In 2016 Hillary Clinton was defeated in the US presidential election.

Apparently there was a guy selling hats displaying both candidates’ names outside the Rockerfeller Center in New York.

‘There will be a big upset in this election. Trump hats are selling like hotcakes,’ he said.

It was hard to believe.

Just a few days before the elections at a behavioural economics conference in Manhattan, academics and experts had crunched every data points and made predictions in exactly the opposite.

The data showed Hillary was on track to win, but the sales in Trump hats didn’t lie.

The data worth paying attention to was closer just outside selling hats and not inside the conference making formulas.

It was in the stories of the people on the streets of towns where those who wrote the algorithms didn’t live and work.

Things are no different when it comes to innovating in the startup world.

Where was the data that predicted the need for and subsequent success of Google, Facebook and the iPhone, or the decline of Kodak, BlackBerry and orange juice?

Who would have predicted that you will allow strangers to sleep in your house? AirBnB proved that it would be possible.

Who would have thought that you will be going around town picking up and dropping off strangers, remember our parent’s advice? Never talk to strangers. It turns out according to Uber/Bolt we actually don’t mind getting into stranger’s cars and talking to them.

When it comes to making predictions about which ideas will fly, we tend to forget that we can only use the information we have at hand about the past or the present to make a judgement call or prediction about the future.

We don’t [or can’t] know the significance of things we have no information about, or have not yet thought to measure, and can’t possibly know for sure.

Data may be able to tell us what people do and how they do it, but critically, not why they do it.

Intuition, on the other hand, enables us to tap into our shared human experience to reveal a fundamental truth about what it is people want and need.

Often there is no reliable data to go on, which is why the disposable nappy was invented by a frustrated mother, and Warby Parker was the brainchild of a guy who had gone without glasses for a university semester because he could not afford to replace the ones he had lost.

These stories of curious, empathetic and imaginative people who built successful businesses by seeing problems that were begging for a solution are retold over and over again.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for proof that their idea will work. They learn to trust their gut and go. The build, iterate, test, launch and repeat.

The American elections are closer, it will be interesting to know which hats are selling like hot cakes.

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