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The Fingerspitzengefühl Way: Its Intuitive Situational Awareness For Businesses That Will Exploit Digital Tech

In today’s lightning-fast digital landscape, businesses must adapt at an unprecedented pace. Traditional models of situational awareness, reliant on slow and rigid data analysis, are no longer sufficient. This is where Fingerspitzengefühl comes in – an intuitive, dynamic philosophy inspired by the swift decision-making of military fighter pilots and experienced combat leaders. Embracing the Fingerspitzengefühl way empowers businesses to not just keep up with digitalization, but to exploit it as a springboard for unparalleled agility and success.

In this article, I’ll first introduce you to the innovative concept of Fingerspitzengefühl and the increasing need for businesses to adopt a more intuitive, dynamic approach to visibility and situational awareness. Further, I’ll introduce you to the military decision-making framework, OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) Loop and how it ties into Fingerspitzengefuhl and today’s digital business environment. Lastly, I’ll detail to you the many advantages of business leaders adopting this new approach to leveraging digital information to assure bold, decisive action.

1. Business Digitalization and a Better Way to Achieve Situational Awareness – Fingerspitzengefühl.

achieve situational awareness - Fingerspitzengefühl
Fingerspitzengefühl, Achieving Digital Situational Awareness

As businesses undergo digital transformation, the sheer volume and velocity of data threatens to overwhelm us. Yet, this same data holds the key insights for us to gain a crucial edge in the marketplace. Indeed, businesses no longer operate in an environment that just slowly changes over time. For instance, today many carefully prepared plans and policies are outdated before they come out of staff committees and presented to decision makers.  Just as worse, decision makers get presented with countless business intelligence (BI) reports that are not accurate, understandable, trusted, nor actionable. 

Indeed, businesses need a better approach to leverage high volume, high velocity data. More specifically, businesses need a masterful way to achieve situational awareness, draw insights, and make optimal decisions in this data rich, high speed digital environment. A promising, much more effective approach to gain insights from voluminous, high-velocity data is drawn from military tactics and strategy called Fingerspitzengefühl. This intuitive approach to gaining situation awareness offers a new paradigm for businesses that transcends clunky, reactive analytical models.  Below is a definition of Fingerspitzengefühl.

Fingerspitzengefühl Definition

“… Fingerspitzengefühl is a German word that translates literally to ‘finger tips feeling,’ but it’s probably easier to understand as ‘intuitive feel’ or ‘having one’s finger on the pulse’”

Taylor Pearson

In fact, for business leaders to act in this digital battlefield of business, they need to cultivate an intuitive feel and situational awareness of their markets, competitors, and customers. This will enable them to make swift, proactive decisions that leave competitors scrambling to catch up. Positively, the Fingerspitzengefühl approach to situational awareness is not just for decisive military leaders, but all experienced leaders that operate in complex domains such as diplomacy, politics, sports, or business.

2. The Operational Tempo of Business Decision-Making Intensifies with Digitalization.

Before discussing this concept of Fingerspitzengefuhl further, let’s look at how digitalization is affecting the operational tempo of business decision-making. Indeed, digitalization has set a blistering pace for business. Now, opportunities and threats now materialize in the blink of an eye. To survive, let alone thrive, companies must match this increased tempo. So, the velocity of businesses’ tempo has intensified because of several new informational aspects of digitalization. So in particular, business leaders need to make more real-time decisions as well as make faster decisions that meet the increasing digitized environment they operate in.

a. Digitalization Factors Intensifying the Tempo of Business Decision-Making

 To detail, this new, intense business tempo is caused by the following digitalization factors.

  • Big Data Visibility Makes Possible Enhanced Situational Awareness. The explosion of “big data” has the potential to provide unprecedented visibility into market trends, customer behavior, and operational performance. Hence, large data sets can provide businesses the opportunity to gain a finer-grained situational awareness than ever before.
  • Analytical Digital Tools Provide More Insights. Sophisticated analytical tools such as AI and data analytics are available to synthesize this vast data trove into actionable insights.
  • Decision Platforms Empower Superior Decision-Making and Provides the Means of Communicating Decisions Fast. For example, AI-powered decision support systems can enable better decision-making across the organization. What’s more, digitalization makes it possible that these decisions are disseminated quickly with crystal clarity throughout the organization.
  • Advanced Business Automation Provides the Means to Implement Decisions Faster and Better. Indeed, advanced automation and AI allow businesses to implement new solutions, optimize existing processes, and manage change rapidly. Specifically, corporations can implement change faster to positively impact business processes, man-machine interfaces, and autonomous automation.

b. Business Leaders Need to Reevaluate How They Gain Insights and Make Decisions in this Digitized World.

So, with the vast amount of digital information, there is a need for businesses to reevaluate their approach to decision-making. This is where the military concept of Fingerspitzengefühl offers a more dynamic approach to gaining situational awareness. For instance, Tiago Forte provides an excellent example of how business leaders need Fingerspitzengefühl. He urges leaders to adopt this instinctual situational awareness “through high-frequency participation at the very center of action, not back in the office making plans”. He further states: 

“Instead of collecting vast amounts of data on every aspect of the business, we make our best guess as to where the constraint lies, and let reality be our guide. Instead of spending vast amounts of time making a detailed plan covering every contingency, we acknowledge that we don’t have answers, only hypotheses.”

