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1. Introduction
Intuition and
                                                                       Innovation is at the bottom line, and based on the
pharmaceutical                                                         firm’s ability to manage creativity. Although
                                                                       creativity is a most contested and polymorphous
research: the case of                                                  construct, here it is used to represent new ideas
AstraZeneca                                                            and thoughts that precede an innovation. Madjar
                                                                       et al. (2002, p. 757) write:
                                                                         We consider employee creativity to be the
Mats Sundgren and                                                        production of ideas, products, or procedures that
                                                                         are (1) novel or original and (2) potentially useful
Alexander Styhre                                                         to the organization.

The authors                                                            One central issue in research on creativity in
                                                                       organizations is the ability to clearly define ideas
Mats Sundgren is Executive PhD Student and
                                                                       and thought that are considered creative or are
Alexander Styhre is Associate Professor, both at the
Fenix Research Program, Chalmers University of Technology,
                                                                       proven to be creative. The dominant approach is to
Gothenburg, Sweden.                                                    treat creativity in a functionalist and instrumental
                                                                       manner, that is, to conceive of creativity as
Keywords                                                               something that occurs or happens during certain
                                                                       conditions that can be arranged or managed. This
Pharmaceuticals industry, Drugs, Design and development,
Intuition, Organizational innovation                                   rationalist view has been the dominant perspective
                                                                       in contemporary management theory. Gephart
Abstract                                                               (1996, pp. 95-6) writes:
                                                                         Rationality has been the driving force of modern
The role of intuition receives little attention in the literature on
                                                                         management. Rationality has begun to dissipate in
organizational creativity. This paper describes a study of the role
                                                                         postmodernism, to become a cacophony of local
of intuition and its implications for organizational creativity
                                                                         rationalities, but we need to decentre rationality,
within pharmaceutical research. The study applies French
                                                                         not abandon rationality. We need to place
philosopher Bergson’s philosophy of intuition. The study is based
                                                                         rationality alongside other human faculties –
on a series of interviews with employees in pre-clinical research
                                                                         passion, love, hope, and intuition – in our effort to
(discovery) in a major pharmaceutical company; in this context,          understand and shape the future of management
creativity is defined as an organization’s ability to bring forth a       and history.
new candidate drug in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular
therapy areas. This paper concludes that intuition is a resource       Although rationality remains as one of the main
that facilitates new drug development. Pharmaceutical                  ingredients in management practice and theory, it
researchers perceive the roles of intuition and creativity as          is important to be open to alternative perspectives.
intertwined in ground-breaking innovations. However intuition is       Management is not simply the application of
a controversial phenomenon in the organization because it
                                                                       several rational principles, such as those suggested
opposes reductionistic and analytical forms of thinking, which
are highly prized in new drug development. Bergson’s                   by Frederick W. Taylor; it also draws on “passion,
philosophy may form a fruitful foundation from which intuition         love, hope, and intuition”. For example, creative
and its relevance for organizational creativity can be exploited.      work is based on highly technical and specialized
                                                                       knowledge within a particular field, but it is
Electronic access                                                      simultaneously dependent on commitment,
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is                      communication, and experimental thinking.
available at                                                           Jeffcut (2000, p. 125) writes:
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister                                  [T]he creative process is sustained by inspiration
                                                                         and informed by talent, vitality and commitment
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is               (i.e., a need to create rather than to consume): this
available at                                                             makes creative work volatile, dynamic and risk-
www.emeraldinsight.com/1460-1060.htm                                     taking, shaped by important tacit skills (or
                                                                         expertise) that are frequently submerged (even
                                                                         mystified) within domains of endeavor. Hence, the
                                                                         crucial relationship between creativity and
                                                                         innovation (i.e., the process of development of
                                                                         original ideas toward their realization/
                                                                         consumption) remains unruly and poorly
                                                                         understood.
European Journal of Innovation Management
Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · pp. 267-279                               Creative work is never solely an outcome from the
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 1460-1060                    instrumental application of a set of management
DOI 10.1108/14601060410565029                                          principles but must always be open to what
                                                                   267
Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca               European Journal of Innovation Management
               Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                 Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


Gephart calls “other human faculties” such as                         other human faculties. More specifically, we make
passion or intuition.                                                 use of the notion of intuition developed by the
    This paper presents a study of the role of                        French philosopher Henri Bergson. For Bergson,
intuition in new drug development in the                              intuition is a key human faculty, capable of
pharmaceutical industry. New drug development                         “thinking movement” rather than “solids”. While
is a highly specialized activity that involves                        concepts and well-known facts are always
expertise in biosciences, such as biology, synthesis                  appearing as fixed points and positions, the faculty
chemistry, medicine, and pharmacology. So new                         of intuition is the ability to think about change and
drug development depends on formal knowledge                          movement between such points. So for Bergson,
and expertise in relevant scientific domains. New                      intuition is part of all sophisticated, creative
drug development is based on formal management                        thinking.
procedures and on factors that remain somewhat
tacit: creative solutions to practical problems,
unexpected applications of taken-for-granted
knowledge, novel forms of thinking, and so forth                      2. Creativity in organizations
(Dorabje et al., 1998). These various minor
innovations and procedures draw on what we refer                      Many organizations strive for these capabilities:
to here as intuition – or to use a popular metaphor:                  creativity and innovation, i.e. the generation of
“what is in between the dots constitutes the line”.                   new ideas and the ability to translate the ideas into
While what Gephart calls rational knowledge is                        action (Mumford et al., 2002). However, from
widely known (and not contested facts, the dots),                     organizational and practical perspectives, gaps
intuition is not well known. Intuition has a shared                   exist between theory and practice when attempting
regime of representations; essentially, it is still                   to understand creative-action organizations (Ford
epistemologically contested or slippery. In other                     and Gioia, 2000). From a theoretical perspective,
words, intuition is between the well-known facts                      myths and romance with creativity somewhat
and procedures in scientific discovery. Intuition                      influenced much of the previous research on
facilitates the ability to apply scientific knowledge                  creativity. The myths may oversimplify
and to see consequences of various experiments                        explanations for events and attribute great
before formal proof is acquired. So intuition is very                 achievements merely to individuals. More recent
important for creativity in new drug development.                     research questioned the validity of the personalized
Studies of scientific work (e.g. Knorr Cetina,                         approach to creativity, and instead stressed the
1999; Pickering, 1995; Lynch, 1985; Latour and                        importance of the productive interplay between
Woolgar, 1979) show that scientific work is never                      individuals and the ecosystems of individuals, i.e.
as linear, homogeneous, and one-dimensional as                        organizational design and reward systems (Ford,
one may think. Instead, controversies, alternative                    1995a, Gioia, 1995).
explanations, empirical inconsistencies, and local                       According to Ford (1995b), creativity is not an
interpretations always characterize production of                     inherent quality of a person, process, product, or
“scientific” facts. In short, a certain degree of                      place. It is a domain-specific social construction
heterogeneity exists within scientific knowledge.                      that is legitimized by judges who serve as
Pickering (1995, p. 70) writes:                                       gatekeepers to a particular domain. Furthermore,
  [S]cientific knowledge should be understood as                       most of the creativity research pays no attention to
  sustained by, and as part of, interactive                           organizational or professional concerns (Ford,
  stabilizations situated in a multiple and                           1995b). So an important step in understanding
  heterogeneous space of machines, instruments,                       creativity in an organizational context is to take a
  conceptual structures, disciplined practices, social                more holistic approach, i.e. to take a systems
  actors and their relations, and so forth.                           approach and apply the concept of organizational
So scientific and laboratory work is never the black                   creativity (Ford, 2000; Woodman et al., 1993).
box it is treated like in common sense thinking.                      This leads to focus on the potential source of
Instead, intuition – the ability to anticipate results                creativity and on increasing understanding of
and to see broader pictures on the basis of                           creativity in organizations. Another aspect of
empirical observations – is a highly useful skill.                    traditional creativity research is that the different
Drawing on a series of interviews in a pre-clinical                   distinct foci of creativity, such as the creative
organization in a major pharmaceutical company,                       person, place, process, and product (e.g. Amabile,
this paper suggests that intuition is very important                  1996; Boden, 1996; Ekvall and Ryhammar, 1999;
for new drug development. The new drug                                Eysenck, 1996), do not facilitate useful
development process requires standard operating                       understanding of how creativity works in an
procedures and routine work plus creative and                         organizational context. So organizational creativity
inventive thinking. Formal rational systems are                       can be seen as a concept that accounts for the
thus always entangled with intuitive thinking and                     organizational context, interactions, and history
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Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca                 European Journal of Innovation Management
               Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                   Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


between the individual and the collaborative                          abandoned until the end of the century. At the start
nature of creativity and links different subsets of                   of the new millennium, interest in Bergson’s
intermediaries of creativity (Andriopoulos, 2001;                     philosophy was revived (see, e.g. Linstead, 2002
Drazin et al., 1999).                                                 and Wood, 2002). To discuss Bergson’s view of
   Intuition is an important but rather neglected                     intuition, one must recapitulate other areas of
subset of organizational creativity. Previous                         Bergson’s thinking. So the notion of intuition is
research on creativity has acknowledged the role                      placed within a broader ontological and
intuition may play in the individual creative                         epistemological framework that gives sense and
process (Policastro, 1999). However, some                             meaning to the notion of intuition. For Bergson, the
researchers consider the scientific study of                           basic ontological principle is that world consists of
intuition impossible. The major reasons are that                      processes. Processes and movements constitute the
intuition is either considered an esoteric                            world that we can experience – not entities:
phenomenon, such as ESP, or just erratic nonsense                         In reality, things are events of a special kind,
(Policastro, 1995). Empirical studies that link                           temporary crystallization of images; it would be
intuition to creativity in an organizational context                      proper to say that, for Bergson, movement is the
are scarce (Agor, 1989). Previous research on                             real and original stuff the world is made of, whereas
intuition in an organizational context mainly                             the picture of the universe as consisting of distinct
focuses on leadership and decision making                                 material objects is an artifact of intelligence. These
(Bechara et al., 1997; Wilson and Schooler, 1991)                         ideas – the logical and metaphysical priority of
                                                                          events over objects – was to be subsequently taken
or as an intersection of psychology and cognitive                         up and developed in detail by A.N. Whitehead
science. So intuition is an important factor when                         (1968), probably not without inspiration from
trying to understand the management of                                    Bergson (Kolakowski, 1985, p. 45).
organizational creativity.
   Literature on innovation management research                       This ontological principle is also an
barely acknowledges the role of intuition in                          epistemological principle. But being in the world is
organizations. There is an ongoing debate on the                      not based on a series of succeeding points but is
dominant lack of realism about the cognitive                          instead based on what Bergson calls duree ´
nature of technological change; and here, the                         (duration). Moore (1996, p. 55) explains:
prevailing assumption is that problems are fixed                           It is not that we start from discrete items of
and known in the beginning of innovation                                  experience spread out in time but somehow
processes (Nightingale, 2003, 1998). From this                            threaded together like beads on a string of
                                                                          consciousness. Rather we start from the experience
perspective, Roberts (1998), Saviotti (1998), and                         of temporal flow. Temporal structure is not a
Nelson (2003) acknowledged and stressed the                               matter of putting together given discrete items. On
important role of tacit knowledge in technical                            the contrary, so-called discrete elements are only
change and how scientific knowledge is used in                             apparent when we have a need to pluck them from
innovation. Nightingale (1998) demonstrates the                           our continuing experience.
vital role of tacit knowledge in science-driven
                                                                      Linstead (2002, p. 101) further clarifies:
organizations and emphasizes that for new drug
                                                                          Bergson argues that human experience of real life is
development, the elusive nature of innovation
                                                                          not a succession of clearly demarcated conscious
depends on learned, tacit conceptions that cannot                         states, progressing along some imaginary line (from
be reduced to information processing and thus                             sorrow to happiness, for example) but rather a
demonstrates that tacit knowledge is important for                        continuous flow in which these states
creativity and is not easily captured or codified                          interpenetrate and are often unclear, being capable
(Leonard and Sensiper, 1998). In this sense, tacit                        of sustaining multiple perspectives.
knowledge can be seen as one of several                               Human beings do not experience time as a
overlapping subsets or characteristics of intuition.                  mechanical stepwise movement from the past to
However, it is reasonable to believe that tacit                       the present and into the future. Instead, they
knowledge and intuition resonate rather than
                                                                      experience time as a continuous series of events
cohere or correspond with each other.
