the most trustworthy tool in their work. In the beginning of her studies, she was wondering what is the methodological basis of design work and what is the role of intuition in it. Raami did not take a strong stand on the definition of intuition but rather built on its utility. She noted, though, that reasoning faculties are dependent on intuition. In the thesis work, central questions where how intuition can be used intentionally and how that skill can be developed intentionally. In complex tasks such as in solving wicked problems, intuition is central. As intuition is an unconscious process, it can be confused with the results of other mental processes such as wishful or fearful thinking. To study intuiting, Raami had collected various kinds of data that had mostly been handled qualitatively. One of the opponents, professor Enkenberg pointed out in the discussion that a more appropriate characterization for the methodology would be mixed methods research. He also brought up that results in artificial intelligence research could be used to guide studies or to give ideas in this area. Enkenberg reminded that knowledge resides in distributed networks. The central empirical theme in Raami's work has been intuition development. In the process circulating around intention and action, expanding the boundaries of mind, developing perception skills, and developing discernment skills follow each other.

As an opponent professor Burnette called for the clarification of the concept. Raami wished to keep the concept quite open but rather build on its utility. Burnette pointed out some possibilities such as (1) collaboration with neuroscientists, (2) working on the theoretical foundation of intentional intuition, and (3) building models that integrate design and intuition. In his comment, he made, in my mind, a contradiction of terms by referring to verbal intuition as intuitive processes can be stated to be by definition non-symbolic. Burnette mentioned that intuition has raised attention through Kahnemann's recent book but research on dual processes of reasoning and unconscious thinking has taken place much before Kahnemann got interested in it. Moreover, it seems to me that Kahnemann has a biased view, with an overly strong emphasis on the merits of explicit reasoning.

Regarding other contexts than design, Raami did not want to take a strong stance even though she mentioned that the basic model works in workshops lasting for one day and educational processes of several years. In the Cognitive System blog, another thesis related to use of intuition was regarding strategic decision making in companies. In our own work, we have considered intuitive, unconscious processes as implicit reasoning processes as a part of a model of individual and collective expertise.

No comments: