The scientific way to be more Insightful #Scientific #Research #Insight

You are in a meeting with a few others. There is a presentation or document which has been provided to all of you in the meeting. After 20 minutes of the presenter talking and in slide #11, you get a question that pops in your head, about something that was presented.

You ask the question – “Why is it …”?

The presenter responds “Yeah, that’s a good question. I think …”.

A few minutes later in slide #17, another person asks what you think is the exact same question, but phrased differently.

Everyone in the room exclaims “Wow, that’s an insightful question”.

You wonder if it is because you were asking the question early, or because you are never able to get your point across easily, or because others don’t view you as “insightful”.

If you ever wanted to have a bigger impact on most situations, where people consider your point of view as impactful and insightful, then read on.

Over the last 3-4 weeks, I have been reading over 50+ articles, books and research on what Insight is. Here is a summary.

The capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of a person or thing

First, the definition and origins. The word Insight (noun) comes from Scandinavian origins (insikt) meaning inner sight or wisdom.

The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.

Merriam Webster dictionary

John Kounios is the leading insight researcher in the world, and a professor of psychology at Drexel University. He has done extensive work on understanding how everyone can be insightful.

First, most people solve problems in 2 ways

Analytical reasoning or Insightfully

Analytical reasoning is logical and structured.

Insightful thinking is creative.

You dont get insightful just because you meditate

If think you can just meditate on a problem for long and come up with an insight you are probably right, but most of us dont have that luxury.

Insight is like a cat. You can’t order it to appear. You can coax it. But you can’t command it. Creativity and insight flows from a particular brain state. And if you can put yourself in this brain state, you will be more likely to have these creative insights.

John Kounios

You can coax an insight by looking at the problem more creatively.

According to his research, there are 3 things that are important to put your mind in a frame to generate insights.

  1. Positive Mood: Creativity flows from a state of feeling safe or secure. When you feel safe or secure, you can take risks. And creativity is intellectually risky. When you come up with new ideas, they can be wrong. When you try to implement new ideas, you can meet resistance.
  2. Large Spaces: If you’re in a large space – a big office, with high ceilings, or outside — your visual attention expands to fill the space, and your conceptual attention expands.
  3. Take a break: When you take a break from a problem that you’re stuck on and do something completely different, you forget the bad idea that you were fixated on. It allows other ideas, better ideas, to bubble up to the surface.

The problem is these are not solutions that are useful if you are in a meeting room with others (say nothing if you are in a Zoom call).

What can you do to be more insightful then?

There are 5 things I have found, each of which I will expand on next week. They are :

  1. Ask the question “For this to be true, what needs to be false”?
  2. Look for exceptions in the data
  3. Only look for the anomalies in the data, argument or thesis
  4. Reframe the question by assuming you are the “customer”
  5. Ask yourself “If <someone else who you admire> were to look at this problem, how would they frame it?