                                                                      based on simultaneity – past, present, and future
                                                                      are never entirely separated; instead, they are
                                                                      always related in experience. Massumi (2002,
3. The concept of intuition                                           p. 200) writes:
                                                                          The basic insight of Henri Bergson’s philosophy . . .
This section examines Bergson’s notion of                                 is that past and future are not just strung-out
intuition. Bergson is one of the most important                           punctual presents. They are continuous
                                                                          dimensions contemporaneous to every present –
philosophers of the twentieth century. During his                         which is by nature a smudged becoming, not a
lifetime, he was very influential in politics, art, and                    point state . . . Past and future are in direct,
philosophy. After his death, the fashionable                              topological proximity with each other, operatively
Bergsonism fell from grace and was essentially                            joined in a continuity of mutual folding.
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Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca                 European Journal of Innovation Management
               Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                   Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


                                       ´
In summary, Bergson’s notion of duree refuses to                          have to live in the world of excess of our needs, and
treat human experience as a mechanical,                                   in excess of the self-presentation or immanence of
spatialized experience that consists of clearly                           materiality, to collapse ourselves, as things, back
                                               ´                          into the world.
demarcated solids brought together. The duree of a
human being is always recalling the past into the                     Ansell Pearson (2002, p. 124) argues:
future to anticipate the future.                                          According to Bergson, the abstract intellect, which
                           ´
   While the notion of duree is primarily a construct                     has evolved as an organ of utility and calculability,
that explores the psychology of humans, the idea of                       proceeds by beginning with the immobile and
continuity and what Bergson calls spatialized                             simply reconstructs movements with juxtaposed
thinking is very important for his theory of                              immobilities. By contrast, intuition, as he conceives
                                                                          it, starts from movement and sees in immobility
knowledge. Just as what Bergson calls mechanical
                                                                          only a snapshot taken by our mind.
clock time tends to break down the continuous
                  ´
experience of duree into isolated points and                          So intuition is what breaks free from language and
positions, concepts and representations perform                       sees what is outside of the concept, outside of the
the same operation for knowledge. Language, the                       language that we use to denote the world. Here,
primary medium for thinking and knowledge, is                         language is not only everyday concept, but is also
based on concepts that are generally thought of as                    equally the regime of representation that
denoting certain events, essences, or practices. For                  dominates the world of natural sciences and the
Bergson, concepts can only capture a subset of                        biosciences. While language is a prosthesis for
human knowledge because they represent                                thinking (just a tool), thinking that draws on
“cinematographic thinking”, that is, snapshots of                     intuition abandons such a prosthesis in favor of a
events and occurrences in a continuous                                more free form of thinking. Whitehead (1968,
intrinsically moving reality. Concepts are thus                       p. 49) says “language halts behind intuition.”
formed as attempts to glue a world in motion into                         n summary, Bergson develops an ontology and
certain positions and fixed points. Bergson (1992,                     epistemology of movement and becoming;
p. 137) writes:                                                       processes rather than solids and entities constitute
  To know a reality in the ordinary meaning of the                    the world. So the human experience does not
  word “to know” is to take ready-made concepts,                      consist of single instances stacked on one another
  apportion them, and combine them until one                          but is based on the simultaneity of past, present,
  obtains a practical equivalent of the real.                         and future. In addition, Bergson’s theory of
He continues:                                                         knowledge separates use of ready-made concepts
  Every language, whether elaborated or crude,                        that are used as tools for thinking and
  leaves many more things to be understood than it is                 communication and calls that which is positioned
  able to express. Essentially discontinuous, since it                between concepts (solids) intuition. While concepts
  proceeds by juxtaposing words, speech can only                      help us see the world as a series of demarcated
  indicate by a few guideposts placed here and there                  instances and events, intuition makes us think in
  the chief stages in the moment of thought
  (Bergson, 1999, p. 125).                                            terms of movement and becoming. Intuition is
                                                                      thinking that lies between the known and the
Concepts are thus ready-mades that are applied to                     represented. Intuition is thinking beyond language.
cases; they represent “classified thinking”                                In terms of creativity, and more specifically,
(Bachelard, 1964, p. 75) and are therefore incapable                  creativity in terms of new drug development in the
of seeing movement. In brief, concepts are “solids”:                  pharmaceutical industry, intuition is thinking that
  According to his [Bergson’s] account, concepts are                  uses what is already known – solids of verified
  formed on the model of spatial solids, and it is                    knowledge or facts provided by the research efforts
  consequently impossible to think about time                         and laboratory work – to anticipate what is not
  without importing into it some of the features of
  homogeneous space (Mullarkey, 1999, p. 19).                         known and established, negotiated, and agreed on
                                                                      as facts. Intuition is thus thinking that goes beyond
Thinking always uses concepts, and concepts can                       or passes what is already known to enable new
never entirely capture the movement and                               solutions and findings. As the empirical material
becoming of being; although they are still useful                     suggests, this form of thinking outside of the solids
tools in understanding such as world. For Bergson,                    is highly valued in pharmaceutical research.
intuition enables for understanding of movement.
While concepts consist of solids are based on
cinematographic thinking, which make us unable
to see what is outside of ourselves, intuition is the                 4. The pharmaceutical industry
faculty of thinking between the solids. Grosz
(2001, p. 175) writes:                                                This paper presents a study of intuition in pre-
  Intuition is our nonpragmatic, noneffective,                        clinical drug development and describes how
  nonexpedient relation to the world, the capacity we                 intuition can increase knowledge about
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Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca              European Journal of Innovation Management
               Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


organizational creativity in a modern                                 is intertwined with the company’s ability to
pharmaceutical industry. The focal company is                         generate knowledge and expertise over a wide
one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the                    array of knowledge domains that can produce
world and a manufacturer of medications in many                       NCEs, patents, and finally new medicines that are
therapy areas. The company’s three largest therapy                    capable of becoming marketable products (see,
areas are cancer, cardiovascular, and                                 e.g. Roberts, 1999). The high-tech, science-based
gastrointestinal. The company’s research and                          pharmaceutical industry differs from other
development (R&D) centers in Europe and the                           industries with similar R&D intensity and use of
USA employ more than 10,000 people, and its                           new scientific concepts and technologies because
2003 R&D budget was US$2.7 billion. Today, the                        pharma:
company has more than 50,000 employees                                .
                                                                           must operate in a highly regulated
worldwide.                                                                 environment;
    Briefly, pharmaceutical industry research                          .    has long development cycles – up to 15 years;
(which also applies the focal company) is divided                          and
into two major processes: discovery (pre-clinical)                    .
                                                                           assumes a high degree of risk during research
and development (clinical). Discovery is the most                          (Pisano, 1997).
critical process in new drug development.                             The pharmaceutical industry invests a significant
Discovery’s primary objective is to generate ideas                    amount of its sales into R&D (in the focal company
for disease relief (modification of disease-related                    more than 20 percent). Over the last decade, the
problems and complaints) or in the best case, for a                   cost for large clinical trials has increased
disease’s cure – by using a new chemical entity                       dramatically (Zivin, 2000).
(NCE). Discovery begins by defining a disease                             The pharmaceutical industry has had a long
area and a target to manipulate. This target should                   tradition of scientific breakthroughs and
have potential for altering the disease or its                        innovations (Horrobin, 2002). However, the
symptoms in a preferred way. The target (e.g. a                       industry currently wrestles with many issues; some
receptor or an enzyme) is tested against many                         of the most serious are rapidly increasing costs of
chemical substances using in vitro systems or                         R&D coupled with only small increases in output
biological models (Lesko et al., 2000). The aim is                    during drug discovery (Schmid and Smith,
to establish a chemical structure for a biological                    2002a). During the last decade, the industry has
activity relationship, which in the successful                        increased its focus on incremental innovation, on
project leads to a candidate drug (CD). The CD is                     decreasing time to market, and on reducing
then further tested for putative toxicity and if                      bottlenecks to optimize the length of the product’s
found safe, an application for approval of testing in                 patent (Tranter, 2000). Many pharmaceutical
humans is submitted (investigation of a new drug,                     companies have turned to rigorous project and
IND) to drug regulatory authorities and ethical                       portfolio management to make the research
committees. Discovery is a complex process that                       process more effective (Schmid and Smith,
involves a multitude of scientific disciplines and                     2002b). Furthermore, extensive efforts have been
includes many factors that could influence a                           made to implement technologies in pre-clinical
successful outcome. It normally takes three to five                    research (discovery), such as computer-aided drug
years to produce a CD (Pisano, 1997). After                           design, combinatorial chemistry linked to high
approval, the development organization takes over                     throughput screening (HTS) to increase
the CD to start initial studies in humans.                            innovative output. To conclude, based on the
Development’s objective is to transform and                           current situation in the industry, there is
validate pre-clinical models for human concept                        pronounced concern about how to balance
tests. During development, the CD is further                          organizational creativity and economies of scale –
tested in clinical trials to clarify if the drug has the              to produce radical innovations (Horrobin, 2001).
desired therapeutic effects (i.e. proof of concept).                     The present study was conducted at one of the
These trials are followed by larger clinical trials to                Swedish R&D centers, which is also the largest in
meet medical, ethical, and regulatory standards                       the company – plus a skill center for several
and commercial demands (i.e. proof of principle).                     technologies, such as like HTS and computed-
The development process often takes four to six                       aided drug design.
years.
    The pharmaceutical industry is renowned for
being knowledge-intensive, and new product
development activities are long-term investments                      5. Method
in terms of time and capital (Yeoh and Roth, 1999;
Roberts, 1999; Heppard and Blasick, 2000). The                        This qualitative study (Strauss and Corbin, 1990,
pharmaceutical industry’s competitive advantage                       1994; Silverman, 1993) is based on interviews
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Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca                 European Journal of Innovation Management
               Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                    Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


(Kvale, 1996) with ten senior researchers and                         in the study were divided into three categories. The
senior managers in AstraZeneca R&D. The                               first defined and positioned phenomena in the
discovery organization at R&D center was the focal                    context of pharmaceutical research. The second
point. Qualitative methodology facilitates                            investigated how intuition plays a role in drug
investigation of complex issues through narratives.                   discovery research and its relation to organizational
Rather than selecting a few variables on a                            creativity. And the third dealt with different
pharmaceutical research project, we integrated                        organizational factors, such as technoscience and
several interrelated questions and issues that are                    leadership and their relationships to intuition. For
important for the drug discovery process. The aim                     example, how different sophisticated technologies
of the interviews was to encourage respondents to                     and technoscience influence interaction with
describe their drug research experiences in relation                  phenomena.
to intuition and organizational creativity. Here,
organizational creativity is defined as the
organization’s ability to bring forth a new candidate                 6.1 What is intuition in the context of
drug in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular                       pharmaceutical research?
therapy areas. A narrative approach does not seek                     Because intuition has multiple connotations, it is
what Bruner (1986) calls a “logico-scientific mode                     important to specify its meaning in the context of
of knowledge” whereby an explanation is achieved                      pharmaceutical research. Policastro (1995)
through the recognition of an event or utterance as                   suggests two complimentary definitions of
belonging to certain category or as following a                       intuition: one based on a metaphorical perception
general law. In short, a narrative approach strives to                of phenomena and the other on a tacit form of
present contextualized narratives to make sense of                    knowledge. One of the respondents expressed this
complex, ambiguous, fluid realties – and not                           latter form and emphasized that intuition in
nomological knowledge (Habermas, 1968). The                           pharmaceutical research is a combination of broad
respondents in this study cover the most important                    knowledge and competence:
disciplines involved in drug discovery: medicinal                         Intuition comes from broad competence together
chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, and                                with extensive experience in a special area. For me,
computational chemistry. The respondents also                             intuition is the ability to predict things with pretty
represent important roles and managerial levels in                        good precision on the basis of the competence
the R&D organization, for example, disease area                           platform somewhere in the background . . . yes, it’s
leader, senior scientific advisors, and project                            like a limit between intuition and not yet proven
                                                                          knowledge is floating as a chemist. I mean, you can
leaders. AstraZeneca R&D, Molndal was chosen
                                  ¨                                       show a chemist a structure and say: “Do you think
for the study because it is one of the most successful                    that this will be potent?” And then he has a much
pharmaceutical sites in the company. Several                              better opportunity to answer yes or no to the
blockbuster drugs, the basis for the financial                             question than another chemist who has not worked
performance of the company as a whole, have been                          in our project. He can’t point it out because that
developed at the site, which makes the company a                          nitrogen is there or there. He can look at the
relevant object of study in terms of drug discovery                       structure and say: “No, I don’t think so.” It is
                                                                          probably doubtful. It is obvious he can point out
and organizational creativity activities. The                             certain things, like: “I think the chain is a little too
interviews were made at AstraZeneca R&D in                                long.” Or something like that (Pharmacology,
2003.                                                                     person 1).
