Can you see it?

Seeing What Others Don’t; THE REMARKABLE WAYS WE GAIN INSIGHTS; author Gary Klein. Click here for a link to the book.

I recently finished this book. In my a typical quasi-book summary, I will include the overall outline and them of the book as well as my notes that I took from the book. The author sought out to answer a few questions.

  • What sparks an insight?
  • What prevents us from grasping an insight? Even when it sits dangling in front of our eyes, ripe for the plucking?
  • Third question: Are there any practical ways to increase the flow of insights?

The author studied 120 cases and classified the studies into five different strategies for gaining insights:

  • Connections:  The strategy offers a clear image of insights as connecting the dots. And it suggests that we can increase insights by exposing ourselves to lots of different ideas that might help us form new connections.
  • Coincidences:  Spotting some events that seem related to each other even though they don’t seem to have any obvious causal link. People who can pick up on trends, spot patterns, wonder about irregularities, and notice coincidences are an important resource. They may often be wrong, so we shouldn’t automatically believe them even if they feel very confident. Nevertheless, they should be listened to, rather than ridiculed, because they just might be on to something.
  • Curiosities:  Curiosities provoke people to investigate further, just as coincidences do. Curiosities differ from coincidences in one way: They are sparked by a single event or observation rather than by the repetition of a pattern.
  • Contradictions: Contradictions are different from curiosity insights. Curiosities make us wonder what’s going on, whereas contradictions make us doubt—“That can’t be right.” 45 out of 120 of the cases involved contradictions insight. 
  • Creative desperation: Creative desperation requires finding a way out of a trap that seems inescapable.  Backed into a wall, insights happen, because you are forced to have one. 

All the 120 cases fit one of these strategies. Most relied on more than one of the five strategies. 

  • Connection insights accounted for 82% of the cases; 98 out of the 120 cases.
  • Contradictions accounted for 38%
  • Coincidences played a role in 10%
  • Curiosities contributed to 71⁄2 %
  • Impasses and creative desperation were found in 25%.

As you can see, the total for all five adds up to more than 100 percent because some of the cases coded for more than one of the themes. They weren’t mutually exclusive.

To improve performance, we need to do two things.

  1. Reduce errors
  2. Increase insights.

Performance improvement depends on doing both of these things.  It is a balance.  Several cases in the book were highlighted on how if a company tries to be too perfect, solely focused on reducing errors, it can stifle insights.  Part of insight is connecting the failures.

Insights transform us in several ways. They change how we understand, act, see, feel, and desire. They change how we understand. They transform our thinking. They change how we act. In some cases insights transform our abilities as well as our understanding.

The habits of mind that lead to insights, our tendency to spot connections and coincidences, curiosities, and inconsistencies are what move us forward.

So what do we do now that we know how to have insights?

We must first eliminate these things:

  • Flawed beliefs; we eliminate this by not fixating on them.
  • Lack of experience; we eliminate this by gaining more experiences.
  • Passive stance; eliminate this by being more active.
  • Concrete reasoning; create more playful reasoning.

By doing the above we create a more advantageous environment to have insights.

Organizations stifle insights because of forces locked deep inside their DNA: they value predictability, they recoil from surprises, and they crave perfection, the absence of errors. Surprises and errors can play havoc with plans and with smooth operations. In their zeal to reduce uncertainty and minimize errors, organizations fall into the predictability trap and the perfection trap.

To increase insights we must allow more mistakes.  In an effort to reduce errors we don’t allow ourselves the necessary failures or errors that will lead us to insights that will move us towards a better answer.

This book illustrates the 120 cases that the author researched.  Each of the cases support and paint the picture of the five strategies highlighted above. I encourage everyone to read this book, it will challenge your current thinking and get you outside the box of your current thinking and it may provide you with an insight on something that could transcend your career or your business.

To your success and your future.

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