Don’t think you have to choose between left- or right-brain thinking when it comes to decision making. In fact, creatives and quants complement each other and can boost strategic thinking within groups. Effective decision making combines the best ideas from humans and machines. Machines are people too.
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Odds are I made up that statistic in the title. Does that make me a quant or a creative? Meanwhile, though, there are critical business decisions to be made. It seems there always are. Making critical business decisions proves we’re very important businesspeople.

We must decide whether to make those decisions with the quants and their shiny petabyte teraflop machines or the creatives and their glorious, soaring humanoid imaginations.

Or not. I vote not.

A recent Op-Ed by Timothy Egan in The New York Times, “Creativity vs. Quants,” eloquently and intelligently brought into the digital age the ancient debate between tastes-great and less-filling. Mr. Egan wisely did not take sides even as he noted victories and defeats for both clans. And yet there is still an either-or undercurrent, perhaps not from Mr. Egan but certainly in the general culture. As for me, I vote not to make quants and creatives an either-or dichotomy.

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When Ron Johnson was fired from JC Penney on April 8, 2013, its stock price was $15.87. It’s easy to see why he was fired: a year earlier the stock was worth twice as much.

JCP’s stock floundered to $13.93 the day after Mr. Johnson was fired. But relax, the price “recov­ered” within a couple of weeks. The stock was cured, doubtless by drinking plenty of fluids like Scotch and water, hold the water. Some­what-happy days are here again.

Except that now, as I write, JCP’s stock price is barely half of what it was under Mr. Johnson.

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It’s easy to tell if a business was profitable after the fact. Unfortunately, we have to place our investment bets before the fact.

As my colleague Ben Gilad has described (“Why Venture Capitalists Fail”), even highly motivated professionals have difficulty consistently placing bets that win. John Bogle founded The Vanguard Group (currently managing $2 trillion) in 1974 on the idea that actively managed mutual funds will not beat a well-run index fund over time.

But regardless of difficulty, we still must place bets. We bet not only when we buy a share of stock. We bet also when we decide where to work and what business to start.

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We are going to tell you two true stories of conflict between top management and product management. One involves a Fortune Global 200 pharmaceuticals company, the other a Fortune 500 consumer-product company. You may be surprised at the way the companies demonstrated skill at competing.

Conflict one: Triple sales!

We’ll start with the pharma giant. Their conflict was about sales goals.

Top man­agement wanted the business to triple sales of a recently launched product in a year. That was clearly a stretch goal but it was not unheard-of in the industry. Prod­uct managers did­n’t mind having a stretch goal, of course, but they wanted to be sure that the goal could be achieved in reality. That conflict is classic and both parties’ views are rational. Moreover, neither party is served by setting bad goals.

The company hired one of us, Mark, to help them quantify where stretch ended and fantasy be­gan for that product.

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