                                                                      Another respondent defined intuition as a feeling
                                                                      and expressed a significant amount of vagueness
6. Intuition in new drug development: the                             and thus correlated intuition with risk taking:
case of AstraZeneca                                                       I think that intuition is a kind of feeling. It is like
                                                                          what vision is for planning. Intuition is a type of
The study investigated different aspects of                               capacity that comes with experience. I actually
                                                                          think that intuition is very important in the whole
intuition and its relation to organizational                              research process – particularly in early discovery
creativity in pharmaceutical research.                                    phases. Because intuition is correlated with risk-
Pharmaceutical research in the discovery                                  taking, it’s difficult to base decisions on intuition
organization is based on sophisticated                                    for clinical programs, which is of course ethically
technoscientific laboratory work. The search for                           correct. But in early phases in discovery, it’s simpler
NCEs and their further development to finished                             and easier to take intuitive decisions about different
products occur in distributed knowledge systems in                        things, like in toxicity studies or choices of methods
                                                                          (Biochemistry, person 2).
which several different areas of expertise are
integrated. NCEs are the outcomes of joint efforts                    One researcher stressed that intuition represents a
by medicinal chemists, biologists, and                                dichotomy that is rational and sensible and
pharmacologists. Questions and issues addressed                       irrational and impossible to communicate:
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Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca                 European Journal of Innovation Management
               Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                   Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


  Intuition is something that summarizes experience                   and broad knowledge play an important role that
  for better or worse, because sometimes it’s rational                may lead to important solutions for scientific
  and other times it’s irrational. I believe that many                problems.
  experienced researchers have some kind of touch of
  recognition to identify new situations and put them
  in relation to something they have experienced                      6.2 Does intuition matter in drug discovery
  before. I think that often, you see that intuition is               research?
  something that you cannot put into a list. I believe                On the rather broad issue of whether intuition
  in this method or in this molecule because . . . And                plays a role in drug discovery research, all
  you can list carefully researched facts about it and
                                                                      respondents claimed in different ways that
  maybe refer to different parts, and there you have it
  very clearly why you recommend one. But many                        intuitition has a major, but complicated, influence.
  times it is a little weaker. Maybe you have made                    One respondent explained:
  some calculations that are not very clear, but you                      Of course, it’s very important. But I firmly believe
  have made others and maybe have seen earlier cases                      that intuition is a summarized picture you get from
  that remind you of it, but you cannot really put                        all the experience and the knowledge you have. So I
  your finger on what it is. Like when it’s more vague                     don’t think that intuition is hocus pocus or
  but you anyway feel very strongly that this is the                      something that you should be sceptical about. It’s a
  one you believe in (Computational chemistry,                            gut feeling. Very important. And I think that it’s
  person 6).                                                              based on things that are inside you and that you
                                                                          should absolutely trust it (Computational
An organic chemist described intuition as the                             chemistry, person 7).
ability to make combinations and explain how
chemical structures can be visualized into a type of                  All respondents expressed in various ways that
harmony:                                                              there is a relation between intuition and creativity.
                                                                      Many respondents claimed that intuition and
  For me, intuition is almost emotional; it’s like that
  things look good. For example, if I have a synthesis                creativity greatly overlap. In some cases, two
  that I am working with, I can get a feeling that “this              respondents thought that intuition and creativity
  should work” . . . it’s something that is very useful in            are basically the same concept. But they
  what I do, because it has to do with combining                      emphasized that intuition cannot be controlled
  earlier pieces of evidence – call it intuition. But it is           and creativity can, for example, through
  imagination and an ability to make combinations.                    imagination and domain knowledge:
  It’s like you feel intuitively that it’s right (Organic
  chemistry, person 4).                                                   You cannot do something if you don’t know the
                                                                          tools: the carpenter must know his tools.
One respondent emphasized the strong
                                                                      One researcher provides a concrete example of
relationship to knowledge and pointed out the
                                                                      how intuition links to creativity:
ambiguitiy of intuition in the research process and
                                                                          Intuition and creativity go together. It’s not so easy
how to handle it:                                                         to separate them. You also must have intuition; it’s
  Intuition is based partly on the experience of                          not always that it must be that way. For example,
  having being a part of and seen many examples and                       entrepreneurship need not always lead to getting
  then being able to connect the experience with . . .                    there the quickest way. There can be other people
  But also being able to digest many different signals                    who help make a decision. It’s exactly the same
  into a conclusion – that’s some kind of partial                         thing that you do in the lab. You might have a target
  explanation of what intuition is, I think. The                          molecule but a lot of different ways of getting to it.
  difficulty is that if you look at calculation methods,                   Not only using intuition but a combination of
  intuition is like neural networks; there is no                          intuition and experience, in any case; one person
  explanation. You can train yourself in calculation                      maybe chooses a way that leads to being able to
  models, calculating responses that you see are                          make the substance more quickly than the others,
  pretty good, but you do not have the vaguest idea of                    for example. That you really can produce it
  how the algorithms have come to that result. But                        (Organic chemistry, person 4).
  that there are other robust calculation methods that
  are more rational, where you can understand the                     Another respondent gave this example, which
  coefficient that appears. And man’s brain has an                     points out that intuition can also be an obstacle to
  ability to weigh in all types of information and                    creativity:
  backgrounds and experiences into something                              Yes, the connection is probably complicated. I’d say
  that is a decision or an intuition or whatever you                      that creativity can be damaged by too much
  can call it. And it is good when it is rational. It is less             intuition and especially this unconscious intuition.
  good when it is irrational. I think we are colored by                   Then I’m worried about getting stuck in a rut. That
  many irrational things (Computational chemistry,                        in some way, it may be wrong to say that it
  person 6).                                                              quantitatively obstructs creativity, but it stops it, I
                                                                          think there is a risk that it stops creativity
In conclusion, all respondents expressed to varying
                                                                          qualitatively in a narrower niche. If you dare to
degrees that intuition in the context of                                  challenge and question your own intuitive solution
pharmaceutical research is an intinsic ability to                         to problems, then you maybe broaden your
produce various associations for which experience                         perspective and come to – I would not say more or
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  less creative, I mean not fewer or more creative                        worry, like: “Damn, I can’t put this thing aside.”
  solutions – but you may reach other qualities, and                      You can’t fall asleep at night, and you don’t really
  they in turn are difficult to evaluate, which is better                  understand why you have that worried feeling. It
  or which is worse? (Computational chemistry,                            must be some kind of intuition that you have. But at
  person 6).                                                              the same time it’s actually – you can actually
                                                                          describe it like you have broad competence. I think
Although the notion of intuition is percieved as                          that the people who are good researchers are the
something important, almost all respondents said                          ones who have the ability to store information in
that intuition is rarely or never discussed in the                        their heads and bring it out and remember that:
organization, for example:                                                “this doesn’t really go together with the article I
  It [creativity] is discussed at times. I am one of                      read seven years ago”, and they get it out and look at
                                                                          it. Okay, it must be because of this. That ability to
  those people who makes just these, if you could do
                                                                          be able to store that information and retrieve it
  rational methods for working instead, uses
                                                                          (Pharmacology, person 1).
  experimental design, thinks through why you do an
  experiment and so on. Many people say: “Yes,                        A specific example of how intuition plays a role in
  when we’re designing drugs, we must let the                         drug discovery research is given in this example.
  chemists use their intuition, you know?” And that
                                                                      The researcher, in organic chemistry and
  makes them say: “Yes, but I’ve darn well been
  working with synthetic chemistry for 20 years, and                  computational drug design, was involved in a
  I get a feeling that if we put an amide group here,                 screening project that was looking for a new
  then there will be higher activity”. And then the                   cardivascular drug compound. The task was to
  discussion comes directly into: “Yes, to what extent                invent a pathway for how to synthesize a new
  should we let the chemists use their intuition?” And                chemical structure. Computational chemistry is
  of course, it does happen that structures that you                  based on computational technology being able to
  find out are good have been intuitively designed.                    visualize and simulate the way in which drug
  And then you can ask yourself if it’s what we call                  molecules and targets (e.g. large proteins or an
  serendipity and how much serendipity is colored by
                                                                      enzyme) may interact:
  intuition that someone has through experience. But
  research can be maximizing the chance to have                           . . . it can be small things, you might get something
  serendipity, although where intuition is maybe a                        back – you work in a project, you get back data and
  positive factor. Sometimes anyway. I think it’s very                    get the feeling that something is wrong. It’s just not
  important to be aware of intuition. Going on                            right. You look at the pattern and see for example
  intuition without knowing it yourself. It’s like                        what structures are active, what are not active, you
  analogous to being unaware. Lack of knowledge is                        look at the pattern and you feel that “no, this is not
  pretty safe, but not knowing about your own lack of                     right.” And what do you do then? Of course you try,
  knowledge, unawareness, that is not good. And I                         for example, you screen them again, you test them
  think it’s the same with intuition, except in the                       one more time and find out that it is wrong,
  other direction, because intuition can be a good                        everything does not really work the way it should or
  thing, especially if you understand it and deal with                    that it really is what it looks to be, and then there’s
  it in a healthy way (Computational chemistry,                           still something that is not right and then you must
  person 6).                                                              go further and then maybe it has something to do
                                                                          with the mechanism. You must keep on working
Here, a researcher contrasted the role that                               and modifying. You have to maybe get to the
intuition might play (although it is a vague, less                        bottom of the thing that is not right. The picture is
controllable concept) with the present                                    not completely clear. And you proceed in that way
                                                                          and discover something else. Yes, you get the
organization and its strong emphasis on cost                              feeling that this is not quite right. And you work on
effectiveness, detailed project plans, and a                              it, make sure that you go on trying to get to the
controlled drug discovery process:                                        bottom of it. I have had that experience in projects
  The drug development process is not so damned                           (Computational chemistry, person 7).
  rational as a lot of people would like it to be, instead
  intuition can prove to be extremely significant. And                 In conclusion, all respondents express the notion
  intuition comes, I think, you can make it easier for                that intuition in different perspectives and
  them by having a long-term view in the disease                      disciplines plays an important role in drug discovery
  area. I think it’s much easier to follow your                       research. In addition, most of the respondents
  intuition if you have worked within a specific                       argued that intuition is strongly linked to creativity.
  disease area for a long time than when you have
  more general intuition about different things. It’s
  like a feeling when you just read a scientific paper                 6.3 Intuition and organizational aspects
  you feel that this – sometimes you can have some                    To make the research more effective and increase
  kind of worried feeling – you feel that this is                     innovative output, the influence of various
  important for our work, but you don’t know what.                    technologies (e.g. high throughput screening and
  And then you can’t let it go. And sometimes then
  the whole thing gels and you realize: “Yes of                       computational drug design) is now an important
  course!” And then if you have even more luck, it can                part of pharmaceutical research. These new
  lead to success. And without what you could define                   scientific screening methods represent an attempt
  as intuition that gave some person that feeling of                  to use various forms of what Bachelard (1984)
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        ´     ´
calls phenomenotechniques, “technologies of                               for continuity too, but they have not done that
visualization” that enable faster identification of                        anyway. I mean, the press gets harder and harder
NCEs. The technologies involve a completely new                           on the organization too. There must be more and
                                                                          more targets, there are projects and so on and so
way to manage scientific data and information.
