Understanding indwelling through studying intuitions of Nobel laureates and top chefs

Viktor Dörfler, Marc Stierand

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Our symposium contributions builds on two previous empirical projects that both had a strong emergent component on the use of intuition. Both projects focus on extraordinary practitioners in their discipline, namely science and haute cuisine respectively. In the first project, Viktor interviewed 17 Nobel Laureates, trying to understand the cognitive complexity at the highest level of knowledge. In the second project, Marc interviewed 18 top chefs, trying to achieve a better understanding of creativity of haute cuisine. In the current study, we bring these two project together, adopting an approach similar to meta-analysis, comparing the emergent patterns of both projects, seeking synergies and contradictions, and looking for additional insights from new emerging patterns. Both studies were conducted using variants of a phenomenological inquiry, both aimed at obtaining the richest possible data and developing modes of analysis that promise preserving the most of this richness. The similarity of the two methodological approaches is thus sufficient to allow for meta-synthesis. As we intend this study to be a preliminary pilot of a more detailed inquiry, we are deliberately not aiming for a systematic comparison, rather for ad-hoc anecdotal observations of salient features.

Working over the last 10 years on the two projects, we already started to observe interesting similarities between how Nobel Laureates and top chefs think. One interesting similarity is a highly philosophical thinking, which outsiders would find counterintuitive, but we found this aspect very natural. It was also interesting to see how in both professions the highest regarded practitioners describe their creativity in very similar ways, even if there are minor differences in the typical terminology. The value systems of our interviewees also show remarkable similarities. In this paper we particularly examine how our interviewees talk about intuition and how they use it. We conclude our study with a particularly interesting concept of ‘indwelling’, as the two underlying studies together provide a unique opportunity for achieving a deeper understanding. Namely, top chefs do a great deal of work with their hands, and they often feel that intuition has a strong characteristic of embodiment. Experimental scientists feel the same way. However, we have found a similar characteristic in the case of theoretical scientists as well, although they would not call it an embodiment, as their work happens in their minds. Bringing these two aspects together, we suggest that indwelling is a generalised version of the concept of embodiment, which does not require materiality but has a very similar, only mental characteristic. We believe that a deeper understanding of indwelling will be exceptionally useful for future studies of intuition. We also turn around our methodological argument at the end: our meta-analysis was aimed at our intuitive learning, rather than at the empirical data, achieved by the two authors from dwelling in (see below) the two specific contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2018
Event78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - Chicago, United States
Duration: 10 Aug 201814 Aug 2018


Conference78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
Abbreviated titleAoM 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • intuition
  • creativity
  • personal knowledge
  • tacit knowledge
  • indwelling
  • embodiement


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