The Art Of Insight: How To Have More Aha! Moments by Charles KieferThe Art Of Insight: How To Have More Aha! Moments by Charles Kiefer

The Art Of Insight: How To Have More Aha! Moments

byCharles Kiefer, Malcolm Constable

Paperback | April 8, 2013

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'One insight can change your life, and the next can change your organization or even the world. Everybody has had the occasional insight - this book is a concise guide to simple actions that can help you have more consistent and timely insights. Put the ideas in these pages to good use and you will become a more effective thinker. Fresh ideas will abound. You will make better decisions quickly and confidently, find solutions to longstanding problems, and ultimately enjoy a more effortless and engaging life. The path to finding insights is simple once you know what to look for and how to listen. Kiefer and Constable's Insight Thinking Methods provide a guiding formula and practical steps to increase the frequency, strength, and quality of the insights that you experience each day. This is not a rigid set of rules - it's a creative pursuit. You'll find your own personal, individual approach to developing an insight state of mind and practicing insight listening, while having more insights on the topics that matter to you most. The book is supplemented with free web-based exercises, examples and illustrations (the draft website is at password: ArtOfInsight).
Charles Kiefer graduated from MIT with degrees in theoretical physics and management and in 1976 founded Innovation Associates (IA) to help large organizations innovate. The firm also offered a legendary education program, Leadership & Mastery, which counts more than 1,000 executives in its alumni base of 8,000. In 1990, IA cofounder P...
Title:The Art Of Insight: How To Have More Aha! MomentsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 8.56 × 5.56 × 0.51 inPublished:April 8, 2013Publisher:Berrett-koehlerLanguage:English