                                                                          forth. I mean, there is hardly time for being able to
These technologies might make routine work more                           sit down and think. You must put together reports
efficient but may be an obstacle to scientific                              for different levels all the time. You are driven by
creativity (see Thomke and Kuemmerle, 2002,                               having to have something positive to say at these
p. 631; Cardinal, 2001). However, as a                                    meetings, and you focus on coming up with
representative for top management pointed out,                            something for them, but that maybe is not really
the increasing role of intuition might have to                            what you should be doing after all, but maybe you
                                                                          should work a little, little more long term, and you
bridge that gap:                                                          miss that with this type of project (Organic
  . . . if you can use technologies in routine work and                   chemistry, person 5).
  make things more quickly and perhaps more
  precise, get more reliable results like a lot of these              Another aspect of intuition is that it is seen as
  robot systems can do than if you are doing it                       something mysterious, and subsequently
  manually then it is a great advantage, which should                 unprofessional or nonscientific; a chemist
  also actually give people more time to think                        explains:
  creatively. Many successes in automatization make
  it possible for us to have access to completely new                     There are prejudices. I mean that intuition is built
  amounts of data that we can treat in a completely                       on – like I said, what I believe – earlier experience.
  different way than before, because we have so much                      And you can easily be led to believe something that
  more data. We can see patterns and other things                         is a preconceived idea and that directs you too
  that maybe would otherwise be completely                                much, and you don’t look at the facts that exist
  impossible to identify. You should look at these                        (Computational chemistry, person 7).
  technologies as tools and then there is always a                    The importance of leadership and intuition may
  human factor when you are looking at data. This
                                                                      not be obvious. However, a respresentative from
  evaluation, you have to put it into its context. Is it
  actually reasonable? Should we choose this                          senior management pointed out the need for
  chemical structure that had a signal in this high                   management attention in relation to intuitive
  throughput screening? Or is it perhaps completely                   dimensions in drug discovery:
  impossible to do, modifying it so that it can be                        Yes, because as a leader, the point is not only to
  optimised. We don’t have a really good selection                        push your own ideas, you know, but to listen to the
  system yet. Instead, we have certain filters so that                     ideas of the person who is the most recent
  you can take away characteristics and other things                      employee. I think it would also send the right
  but it’s still up to a creative evaluation by an                        signals if even higher management can accept, so to
  experienced chemist, and it’s also based on – not                       speak, the newest guy’s view of the business. As it
  just knowledge but also on intuition. I think that                      looks through others’ eyes, too. They come from
  intuition and research are incredibly important                         the outside (Discovery senior management,
  when it comes to seeing that this is darn important.                    person 3).
  It may also be creativity. It’s a question of
  definition, you know, but having an intuitive feeling                In conclusion, although intuition in drug discovery
  about this being the right way and this is an                       research is claimed to be highly important, the
  important result (Discovery senior management,                      respondents argue that it is something that is
  person 3).                                                          seldom or never talked about in the organization.
Most respondents disclosed problematic factors                        Furthermore, the common notion from the
when dealing with intuition in the organization.                      respondents reflects different concerns about how
One factor was the way in which intuition is                          intuition is exploited in the current rationalized
increasingly affected when planning and managing                      drug discovery process.
drug discovery research. This is illustrated by one
respondent:
  The organization today is in such a streamlined
  format in some way, it feels like. The way it works
                                                                      7. Discussion
  with us anyway, you maybe work for a period of
  months with a target and then that is the end of that               Pharmaceutical researchers claim that the human
  and you start on something new and it can in and of                 faculty of intuition represents thinking that goes
  itself be very stimulating, but after that time you                 beyond the strictly rational and representational;
  have learned what you have started to work with                     intuition is claimed to be emotional, a gut feeling,
  and then you must stop and start on something                       drawing on experience, and vacillating between
  new. I don’t know – in that way I have a little bit of              being rational and irrational. Intuition is a mode of
  a hard time thinking that we’re working in the right
  way somehow. There must be continuity in some                       thinking that accounts for what is not really proved
  way in the organization and it is a little too divided              in scientific terms, but still is valuable knowledge
  into parts in some way. Yes, I think that it actually               in the process of drug discovery and development.
  feels like that sometimes. I hope that there is room                In addition, the faculty of intuition matters in new
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drug development. Intuition is a type of thinking                     coherent theoretical framework developed for use
that is captured by metaphors such as “thinking                       when studying such events and occurrences. So a
outside the box” or “seeing the broad picture”,                       Bergsonian view of intuition could be fruitfully
that is, metaphors that depict intuition as the                       developed within this literature. Rather than
ability to see relationships, causalities, and other                  conceiving of some forms of thinking as being
associations for which there are not yet proofs of                    merely “original” (one trait of what we tend to
such relationships. New drug development is a                         deem as creative), Bergson’s thinking offers an
highly specialized activity that consists of many                     ontological and epistemological model that can
different scientific disciplines, and authorities                      examine what this kind of originality consists of,
regulate the process. Consequently, effective                         for example, if originality in solutions will make
management of operations must support new drug                        interesting and new syntheses of what is already
development. If intuition is regarded as the                          known. At the bottom line, Bergson may be a
capacity to make decisions under time pressure –                      useful ally when criticizing the technical-
without complete information (i.e. being subject to                   instrumental rationality that serves as the bedrock
what Herbert Simon calls “bounded rationality”),                      for all management activities. Standardized
then intuition is a highly useful resource in new                     management solutions for engagement with an
drug development. But intuition is, as some of the                    external world (e.g. calculation, reduction of
interviewees pointed out, by no means an extra-                       continuous realities to discrete events and entities,
rational or super-rational capacity that can be                       and enactment of stable and predictable
invoked in cases for which complete information is
                                                                      relationships between different actors) are mostly
unavailable; intuition is always at stake because it
                                                                      analytical in nature; the management mentality
draws on experiences and emotional faculties. So
                                                                      establishes a world that is manageable (Gephart,
invoking intuition is a political issue because by
                                                                      1996). This works fine as long as such
definition, it goes beyond formal decision-making
                                                                      reductionism is applicable. In many cases,
systems that are provided. In short, intuition is an
                                                                      management practice cannot rely on its analytical
individual and organizational resource that is
                                                                      apparatus and needs to develop practices,
complicated to manage and not like new
                                                                      techniques, and systems that can deal with fluidity,
technologies, such as HTS, which do not rely on
the experiences and emotions of pharmaceutical                        movement, and change, in brief, when speaking of
researchers but rather on automation of the                           Bergson, what cannot be fully captured by the
identification of new chemical substances.                             rational thinking of the intellect. Grint (1997, p. 9)
    The pharmaceutical researchers emphasized                         writes:
that intuition is an important resource in new drug                       Like many other forms of thought, [management
development activities. Yet the concept of intuition                      theory] does tend to rationalize away the
                                                                          paradoxes, chance, luck, errors, subjectivities,
is not fully examined in the organization creativity
                                                                          accidents, and sheer indeterminacy of life through
literature. If one follows Bergson in conceiving of                       a prism of apparent control and rationality.
intuition as thinking that is “pre-representational”
and operates outside of the favored regime of                         In the case of new drug development, perhaps
representation (e.g. mathematics or a scientific                       what occurs between analytical systems of HTS
vocabulary), then intuition has a rather clear                        and other technologies are never regarded as
meaning and role vis-a  `-vis more conventional and                   anything more than such chance, luck, and errors.
analytical forms of rationality. For Bergson,                         So intuition may be representative of a form of
rational thinking is analytical in terms of being able                thinking that goes beyond these reductionism
to reduce a complex matter to a signifying system,                    modes of thinking. Arvid Carlson, a 2001 Nobel
but intuition is synthetic in terms of being able to                  laureate in medicine with extensive new drug
see what is outside of the signifying system. When                    development experience, testifies to this need for
using the metaphor of “single dots constituting a                     taking the consequences of what one may already
line”, then rational thinking is the individual dots                  know:
which we know are there, while intuition enables                          Especially on the discovery side, it is like walking in
synthesis from the line and substantiates the claim                       a labyrinth, you face many decision points and the
that the spaces between the dots are not just voids                       thing is not to jump in the wrong direction too
but are regularities that constitute the line.                            many times. The first thing you need is luck, and
Consequently, it may be argued that the literature                        then it is the other, what people call intuition . . .
                                                                          And then there is the question: what is intuition?
on organizational creativity has not been very
                                                                          Intuition is probably just that, of having a very
concerned with the pre-representational forms of                          incomplete, a very fragmentary basis and of being
thinking represented by intuition. It is common to                        able despite only having fragments to see a pattern
address extraordinary contributions and                                   that leads your decision in a certain direction
individuals in this literature, but there is no                           (Carlson, 2003).
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Being able to theorize the fragmented, incomplete                     reproduce knowledge in the pharmaceutical
world inhabited by pharmaceutical researchers                         industry offers limited latitude for creating new
remains a challenge for the organization creativity                   knowledge; and this could be why the industry
literature.                                                           lacks radical innovation (Horrobin, 2002). We
                                                                      argue that the role of intuition is an important
                                                                      subset of understanding organizational creativity
7.1. Implications for management                                      and a rather unexploited platform for creating new
Implementation of a more rationalistic approach                       knowledge, which demands receptiveness to a
to become more effective has been the dominating                      more critical view of traditional knowledge
trend in many large R&D organizations. Many                           management theory.
pharmaceutical companies have turned to rigorous                         Creativity in the context of the pharmaceutical
project and portfolio management to make                              industry is an ambiguous concept (Sundgren and
research more efficient (Schmid and Smith,                             Styhre, 2003b). The predominant notion of
2002b). One could argue against the trend to                          creativity stresses something that is purposeful;
implement policy that is too rigorous. This study                     something that other scientists have not done
suggests that intuition is an intrinsic part of the                   before. Creativity must always be based on
creative process in drug discovery and thus an                        accurate knowledge of the specific domain. Thus
important organizational resource (Sundgren and                       organizational creativity in new drug development
Styhre, 2003a). The study’s narratives suggest that                   demands an organizational capacity for becoming
intuition and creativity are poorly institutionalized                 masters of a specific scientific domain, while
in research-based organizations. So here,                             enabling an overview of an area of science.
rationalist approaches that draw on
                                                                         A clear message for senior management is to be
technoscientific practices (e.g. HTS) would
                                                                      open to discussion within the organization
benefit from being supported by continuous,
                                                                      regarding ways in which intuition plays an
widely shared narratives on how research,
                                                                      important role within drug discovery research.
innovation, and creativity materialize in daily
                                                                      This would enable better understanding of
activities in pharmaceutical and other research-
                                                                      organizational creativity in which intuition is not
based organizations. The narrative view of
                                                                      seen as a fuzzy concept, but as an asset that could
organizational practices (see, e.g. Czarniawska,
                                                                      be in balance with the rationalistic thinking.
1998; Gabriel, 2000) suggests that the process of
                                                                         We argue that intuition is needed, because
organizing is embedded in story-telling and joint
                                                                      creativity is an ambiguous concept. As Deleuze
sense making of events and occurrences. Narrative
                                                                      and Guattari (1995, p. 18) write:
studies of organizations, such as Orr’s (1996)
study of copy-machine technicians, Boje’s (1991)                          In any concept there are usually bits or components
                                                                          that come from other concepts, which
study of an office supply firm, Bryman’s (2000)                             corresponded to other problems and presuposed
examination of technology-based firms, and                                 other planes. This is inevitable because each
Humphreys and Brown’s (2002) analysis of                                  concept carries out new cutting-out, takes on new
organizational identities from a narrative                                contours, and must be reactivated or recut. On the
perspective suggest that the institutionalization of                      other hand concepts also has a becoming that
vocabularies, standard plots, speech genres, and so                       involves its relationships with concepts situated on
forth, support and reinforce organizational                               the same plane.
practices. So this study suggests that an ongoing                     Acknowledgement of intuition’s role in new drug
narrative on intuition and creativity would                           development would:
facilitate more effective research practices. Being                   .