Now, let’s look at Fingerspitzengefühl in context of how military leaders have used this instinctive situational awareness approach. In particular, there is a celebrated military decision-making framework developed by Colonel Boyd while he was a fighter pilot. It is called the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) Loop that I’ll discuss below.

3. How the Military OODA Loop Concept Is Applicable to Business Decision-Making.

The military OODA Loop concept translates surprisingly well into the business sector. At its core, the OODA Loop is a cycle that encourages continuous assessment and rapid response to new information.  Specifically, OODA is a 4-step, continuous and repeatable process that stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. So, to get a better idea on how this decision framework along with Fingerspitzengefühl can work for businesses, below is a high-level overview of the OODA Loop.

Business Decision-Making Steps Within the Iterative OODA Loop
  • Observe. In this step, a business focuses on understanding their market. Here, they use multiple sources of data, keep an eye on trends, and analyze customer behavior. 
  • Orient. Next, the organization analyzes the information they have gathered in the first step. The intent in this step is to identify patterns and trends. Thus, they focus on the most critical information, choke points, and anomalies. From there, they evaluate the reliability of the information. This is Fingerspitzengefühl where experienced decision-makers use observations and orientation to achieve instinctive situational awareness.
  • Decide. Here, business leaders make informed decisions. This includes considering multiple options, prioritizing decisions, involving the right stakeholders, and making decisions.
  • Act. In this step, the business executes decisions. As this is an organizational setting, business leaders need to communicate clearly, establish clear goals, and monitor progress.
  • Repeat. As this is an iterative process, the OODA cycle repeats itself over and over again. This loop, when executed effectively, can enable a business to outmaneuver competitors by being more responsive to change and more aligned with market demands. 

For a more detailed discussion of how businesses can leverage the OODA decision framework, see my article, The Forgotten OODA Loop: It’s An Amazing Military Decision Framework And Awesome Gift To Business.

“Time is the dominant parameter. The pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is caught responding to situations that have already changed.”

Harry Hillaker  (who worked with Boyd as the Chief Designer of the lightweight F16 fighter) 

4. The Advantages of Businesses Leveraging a More Dynamic Approach to Achieving Situational Awareness – Fingerspitzengefühl.

Fingerspitzengefühl represents a quantum leap beyond static, data-driven approaches to situational awareness. It allows businesses to tap into a deep, intuitive understanding of their environment. This, in turn, enables lightning-fast, proactive decision-making. Now, this approach for experienced business leaders offer immense advantages. In particular, masterful leaders can seize opportunities before they materialize on competitors’ radar to heading off threats still on the horizon. In this fast-paced digital world where adaptability is the ultimate asset, Fingerspitzengefühl provides unparalleled agility. The advantages include:

Fingerspitzengefühl Business Advantages
  • Enhanced Decision-Making Capabilities. Indeed, businesses can make decisions with a speed and accuracy that outpaces competitors mired in slow, reactive analysis.
  • Increased Operational Efficiency. With intuitive situational awareness companies streamline operations by proactively identifying and addressing inefficiencies before they become major issues.
  • Better Risk Management. Positively, businesses can detect potential risks on the horizon. Thus, this enables them to develop and implement mitigation strategies well before these risks materialize.
  • Amplified Customer Insights. This deep, intuitive understanding fostered by Fingerspitzengefühl provides businesses with an extraordinary grasp of customer needs and preferences. Thus, this keeps the focus on the continuous adaptations of highly vibrant products and experiences.
  • Adapting Quickly to Market Changes. With Fingerspitzengefühl, companies can sense shifts in the market landscape as they occur. As a result, they can respond with an agility that leaves slower-moving organizations scrambling to keep up.
  • Leveraging Data for Better Predictive Insights. By combining predictive analytics with intuitive situational awareness, businesses can quickly uncover insights that enable proactive strategic moves.
  • Enhancing Collaboration and Communication. Fingerspitzengefühl promotes a shared understanding and situational awareness across teams. Thus, this ensures everyone is aligned and working towards common goals with maximum effectiveness.
  • Boosting Innovation and Creativity. The dynamic, adaptive mindset fostered by Fingerspitzengefühl encourages out-of-the-box thinking and novel solutions, driving innovation and fueling growth.
  • Balancing Intuition and Data in Business Strategy. Fingerspitzengefühl allows businesses to harmoniously blend the power of data with the wisdom of intuition. Consequently, this creates a uniquely effective approach to strategy and decision-making.

To learn more about Fingerspitzengefühl and many more decision-making concepts associated with the OODA Loop, see my article, The Thrilling OODA Loop: The Way To Shatter Your Competitor’s Decision Cycle And More Breakthrough Concepts. Also, for more insightful references about Fingerspitzengefühl, see:

For more from Unvarnished Facts’, see the latest articles on Decision-Making and Conflict.

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