Saturday, November 28, 2015

Seeing What Others Don't

When I read Seeing What Others Don't, by Gary Klein I was hoping for a formula that could be used to help me consistently gain brilliant insights. Wouldn't that be nice?

Klein analyzed a few hundred instances where insights were gained, and along the way we were treated to the case studies:  ground-breaking discoveries in medicine, astronomy, and criminal investigations that started with an insight.

This was Nicolette's book club pick, which I began reading well ahead of the meeting. I started by sampling slowly and then sped-read through to the later chapters. A fascinating premise but unfortunately no reliable method I could use to become consistently brilliant.

Klein concedes there is no one path to gaining insights and models a Triple Path with a common trigger. A new anchor. "Coincidences and curiosities aren't insights in themselves; they start us on the path to identifying a new anchor that we connect to the other beliefs we hold... this shift isn't a minor adjustment... in all paths the anchors in the story after we make an insight are different from the ones we started with." (p. 106)

Napoleon dropped the assumption at Toulon that the French needed to overpower the British - they could threaten resupply lines and cause a retreat. Another example is Aron Ralston, who when trapped by a boulder gave up on saving his right arm and instead used leverage from the boulder to snap the bones and cut off his own arm to save his life. 


"Helping organizations gain more insights means breaking the tyranny of the down arrow in the performance equation. It means dialing back the War on Error. We'll need to restore a better balance between the errors, between trying to reduce errors and deviations on the one hand, and increasing insights on the other (see diagram)... If we think of the down arrow as the brake pedal, organizations need to stop pressing so hard." (p.207)  

"Organizations demonstrate willpower when they act on insights, particularly insights about their primary goals. An insight about a goal isn't abour being flexible and adapting plans in order to reach the original goal. It's about changing the goal itself." (p.217)

One of my favourite quotes comes early on, but Klein uses it as an example of an earlier, simplistic approach that appeals to "magical thinking." I like it anyway:

"happy ideas come unexpectedly without effort, like an inspiration. So far as I am concerned, they have never come to me when my mind was fatigued... they came readily during the slow ascent of wooded hills on a sunny day." 
- German physicist Hermann von Helmjholtz

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