                                                                          enrich contextual thinking that broadens
able to tell stories and share experiences from                           scope through radical thinking and enrich the
highly specialized, sophisticated research-based                          concept of organizational creativity;
work remains as one of the key mechanisms that                        .
                                                                          increase an organization’s ability to move
underlies excellent organizational performance in                         between different scientific domains within
the pharmaceutical industry. Thus, telling stories                        new drug development; and
about intuition and creativity is an integral, yet                    .
                                                                          enable management to increase the probability
somewhat neglected component of the
                                                                          of capturing ideas in an early phase, which
pharmaceutical researcher’s skills set.
                                                                          could result in scientific breakthroughs.
   From the rationalist view within contemporary
management theory and from a pharmaceutical
industry perspective, the rationalistic view of
making research more effective somewhat parallels
the dominant knowledge management tradition                           8. Conclusion
(Styhre, 2002). This tradition tends to manage and
distribute knowledge in organizations as fixed and                     This paper presents a study of the role of intuition
ready-made. This trend to codify, integrate and                       in pharmaceutical research. Conceiving of
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                Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre                                    Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279


intuition as being the ability to synthesize on the                           in managing research and development”, Organization
basis of available information, intuition is                                  Science, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 19-36.
contrasted with reductionistic and analytical forms                    Carlson, A. (2003), personal interview, January.
                                                                       Czarniawska, B. (1998), A Narrative Approach to Organization
of thinking. Even though the interviewees argued
                                                                              Studies, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, London and New Delhi.
that intuition is a highly useful human faculty, it is                 Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1995), What Is Philosophy?, Verso,
still somewhat controversial to use intuition as the                          London.
basis for decisions. Because intuition was more                        Dorabje, S., Lumley, C.E. and Cartwright, S. (1998), “Culture,
closely associated with emotionality and                                      innovation and successful development of new medicines
embodiment (e.g. gut feelings) than with cognitive                            – an exploratory study of the pharmaceutical industry”,
capacities, intuition served as some kind of                                  Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 19
supplement to more conventional forms of                                      No. 4, pp. 199-210.
                                                                       Drazin, R., Glynn, M.A. and Kazanjian, R.K. (1999), “Multilevel
thinking. Still, intuition is acknowledged among
                                                                              theorizing about creativity in organizations: a sense-
pharmaceutical researchers, especially in cases in                            making perspective”, Academy of Management Review,
which the researchers must account for a                                      Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 286-307.
multiplicity of facts during decision making.                          Ekvall, G. and Ryhammar, L. (1999), “The creative climate:
Consequently, the organizational creativity                                   its determinants and effects at a Swedish university”,
literature that is highly positive to the idea of the                         Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 303-10.
extraordinary and ground-breaking innovations,                         Eysenck, H.J. (1996), “The measurement of creativity”, in
                                                                              Boden, M.A. (Ed.), Dimensions of Creativity, Bradford
must recognize the faculty of intuition. This paper
                                                                              Books, London.
suggests that the thinking of Bergson may be one                       Ford, C.M. (1995a), “Creativity is a mystery”, in Ford, C.M. and
fruitful resource to exploit in this endeavor. From                           Gioia, D.A. (Eds), Creative Action in Organizations: Ivory
an innovation management research policy                                      Tower Visions and Real World Voices, Sage, Thousand
perspective, this study also calls for more critical                          Oaks, CA, pp. 12-53.
perspectives in knowledge management theory                            Ford, C.M. (1995b), “A multi-domain model of creative action
regarding how to understand and create new                                    taking”, in Ford, C.M. and Gioia, D.A. (Eds), Creative
prerequisites for the creation of new knowledge.                              Action in Organizations: Ivory Tower Visions and Real
                                                                              World Voices, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 330-53.
                                                                       Ford, C. (2000), “Creative developments in creative theory”,
                                                                              Academy of Management Review, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 284-7.
                                                                       Ford, C.M. and Gioia, D.A. (2000), “Factors influencing creativity
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Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca                 European Journal of Innovation Management
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                                                                     279

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Intuition In Pharmaceutical R&D

  • 1. 1. Introduction Intuition and Innovation is at the bottom line, and based on the pharmaceutical firm’s ability to manage creativity. Although creativity is a most contested and polymorphous research: the case of construct, here it is used to represent new ideas AstraZeneca and thoughts that precede an innovation. Madjar et al. (2002, p. 757) write: We consider employee creativity to be the Mats Sundgren and production of ideas, products, or procedures that are (1) novel or original and (2) potentially useful Alexander Styhre to the organization. The authors One central issue in research on creativity in organizations is the ability to clearly define ideas Mats Sundgren is Executive PhD Student and and thought that are considered creative or are Alexander Styhre is Associate Professor, both at the Fenix Research Program, Chalmers University of Technology, proven to be creative. The dominant approach is to Gothenburg, Sweden. treat creativity in a functionalist and instrumental manner, that is, to conceive of creativity as Keywords something that occurs or happens during certain conditions that can be arranged or managed. This Pharmaceuticals industry, Drugs, Design and development, Intuition, Organizational innovation rationalist view has been the dominant perspective in contemporary management theory. Gephart Abstract (1996, pp. 95-6) writes: Rationality has been the driving force of modern The role of intuition receives little attention in the literature on management. Rationality has begun to dissipate in organizational creativity. This paper describes a study of the role postmodernism, to become a cacophony of local of intuition and its implications for organizational creativity rationalities, but we need to decentre rationality, within pharmaceutical research. The study applies French not abandon rationality. We need to place philosopher Bergson’s philosophy of intuition. The study is based rationality alongside other human faculties – on a series of interviews with employees in pre-clinical research passion, love, hope, and intuition – in our effort to (discovery) in a major pharmaceutical company; in this context, understand and shape the future of management creativity is defined as an organization’s ability to bring forth a and history. new candidate drug in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular therapy areas. This paper concludes that intuition is a resource Although rationality remains as one of the main that facilitates new drug development. Pharmaceutical ingredients in management practice and theory, it researchers perceive the roles of intuition and creativity as is important to be open to alternative perspectives. intertwined in ground-breaking innovations. However intuition is Management is not simply the application of a controversial phenomenon in the organization because it several rational principles, such as those suggested opposes reductionistic and analytical forms of thinking, which are highly prized in new drug development. Bergson’s by Frederick W. Taylor; it also draws on “passion, philosophy may form a fruitful foundation from which intuition love, hope, and intuition”. For example, creative and its relevance for organizational creativity can be exploited. work is based on highly technical and specialized knowledge within a particular field, but it is Electronic access simultaneously dependent on commitment, The Emerald Research Register for this journal is communication, and experimental thinking. available at Jeffcut (2000, p. 125) writes: www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister [T]he creative process is sustained by inspiration and informed by talent, vitality and commitment The current issue and full text archive of this journal is (i.e., a need to create rather than to consume): this available at makes creative work volatile, dynamic and risk- www.emeraldinsight.com/1460-1060.htm taking, shaped by important tacit skills (or expertise) that are frequently submerged (even mystified) within domains of endeavor. Hence, the crucial relationship between creativity and innovation (i.e., the process of development of original ideas toward their realization/ consumption) remains unruly and poorly understood. European Journal of Innovation Management Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · pp. 267-279 Creative work is never solely an outcome from the q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 1460-1060 instrumental application of a set of management DOI 10.1108/14601060410565029 principles but must always be open to what 267
  • 2. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 Gephart calls “other human faculties” such as other human faculties. More specifically, we make passion or intuition. use of the notion of intuition developed by the This paper presents a study of the role of French philosopher Henri Bergson. For Bergson, intuition in new drug development in the intuition is a key human faculty, capable of pharmaceutical industry. New drug development “thinking movement” rather than “solids”. While is a highly specialized activity that involves concepts and well-known facts are always expertise in biosciences, such as biology, synthesis appearing as fixed points and positions, the faculty chemistry, medicine, and pharmacology. So new of intuition is the ability to think about change and drug development depends on formal knowledge movement between such points. So for Bergson, and expertise in relevant scientific domains. New intuition is part of all sophisticated, creative drug development is based on formal management thinking. procedures and on factors that remain somewhat tacit: creative solutions to practical problems, unexpected applications of taken-for-granted knowledge, novel forms of thinking, and so forth 2. Creativity in organizations (Dorabje et al., 1998). These various minor innovations and procedures draw on what we refer Many organizations strive for these capabilities: to here as intuition – or to use a popular metaphor: creativity and innovation, i.e. the generation of “what is in between the dots constitutes the line”. new ideas and the ability to translate the ideas into While what Gephart calls rational knowledge is action (Mumford et al., 2002). However, from widely known (and not contested facts, the dots), organizational and practical perspectives, gaps intuition is not well known. Intuition has a shared exist between theory and practice when attempting regime of representations; essentially, it is still to understand creative-action organizations (Ford epistemologically contested or slippery. In other and Gioia, 2000). From a theoretical perspective, words, intuition is between the well-known facts myths and romance with creativity somewhat and procedures in scientific discovery. Intuition influenced much of the previous research on facilitates the ability to apply scientific knowledge creativity. The myths may oversimplify and to see consequences of various experiments explanations for events and attribute great before formal proof is acquired. So intuition is very achievements merely to individuals. More recent important for creativity in new drug development. research questioned the validity of the personalized Studies of scientific work (e.g. Knorr Cetina, approach to creativity, and instead stressed the 1999; Pickering, 1995; Lynch, 1985; Latour and importance of the productive interplay between Woolgar, 1979) show that scientific work is never individuals and the ecosystems of individuals, i.e. as linear, homogeneous, and one-dimensional as organizational design and reward systems (Ford, one may think. Instead, controversies, alternative 1995a, Gioia, 1995). explanations, empirical inconsistencies, and local According to Ford (1995b), creativity is not an interpretations always characterize production of inherent quality of a person, process, product, or “scientific” facts. In short, a certain degree of place. It is a domain-specific social construction heterogeneity exists within scientific knowledge. that is legitimized by judges who serve as Pickering (1995, p. 70) writes: gatekeepers to a particular domain. Furthermore, [S]cientific knowledge should be understood as most of the creativity research pays no attention to sustained by, and as part of, interactive organizational or professional concerns (Ford, stabilizations situated in a multiple and 1995b). So an important step in understanding heterogeneous space of machines, instruments, creativity in an organizational context is to take a conceptual structures, disciplined practices, social more holistic approach, i.e. to take a systems actors and their relations, and so forth. approach and apply the concept of organizational So scientific and laboratory work is never the black creativity (Ford, 2000; Woodman et al., 1993). box it is treated like in common sense thinking. This leads to focus on the potential source of Instead, intuition – the ability to anticipate results creativity and on increasing understanding of and to see broader pictures on the basis of creativity in organizations. Another aspect of empirical observations – is a highly useful skill. traditional creativity research is that the different Drawing on a series of interviews in a pre-clinical distinct foci of creativity, such as the creative organization in a major pharmaceutical company, person, place, process, and product (e.g. Amabile, this paper suggests that intuition is very important 1996; Boden, 1996; Ekvall and Ryhammar, 1999; for new drug development. The new drug Eysenck, 1996), do not facilitate useful development process requires standard operating understanding of how creativity works in an procedures and routine work plus creative and organizational context. So organizational creativity inventive thinking. Formal rational systems are can be seen as a concept that accounts for the thus always entangled with intuitive thinking and organizational context, interactions, and history 268
  • 3. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 between the individual and the collaborative abandoned until the end of the century. At the start nature of creativity and links different subsets of of the new millennium, interest in Bergson’s intermediaries of creativity (Andriopoulos, 2001; philosophy was revived (see, e.g. Linstead, 2002 Drazin et al., 1999). and Wood, 2002). To discuss Bergson’s view of Intuition is an important but rather neglected intuition, one must recapitulate other areas of subset of organizational creativity. Previous Bergson’s thinking. So the notion of intuition is research on creativity has acknowledged the role placed within a broader ontological and intuition may play in the individual creative epistemological framework that gives sense and process (Policastro, 1999). However, some meaning to the notion of intuition. For Bergson, the researchers consider the scientific study of basic ontological principle is that world consists of intuition impossible. The major reasons are that processes. Processes and movements constitute the intuition is either considered an esoteric world that we can experience – not entities: phenomenon, such as ESP, or just erratic nonsense In reality, things are events of a special kind, (Policastro, 1995). Empirical studies that link temporary crystallization of images; it would be intuition to creativity in an organizational context proper to say that, for Bergson, movement is the are scarce (Agor, 1989). Previous research on real and original stuff the world is made of, whereas intuition in an organizational context mainly the picture of the universe as consisting of distinct focuses on leadership and decision making material objects is an artifact of intelligence. These (Bechara et al., 1997; Wilson and Schooler, 1991) ideas – the logical and metaphysical priority of events over objects – was to be subsequently taken or as an intersection of psychology and cognitive up and developed in detail by A.N. Whitehead science. So intuition is an important factor when (1968), probably not without inspiration from trying to understand the management of Bergson (Kolakowski, 1985, p. 45). organizational creativity. Literature on innovation management research This ontological principle is also an barely acknowledges the role of intuition in epistemological principle. But being in the world is organizations. There is an ongoing debate on the not based on a series of succeeding points but is dominant lack of realism about the cognitive instead based on what Bergson calls duree ´ nature of technological change; and here, the (duration). Moore (1996, p. 55) explains: prevailing assumption is that problems are fixed It is not that we start from discrete items of and known in the beginning of innovation experience spread out in time but somehow processes (Nightingale, 2003, 1998). From this threaded together like beads on a string of consciousness. Rather we start from the experience perspective, Roberts (1998), Saviotti (1998), and of temporal flow. Temporal structure is not a Nelson (2003) acknowledged and stressed the matter of putting together given discrete items. On important role of tacit knowledge in technical the contrary, so-called discrete elements are only change and how scientific knowledge is used in apparent when we have a need to pluck them from innovation. Nightingale (1998) demonstrates the our continuing experience. vital role of tacit knowledge in science-driven Linstead (2002, p. 101) further clarifies: organizations and emphasizes that for new drug Bergson argues that human experience of real life is development, the elusive nature of innovation not a succession of clearly demarcated conscious depends on learned, tacit conceptions that cannot states, progressing along some imaginary line (from be reduced to information processing and thus sorrow to happiness, for example) but rather a demonstrates that tacit knowledge is important for continuous flow in which these states creativity and is not easily captured or codified interpenetrate and are often unclear, being capable (Leonard and Sensiper, 1998). In this sense, tacit of sustaining multiple perspectives. knowledge can be seen as one of several Human beings do not experience time as a overlapping subsets or characteristics of intuition. mechanical stepwise movement from the past to However, it is reasonable to believe that tacit the present and into the future. Instead, they knowledge and intuition resonate rather than experience time as a continuous series of events cohere or correspond with each other. based on simultaneity – past, present, and future are never entirely separated; instead, they are always related in experience. Massumi (2002, 3. The concept of intuition p. 200) writes: The basic insight of Henri Bergson’s philosophy . . . This section examines Bergson’s notion of is that past and future are not just strung-out intuition. Bergson is one of the most important punctual presents. They are continuous dimensions contemporaneous to every present – philosophers of the twentieth century. During his which is by nature a smudged becoming, not a lifetime, he was very influential in politics, art, and point state . . . Past and future are in direct, philosophy. After his death, the fashionable topological proximity with each other, operatively Bergsonism fell from grace and was essentially joined in a continuity of mutual folding. 269
  • 4. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 ´ In summary, Bergson’s notion of duree refuses to have to live in the world of excess of our needs, and treat human experience as a mechanical, in excess of the self-presentation or immanence of spatialized experience that consists of clearly materiality, to collapse ourselves, as things, back ´ into the world. demarcated solids brought together. The duree of a human being is always recalling the past into the Ansell Pearson (2002, p. 124) argues: future to anticipate the future. According to Bergson, the abstract intellect, which ´ While the notion of duree is primarily a construct has evolved as an organ of utility and calculability, that explores the psychology of humans, the idea of proceeds by beginning with the immobile and continuity and what Bergson calls spatialized simply reconstructs movements with juxtaposed thinking is very important for his theory of immobilities. By contrast, intuition, as he conceives it, starts from movement and sees in immobility knowledge. Just as what Bergson calls mechanical only a snapshot taken by our mind. clock time tends to break down the continuous ´ experience of duree into isolated points and So intuition is what breaks free from language and positions, concepts and representations perform sees what is outside of the concept, outside of the the same operation for knowledge. Language, the language that we use to denote the world. Here, primary medium for thinking and knowledge, is language is not only everyday concept, but is also based on concepts that are generally thought of as equally the regime of representation that denoting certain events, essences, or practices. For dominates the world of natural sciences and the Bergson, concepts can only capture a subset of biosciences. While language is a prosthesis for human knowledge because they represent thinking (just a tool), thinking that draws on “cinematographic thinking”, that is, snapshots of intuition abandons such a prosthesis in favor of a events and occurrences in a continuous more free form of thinking. Whitehead (1968, intrinsically moving reality. Concepts are thus p. 49) says “language halts behind intuition.” formed as attempts to glue a world in motion into n summary, Bergson develops an ontology and certain positions and fixed points. Bergson (1992, epistemology of movement and becoming; p. 137) writes: processes rather than solids and entities constitute To know a reality in the ordinary meaning of the the world. So the human experience does not word “to know” is to take ready-made concepts, consist of single instances stacked on one another apportion them, and combine them until one but is based on the simultaneity of past, present, obtains a practical equivalent of the real. and future. In addition, Bergson’s theory of He continues: knowledge separates use of ready-made concepts Every language, whether elaborated or crude, that are used as tools for thinking and leaves many more things to be understood than it is communication and calls that which is positioned able to express. Essentially discontinuous, since it between concepts (solids) intuition. While concepts proceeds by juxtaposing words, speech can only help us see the world as a series of demarcated indicate by a few guideposts placed here and there instances and events, intuition makes us think in the chief stages in the moment of thought (Bergson, 1999, p. 125). terms of movement and becoming. Intuition is thinking that lies between the known and the Concepts are thus ready-mades that are applied to represented. Intuition is thinking beyond language. cases; they represent “classified thinking” In terms of creativity, and more specifically, (Bachelard, 1964, p. 75) and are therefore incapable creativity in terms of new drug development in the of seeing movement. In brief, concepts are “solids”: pharmaceutical industry, intuition is thinking that According to his [Bergson’s] account, concepts are uses what is already known – solids of verified formed on the model of spatial solids, and it is knowledge or facts provided by the research efforts consequently impossible to think about time and laboratory work – to anticipate what is not without importing into it some of the features of homogeneous space (Mullarkey, 1999, p. 19). known and established, negotiated, and agreed on as facts. Intuition is thus thinking that goes beyond Thinking always uses concepts, and concepts can or passes what is already known to enable new never entirely capture the movement and solutions and findings. As the empirical material becoming of being; although they are still useful suggests, this form of thinking outside of the solids tools in understanding such as world. For Bergson, is highly valued in pharmaceutical research. intuition enables for understanding of movement. While concepts consist of solids are based on cinematographic thinking, which make us unable to see what is outside of ourselves, intuition is the 4. The pharmaceutical industry faculty of thinking between the solids. Grosz (2001, p. 175) writes: This paper presents a study of intuition in pre- Intuition is our nonpragmatic, noneffective, clinical drug development and describes how nonexpedient relation to the world, the capacity we intuition can increase knowledge about 270
  • 5. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 organizational creativity in a modern is intertwined with the company’s ability to pharmaceutical industry. The focal company is generate knowledge and expertise over a wide one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the array of knowledge domains that can produce world and a manufacturer of medications in many NCEs, patents, and finally new medicines that are therapy areas. The company’s three largest therapy capable of becoming marketable products (see, areas are cancer, cardiovascular, and e.g. Roberts, 1999). The high-tech, science-based gastrointestinal. The company’s research and pharmaceutical industry differs from other development (R&D) centers in Europe and the industries with similar R&D intensity and use of USA employ more than 10,000 people, and its new scientific concepts and technologies because 2003 R&D budget was US$2.7 billion. Today, the pharma: company has more than 50,000 employees . must operate in a highly regulated worldwide. environment; Briefly, pharmaceutical industry research . has long development cycles – up to 15 years; (which also applies the focal company) is divided and into two major processes: discovery (pre-clinical) . assumes a high degree of risk during research and development (clinical). Discovery is the most (Pisano, 1997). critical process in new drug development. The pharmaceutical industry invests a significant Discovery’s primary objective is to generate ideas amount of its sales into R&D (in the focal company for disease relief (modification of disease-related more than 20 percent). Over the last decade, the problems and complaints) or in the best case, for a cost for large clinical trials has increased disease’s cure – by using a new chemical entity dramatically (Zivin, 2000). (NCE). Discovery begins by defining a disease The pharmaceutical industry has had a long area and a target to manipulate. This target should tradition of scientific breakthroughs and have potential for altering the disease or its innovations (Horrobin, 2002). However, the symptoms in a preferred way. The target (e.g. a industry currently wrestles with many issues; some receptor or an enzyme) is tested against many of the most serious are rapidly increasing costs of chemical substances using in vitro systems or R&D coupled with only small increases in output biological models (Lesko et al., 2000). The aim is during drug discovery (Schmid and Smith, to establish a chemical structure for a biological 2002a). During the last decade, the industry has activity relationship, which in the successful increased its focus on incremental innovation, on project leads to a candidate drug (CD). The CD is decreasing time to market, and on reducing then further tested for putative toxicity and if bottlenecks to optimize the length of the product’s found safe, an application for approval of testing in patent (Tranter, 2000). Many pharmaceutical humans is submitted (investigation of a new drug, companies have turned to rigorous project and IND) to drug regulatory authorities and ethical portfolio management to make the research committees. Discovery is a complex process that process more effective (Schmid and Smith, involves a multitude of scientific disciplines and 2002b). Furthermore, extensive efforts have been includes many factors that could influence a made to implement technologies in pre-clinical successful outcome. It normally takes three to five research (discovery), such as computer-aided drug years to produce a CD (Pisano, 1997). After design, combinatorial chemistry linked to high approval, the development organization takes over throughput screening (HTS) to increase the CD to start initial studies in humans. innovative output. To conclude, based on the Development’s objective is to transform and current situation in the industry, there is validate pre-clinical models for human concept pronounced concern about how to balance tests. During development, the CD is further organizational creativity and economies of scale – tested in clinical trials to clarify if the drug has the to produce radical innovations (Horrobin, 2001). desired therapeutic effects (i.e. proof of concept). The present study was conducted at one of the These trials are followed by larger clinical trials to Swedish R&D centers, which is also the largest in meet medical, ethical, and regulatory standards the company – plus a skill center for several and commercial demands (i.e. proof of principle). technologies, such as like HTS and computed- The development process often takes four to six aided drug design. years. The pharmaceutical industry is renowned for being knowledge-intensive, and new product development activities are long-term investments 5. Method in terms of time and capital (Yeoh and Roth, 1999; Roberts, 1999; Heppard and Blasick, 2000). The This qualitative study (Strauss and Corbin, 1990, pharmaceutical industry’s competitive advantage 1994; Silverman, 1993) is based on interviews 271
  • 6. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 (Kvale, 1996) with ten senior researchers and in the study were divided into three categories. The senior managers in AstraZeneca R&D. The first defined and positioned phenomena in the discovery organization at R&D center was the focal context of pharmaceutical research. The second point. Qualitative methodology facilitates investigated how intuition plays a role in drug investigation of complex issues through narratives. discovery research and its relation to organizational Rather than selecting a few variables on a creativity. And the third dealt with different pharmaceutical research project, we integrated organizational factors, such as technoscience and several interrelated questions and issues that are leadership and their relationships to intuition. For important for the drug discovery process. The aim example, how different sophisticated technologies of the interviews was to encourage respondents to and technoscience influence interaction with describe their drug research experiences in relation phenomena. to intuition and organizational creativity. Here, organizational creativity is defined as the organization’s ability to bring forth a new candidate 6.1 What is intuition in the context of drug in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular pharmaceutical research? therapy areas. A narrative approach does not seek Because intuition has multiple connotations, it is what Bruner (1986) calls a “logico-scientific mode important to specify its meaning in the context of of knowledge” whereby an explanation is achieved pharmaceutical research. Policastro (1995) through the recognition of an event or utterance as suggests two complimentary definitions of belonging to certain category or as following a intuition: one based on a metaphorical perception general law. In short, a narrative approach strives to of phenomena and the other on a tacit form of present contextualized narratives to make sense of knowledge. One of the respondents expressed this complex, ambiguous, fluid realties – and not latter form and emphasized that intuition in nomological knowledge (Habermas, 1968). The pharmaceutical research is a combination of broad respondents in this study cover the most important knowledge and competence: disciplines involved in drug discovery: medicinal Intuition comes from broad competence together chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, and with extensive experience in a special area. For me, computational chemistry. The respondents also intuition is the ability to predict things with pretty represent important roles and managerial levels in good precision on the basis of the competence the R&D organization, for example, disease area platform somewhere in the background . . . yes, it’s leader, senior scientific advisors, and project like a limit between intuition and not yet proven knowledge is floating as a chemist. I mean, you can leaders. AstraZeneca R&D, Molndal was chosen ¨ show a chemist a structure and say: “Do you think for the study because it is one of the most successful that this will be potent?” And then he has a much pharmaceutical sites in the company. Several better opportunity to answer yes or no to the blockbuster drugs, the basis for the financial question than another chemist who has not worked performance of the company as a whole, have been in our project. He can’t point it out because that developed at the site, which makes the company a nitrogen is there or there. He can look at the relevant object of study in terms of drug discovery structure and say: “No, I don’t think so.” It is probably doubtful. It is obvious he can point out and organizational creativity activities. The certain things, like: “I think the chain is a little too interviews were made at AstraZeneca R&D in long.” Or something like that (Pharmacology, 2003. person 1). Another respondent defined intuition as a feeling and expressed a significant amount of vagueness 6. Intuition in new drug development: the and thus correlated intuition with risk taking: case of AstraZeneca I think that intuition is a kind of feeling. It is like what vision is for planning. Intuition is a type of The study investigated different aspects of capacity that comes with experience. I actually think that intuition is very important in the whole intuition and its relation to organizational research process – particularly in early discovery creativity in pharmaceutical research. phases. Because intuition is correlated with risk- Pharmaceutical research in the discovery taking, it’s difficult to base decisions on intuition organization is based on sophisticated for clinical programs, which is of course ethically technoscientific laboratory work. The search for correct. But in early phases in discovery, it’s simpler NCEs and their further development to finished and easier to take intuitive decisions about different products occur in distributed knowledge systems in things, like in toxicity studies or choices of methods (Biochemistry, person 2). which several different areas of expertise are integrated. NCEs are the outcomes of joint efforts One researcher stressed that intuition represents a by medicinal chemists, biologists, and dichotomy that is rational and sensible and pharmacologists. Questions and issues addressed irrational and impossible to communicate: 272
  • 7. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 Intuition is something that summarizes experience and broad knowledge play an important role that for better or worse, because sometimes it’s rational may lead to important solutions for scientific and other times it’s irrational. I believe that many problems. experienced researchers have some kind of touch of recognition to identify new situations and put them in relation to something they have experienced 6.2 Does intuition matter in drug discovery before. I think that often, you see that intuition is research? something that you cannot put into a list. I believe On the rather broad issue of whether intuition in this method or in this molecule because . . . And plays a role in drug discovery research, all you can list carefully researched facts about it and respondents claimed in different ways that maybe refer to different parts, and there you have it very clearly why you recommend one. But many intuitition has a major, but complicated, influence. times it is a little weaker. Maybe you have made One respondent explained: some calculations that are not very clear, but you Of course, it’s very important. But I firmly believe have made others and maybe have seen earlier cases that intuition is a summarized picture you get from that remind you of it, but you cannot really put all the experience and the knowledge you have. So I your finger on what it is. Like when it’s more vague don’t think that intuition is hocus pocus or but you anyway feel very strongly that this is the something that you should be sceptical about. It’s a one you believe in (Computational chemistry, gut feeling. Very important. And I think that it’s person 6). based on things that are inside you and that you should absolutely trust it (Computational An organic chemist described intuition as the chemistry, person 7). ability to make combinations and explain how chemical structures can be visualized into a type of All respondents expressed in various ways that harmony: there is a relation between intuition and creativity. Many respondents claimed that intuition and For me, intuition is almost emotional; it’s like that things look good. For example, if I have a synthesis creativity greatly overlap. In some cases, two that I am working with, I can get a feeling that “this respondents thought that intuition and creativity should work” . . . it’s something that is very useful in are basically the same concept. But they what I do, because it has to do with combining emphasized that intuition cannot be controlled earlier pieces of evidence – call it intuition. But it is and creativity can, for example, through imagination and an ability to make combinations. imagination and domain knowledge: It’s like you feel intuitively that it’s right (Organic chemistry, person 4). You cannot do something if you don’t know the tools: the carpenter must know his tools. One respondent emphasized the strong One researcher provides a concrete example of relationship to knowledge and pointed out the how intuition links to creativity: ambiguitiy of intuition in the research process and Intuition and creativity go together. It’s not so easy how to handle it: to separate them. You also must have intuition; it’s Intuition is based partly on the experience of not always that it must be that way. For example, having being a part of and seen many examples and entrepreneurship need not always lead to getting then being able to connect the experience with . . . there the quickest way. There can be other people But also being able to digest many different signals who help make a decision. It’s exactly the same into a conclusion – that’s some kind of partial thing that you do in the lab. You might have a target explanation of what intuition is, I think. The molecule but a lot of different ways of getting to it. difficulty is that if you look at calculation methods, Not only using intuition but a combination of intuition is like neural networks; there is no intuition and experience, in any case; one person explanation. You can train yourself in calculation maybe chooses a way that leads to being able to models, calculating responses that you see are make the substance more quickly than the others, pretty good, but you do not have the vaguest idea of for example. That you really can produce it how the algorithms have come to that result. But (Organic chemistry, person 4). that there are other robust calculation methods that are more rational, where you can understand the Another respondent gave this example, which coefficient that appears. And man’s brain has an points out that intuition can also be an obstacle to ability to weigh in all types of information and creativity: backgrounds and experiences into something Yes, the connection is probably complicated. I’d say that is a decision or an intuition or whatever you that creativity can be damaged by too much can call it. And it is good when it is rational. It is less intuition and especially this unconscious intuition. good when it is irrational. I think we are colored by Then I’m worried about getting stuck in a rut. That many irrational things (Computational chemistry, in some way, it may be wrong to say that it person 6). quantitatively obstructs creativity, but it stops it, I think there is a risk that it stops creativity In conclusion, all respondents expressed to varying qualitatively in a narrower niche. If you dare to degrees that intuition in the context of challenge and question your own intuitive solution pharmaceutical research is an intinsic ability to to problems, then you maybe broaden your produce various associations for which experience perspective and come to – I would not say more or 273
  • 8. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 less creative, I mean not fewer or more creative worry, like: “Damn, I can’t put this thing aside.” solutions – but you may reach other qualities, and You can’t fall asleep at night, and you don’t really they in turn are difficult to evaluate, which is better understand why you have that worried feeling. It or which is worse? (Computational chemistry, must be some kind of intuition that you have. But at person 6). the same time it’s actually – you can actually describe it like you have broad competence. I think Although the notion of intuition is percieved as that the people who are good researchers are the something important, almost all respondents said ones who have the ability to store information in that intuition is rarely or never discussed in the their heads and bring it out and remember that: organization, for example: “this doesn’t really go together with the article I It [creativity] is discussed at times. I am one of read seven years ago”, and they get it out and look at it. Okay, it must be because of this. That ability to those people who makes just these, if you could do be able to store that information and retrieve it rational methods for working instead, uses (Pharmacology, person 1). experimental design, thinks through why you do an experiment and so on. Many people say: “Yes, A specific example of how intuition plays a role in when we’re designing drugs, we must let the drug discovery research is given in this example. chemists use their intuition, you know?” And that The researcher, in organic chemistry and makes them say: “Yes, but I’ve darn well been working with synthetic chemistry for 20 years, and computational drug design, was involved in a I get a feeling that if we put an amide group here, screening project that was looking for a new then there will be higher activity”. And then the cardivascular drug compound. The task was to discussion comes directly into: “Yes, to what extent invent a pathway for how to synthesize a new should we let the chemists use their intuition?” And chemical structure. Computational chemistry is of course, it does happen that structures that you based on computational technology being able to find out are good have been intuitively designed. visualize and simulate the way in which drug And then you can ask yourself if it’s what we call molecules and targets (e.g. large proteins or an serendipity and how much serendipity is colored by enzyme) may interact: intuition that someone has through experience. But research can be maximizing the chance to have . . . it can be small things, you might get something serendipity, although where intuition is maybe a back – you work in a project, you get back data and positive factor. Sometimes anyway. I think it’s very get the feeling that something is wrong. It’s just not important to be aware of intuition. Going on right. You look at the pattern and see for example intuition without knowing it yourself. It’s like what structures are active, what are not active, you analogous to being unaware. Lack of knowledge is look at the pattern and you feel that “no, this is not pretty safe, but not knowing about your own lack of right.” And what do you do then? Of course you try, knowledge, unawareness, that is not good. And I for example, you screen them again, you test them think it’s the same with intuition, except in the one more time and find out that it is wrong, other direction, because intuition can be a good everything does not really work the way it should or thing, especially if you understand it and deal with that it really is what it looks to be, and then there’s it in a healthy way (Computational chemistry, still something that is not right and then you must person 6). go further and then maybe it has something to do with the mechanism. You must keep on working Here, a researcher contrasted the role that and modifying. You have to maybe get to the intuition might play (although it is a vague, less bottom of the thing that is not right. The picture is controllable concept) with the present not completely clear. And you proceed in that way and discover something else. Yes, you get the organization and its strong emphasis on cost feeling that this is not quite right. And you work on effectiveness, detailed project plans, and a it, make sure that you go on trying to get to the controlled drug discovery process: bottom of it. I have had that experience in projects The drug development process is not so damned (Computational chemistry, person 7). rational as a lot of people would like it to be, instead intuition can prove to be extremely significant. And In conclusion, all respondents express the notion intuition comes, I think, you can make it easier for that intuition in different perspectives and them by having a long-term view in the disease disciplines plays an important role in drug discovery area. I think it’s much easier to follow your research. In addition, most of the respondents intuition if you have worked within a specific argued that intuition is strongly linked to creativity. disease area for a long time than when you have more general intuition about different things. It’s like a feeling when you just read a scientific paper 6.3 Intuition and organizational aspects you feel that this – sometimes you can have some To make the research more effective and increase kind of worried feeling – you feel that this is innovative output, the influence of various important for our work, but you don’t know what. technologies (e.g. high throughput screening and And then you can’t let it go. And sometimes then the whole thing gels and you realize: “Yes of computational drug design) is now an important course!” And then if you have even more luck, it can part of pharmaceutical research. These new lead to success. And without what you could define scientific screening methods represent an attempt as intuition that gave some person that feeling of to use various forms of what Bachelard (1984) 274
  • 9. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 ´ ´ calls phenomenotechniques, “technologies of for continuity too, but they have not done that visualization” that enable faster identification of anyway. I mean, the press gets harder and harder NCEs. The technologies involve a completely new on the organization too. There must be more and more targets, there are projects and so on and so way to manage scientific data and information. forth. I mean, there is hardly time for being able to These technologies might make routine work more sit down and think. You must put together reports efficient but may be an obstacle to scientific for different levels all the time. You are driven by creativity (see Thomke and Kuemmerle, 2002, having to have something positive to say at these p. 631; Cardinal, 2001). However, as a meetings, and you focus on coming up with representative for top management pointed out, something for them, but that maybe is not really the increasing role of intuition might have to what you should be doing after all, but maybe you should work a little, little more long term, and you bridge that gap: miss that with this type of project (Organic . . . if you can use technologies in routine work and chemistry, person 5). make things more quickly and perhaps more precise, get more reliable results like a lot of these Another aspect of intuition is that it is seen as robot systems can do than if you are doing it something mysterious, and subsequently manually then it is a great advantage, which should unprofessional or nonscientific; a chemist also actually give people more time to think explains: creatively. Many successes in automatization make it possible for us to have access to completely new There are prejudices. I mean that intuition is built amounts of data that we can treat in a completely on – like I said, what I believe – earlier experience. different way than before, because we have so much And you can easily be led to believe something that more data. We can see patterns and other things is a preconceived idea and that directs you too that maybe would otherwise be completely much, and you don’t look at the facts that exist impossible to identify. You should look at these (Computational chemistry, person 7). technologies as tools and then there is always a The importance of leadership and intuition may human factor when you are looking at data. This not be obvious. However, a respresentative from evaluation, you have to put it into its context. Is it actually reasonable? Should we choose this senior management pointed out the need for chemical structure that had a signal in this high management attention in relation to intuitive throughput screening? Or is it perhaps completely dimensions in drug discovery: impossible to do, modifying it so that it can be Yes, because as a leader, the point is not only to optimised. We don’t have a really good selection push your own ideas, you know, but to listen to the system yet. Instead, we have certain filters so that ideas of the person who is the most recent you can take away characteristics and other things employee. I think it would also send the right but it’s still up to a creative evaluation by an signals if even higher management can accept, so to experienced chemist, and it’s also based on – not speak, the newest guy’s view of the business. As it just knowledge but also on intuition. I think that looks through others’ eyes, too. They come from intuition and research are incredibly important the outside (Discovery senior management, when it comes to seeing that this is darn important. person 3). It may also be creativity. It’s a question of definition, you know, but having an intuitive feeling In conclusion, although intuition in drug discovery about this being the right way and this is an research is claimed to be highly important, the important result (Discovery senior management, respondents argue that it is something that is person 3). seldom or never talked about in the organization. Most respondents disclosed problematic factors Furthermore, the common notion from the when dealing with intuition in the organization. respondents reflects different concerns about how One factor was the way in which intuition is intuition is exploited in the current rationalized increasingly affected when planning and managing drug discovery process. drug discovery research. This is illustrated by one respondent: The organization today is in such a streamlined format in some way, it feels like. The way it works 7. Discussion with us anyway, you maybe work for a period of months with a target and then that is the end of that Pharmaceutical researchers claim that the human and you start on something new and it can in and of faculty of intuition represents thinking that goes itself be very stimulating, but after that time you beyond the strictly rational and representational; have learned what you have started to work with intuition is claimed to be emotional, a gut feeling, and then you must stop and start on something drawing on experience, and vacillating between new. I don’t know – in that way I have a little bit of being rational and irrational. Intuition is a mode of a hard time thinking that we’re working in the right way somehow. There must be continuity in some thinking that accounts for what is not really proved way in the organization and it is a little too divided in scientific terms, but still is valuable knowledge into parts in some way. Yes, I think that it actually in the process of drug discovery and development. feels like that sometimes. I hope that there is room In addition, the faculty of intuition matters in new 275
  • 10. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 drug development. Intuition is a type of thinking coherent theoretical framework developed for use that is captured by metaphors such as “thinking when studying such events and occurrences. So a outside the box” or “seeing the broad picture”, Bergsonian view of intuition could be fruitfully that is, metaphors that depict intuition as the developed within this literature. Rather than ability to see relationships, causalities, and other conceiving of some forms of thinking as being associations for which there are not yet proofs of merely “original” (one trait of what we tend to such relationships. New drug development is a deem as creative), Bergson’s thinking offers an highly specialized activity that consists of many ontological and epistemological model that can different scientific disciplines, and authorities examine what this kind of originality consists of, regulate the process. Consequently, effective for example, if originality in solutions will make management of operations must support new drug interesting and new syntheses of what is already development. If intuition is regarded as the known. At the bottom line, Bergson may be a capacity to make decisions under time pressure – useful ally when criticizing the technical- without complete information (i.e. being subject to instrumental rationality that serves as the bedrock what Herbert Simon calls “bounded rationality”), for all management activities. Standardized then intuition is a highly useful resource in new management solutions for engagement with an drug development. But intuition is, as some of the external world (e.g. calculation, reduction of interviewees pointed out, by no means an extra- continuous realities to discrete events and entities, rational or super-rational capacity that can be and enactment of stable and predictable invoked in cases for which complete information is relationships between different actors) are mostly unavailable; intuition is always at stake because it analytical in nature; the management mentality draws on experiences and emotional faculties. So establishes a world that is manageable (Gephart, invoking intuition is a political issue because by 1996). This works fine as long as such definition, it goes beyond formal decision-making reductionism is applicable. In many cases, systems that are provided. In short, intuition is an management practice cannot rely on its analytical individual and organizational resource that is apparatus and needs to develop practices, complicated to manage and not like new techniques, and systems that can deal with fluidity, technologies, such as HTS, which do not rely on the experiences and emotions of pharmaceutical movement, and change, in brief, when speaking of researchers but rather on automation of the Bergson, what cannot be fully captured by the identification of new chemical substances. rational thinking of the intellect. Grint (1997, p. 9) The pharmaceutical researchers emphasized writes: that intuition is an important resource in new drug Like many other forms of thought, [management development activities. Yet the concept of intuition theory] does tend to rationalize away the paradoxes, chance, luck, errors, subjectivities, is not fully examined in the organization creativity accidents, and sheer indeterminacy of life through literature. If one follows Bergson in conceiving of a prism of apparent control and rationality. intuition as thinking that is “pre-representational” and operates outside of the favored regime of In the case of new drug development, perhaps representation (e.g. mathematics or a scientific what occurs between analytical systems of HTS vocabulary), then intuition has a rather clear and other technologies are never regarded as meaning and role vis-a `-vis more conventional and anything more than such chance, luck, and errors. analytical forms of rationality. For Bergson, So intuition may be representative of a form of rational thinking is analytical in terms of being able thinking that goes beyond these reductionism to reduce a complex matter to a signifying system, modes of thinking. Arvid Carlson, a 2001 Nobel but intuition is synthetic in terms of being able to laureate in medicine with extensive new drug see what is outside of the signifying system. When development experience, testifies to this need for using the metaphor of “single dots constituting a taking the consequences of what one may already line”, then rational thinking is the individual dots know: which we know are there, while intuition enables Especially on the discovery side, it is like walking in synthesis from the line and substantiates the claim a labyrinth, you face many decision points and the that the spaces between the dots are not just voids thing is not to jump in the wrong direction too but are regularities that constitute the line. many times. The first thing you need is luck, and Consequently, it may be argued that the literature then it is the other, what people call intuition . . . And then there is the question: what is intuition? on organizational creativity has not been very Intuition is probably just that, of having a very concerned with the pre-representational forms of incomplete, a very fragmentary basis and of being thinking represented by intuition. It is common to able despite only having fragments to see a pattern address extraordinary contributions and that leads your decision in a certain direction individuals in this literature, but there is no (Carlson, 2003). 276
  • 11. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 Being able to theorize the fragmented, incomplete reproduce knowledge in the pharmaceutical world inhabited by pharmaceutical researchers industry offers limited latitude for creating new remains a challenge for the organization creativity knowledge; and this could be why the industry literature. lacks radical innovation (Horrobin, 2002). We argue that the role of intuition is an important subset of understanding organizational creativity 7.1. Implications for management and a rather unexploited platform for creating new Implementation of a more rationalistic approach knowledge, which demands receptiveness to a to become more effective has been the dominating more critical view of traditional knowledge trend in many large R&D organizations. Many management theory. pharmaceutical companies have turned to rigorous Creativity in the context of the pharmaceutical project and portfolio management to make industry is an ambiguous concept (Sundgren and research more efficient (Schmid and Smith, Styhre, 2003b). The predominant notion of 2002b). One could argue against the trend to creativity stresses something that is purposeful; implement policy that is too rigorous. This study something that other scientists have not done suggests that intuition is an intrinsic part of the before. Creativity must always be based on creative process in drug discovery and thus an accurate knowledge of the specific domain. Thus important organizational resource (Sundgren and organizational creativity in new drug development Styhre, 2003a). The study’s narratives suggest that demands an organizational capacity for becoming intuition and creativity are poorly institutionalized masters of a specific scientific domain, while in research-based organizations. So here, enabling an overview of an area of science. rationalist approaches that draw on A clear message for senior management is to be technoscientific practices (e.g. HTS) would open to discussion within the organization benefit from being supported by continuous, regarding ways in which intuition plays an widely shared narratives on how research, important role within drug discovery research. innovation, and creativity materialize in daily This would enable better understanding of activities in pharmaceutical and other research- organizational creativity in which intuition is not based organizations. The narrative view of seen as a fuzzy concept, but as an asset that could organizational practices (see, e.g. Czarniawska, be in balance with the rationalistic thinking. 1998; Gabriel, 2000) suggests that the process of We argue that intuition is needed, because organizing is embedded in story-telling and joint creativity is an ambiguous concept. As Deleuze sense making of events and occurrences. Narrative and Guattari (1995, p. 18) write: studies of organizations, such as Orr’s (1996) study of copy-machine technicians, Boje’s (1991) In any concept there are usually bits or components that come from other concepts, which study of an office supply firm, Bryman’s (2000) corresponded to other problems and presuposed examination of technology-based firms, and other planes. This is inevitable because each Humphreys and Brown’s (2002) analysis of concept carries out new cutting-out, takes on new organizational identities from a narrative contours, and must be reactivated or recut. On the perspective suggest that the institutionalization of other hand concepts also has a becoming that vocabularies, standard plots, speech genres, and so involves its relationships with concepts situated on forth, support and reinforce organizational the same plane. practices. So this study suggests that an ongoing Acknowledgement of intuition’s role in new drug narrative on intuition and creativity would development would: facilitate more effective research practices. Being . enrich contextual thinking that broadens able to tell stories and share experiences from scope through radical thinking and enrich the highly specialized, sophisticated research-based concept of organizational creativity; work remains as one of the key mechanisms that . increase an organization’s ability to move underlies excellent organizational performance in between different scientific domains within the pharmaceutical industry. Thus, telling stories new drug development; and about intuition and creativity is an integral, yet . enable management to increase the probability somewhat neglected component of the of capturing ideas in an early phase, which pharmaceutical researcher’s skills set. could result in scientific breakthroughs. From the rationalist view within contemporary management theory and from a pharmaceutical industry perspective, the rationalistic view of making research more effective somewhat parallels the dominant knowledge management tradition 8. Conclusion (Styhre, 2002). This tradition tends to manage and distribute knowledge in organizations as fixed and This paper presents a study of the role of intuition ready-made. This trend to codify, integrate and in pharmaceutical research. Conceiving of 277
  • 12. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 intuition as being the ability to synthesize on the in managing research and development”, Organization basis of available information, intuition is Science, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 19-36. contrasted with reductionistic and analytical forms Carlson, A. (2003), personal interview, January. Czarniawska, B. (1998), A Narrative Approach to Organization of thinking. Even though the interviewees argued Studies, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, London and New Delhi. that intuition is a highly useful human faculty, it is Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1995), What Is Philosophy?, Verso, still somewhat controversial to use intuition as the London. basis for decisions. Because intuition was more Dorabje, S., Lumley, C.E. and Cartwright, S. 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