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ISBN - 10:1609948092

ISBN - 13:9781609948092

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Introduction: Aha Moments One insight can change your life, and the next can change your organization, or even the world. We are all born with the capacity for insight, a capacity that remains with us our entire lives. Insights are those “aha” moments when the clouds part and the solution to your problem arises right in front of you. They happen when fresh new light is spread on a subject you’ve considered for some time. With insight, we enjoy wisdom, balance, and perspective. We have all experienced these moments of deep understanding, even if we might not know what to call them or how to describe them. They occur while we’re showering, jogging, daydreaming, sleeping, or talking with someone about unrelated subjects. Suddenly, usually when we are not consciously thinking about the subject, an answer pops into our heads. The fog lifts. The issue is clarified. The confusion dissolves. And the situation becomes so simple and so obvious that we can’t imagine how we missed it before. Surprisingly, these moments can be made to occur with much greater regularity. With them, you will find new paths of thought and new solutions that are permanent and easy to implement. Think of a tricky problem that you have lived with for too long in either your work or your personal life. No doubt, you have had insights toward solving this problem. You experienced new thoughts on the subject that provoked a deeper understanding. Or you saw something fresh that lifted your spirits and washed away a low mood, clearing the space for a new line of inquiry. As we explore the nature of insight, you’ll see how these past experiences can help you reconnect with the principles and source of your insights. Our goal is for you to generate insights quickly and easily so that with greater regularity, you can access them when you need them most. Put simply, if you want more insights in your life, this book is for you. It is a concise guide to simple actions that can help anybody cultivate a habit of having more frequent and timely insights. With the appearance of more insights, you will make better decisions, find solutions to difficult problems, and offer fresh thinking on any subject. Regrettably, for most of us, life trains us out of employing this natural thinking process, and we lose the habit of making insight a more regular and expedient occurrence. The approach and methods offered in this book will reconnect you with that ability and help you increase the frequency, strength, and value of the insights you experience each day. If you feel like you make poor decisions, getting stuck in ruts of low-quality thinking; if you continually feel the need to work hard to overcome resistance; if you would like to experience more confidence, more resilience, and a greater sense of peace; or if you simply want more insights, both big and small, in your life, then this book is for you. Based on what people who have mastered the methods in this book report, you should experience the following benefits at work and at home: • Your problems won’t hang around and will often seem to solve themselves. • You’ll make decisions more quickly, with greater confidence, fewer mistakes, and better overall judgment. • Your interactions with other people will improve. • Your personal schedule will relax, and you will find time to live and work with ease. • Energy will be freed for the things you care about. • Meetings will be shorter and flow efficiently. • Better decisions will be made. • Solutions will emerge that are easily implemented. All these phenomena are a result of an improved capacity for insight. The applications for what we have termed The Art of Insight (TAOI) are limitless. Whether you want to make better decisions, solve intractable problems, understand others better, or gain a new perspective on anything, insights are the answer. As you read further into this book, you are going to appreciate something that you have always suspected, if not known. There is no set recipe for how to have more insights. And, unlike the formulaic steps in many business and self-improvement books, the practice of Insight Thinking is more art than science. Insight is a form of thought, and of course, everyone thinks a bit differently, just as everyone paints or writes differently. Like any art, it can be developed. With practice and attention, we can foster this innate capacity and enjoy the many benefits of a more insightful life. This Book We’re going to give you a summary of what’s in this book. First, we want to call your attention to the difference between what we term intellectual learning and insight learning. We hope you’ll read and absorb this book with the latter. Intellectual learning relies on accumulating facts, processing those facts, storing those facts in memory, and then connecting them in a very methodical and thoughtful way. Insight learning works differently: it’s active in the sense that we are looking for insights, but it also occurs passively on its own through a subconscious reflective process that is more receptive than active. Often very diverse facts we already know are put together in a new way. Insight learning is all about seeing something for yourself and not just storing new information in your memory bank. Both of these types of learning are very valuable, but while you are reading this book, we hope you will aim for insight learning. The Book in a Few Pages We believe there are two reasons you are not having as many insights as you could. First, you may not realize you should be looking for insight. Our thinking is aimed mostly at interrogating our memory for solutions to problems. The operative assumption is that the answer lies in memory if we could only access it. But as you will soon see (and probably know already), an insight is a thought we’ve never had before. It’s a fresh thought. If you want an insight, you don’t want to replow what you already know yet another time; you want to look into the unknown. This is common sense: if you know what you are looking for, you are more apt to find it. So chapter 1 is aimed at helping you clarify what insights are for you. After you do so, we promise they will be easier to find. Second, while the circumstances in which people have their insights are as varied as the individuals, everyone we have talked with has reported a common state of mind. It’s an easygoing, unpressured, open, and ungripped state. The more often you reside in this state of mind, the more often you will have insights. Conversely, when you are agitated and bearing down with your thinking, insights become more elusive. While the Insight State of Mind is our natural, default state, we inadvertently think ourselves out of it. We simply need to regain our natural capacity to gravitate toward a good state of mind in order to have more insights, as outlined in chapter 2. For all we know, insights are available all the time, but we just aren’t hearing them. Maybe our thinking radio is tuned to a different channel; maybe our mental grinding acts like a nearby construction site, drowning out the insight channel entirely. The remedy is learn to listen for insight, and this is the focus of chapter 3. We have found that while you can take many of the actions we suggest in this book and consequently have more insights in your life, you run the risk of signing up for a lifetime of unnecessary work. In chapter 4 you will see that being insightful is a function of how you think, and as you daily deepen your appreciation and understanding of how thought works for you—having insight into your thinking—you will discover that insights will be brought to you in the course of life with no work on your part whatsoever. Here are the four key elements of The Art of Insight: • Understanding what insights are and actively looking for them • Occupying a state of mind in which you’re apt to have insights more frequently • Learning how to listen in such a way that you hear insights in yourself and others • Growing your understanding of how thought works in your life In chapter 5 we offer practical illustrations of TAOI being used by individuals, and then in chapter 6 we illustrate how it is used in organizations. The accounts in this book should be used to stimulate your own insights. Reflect on what resonates and strikes true for you. Even when you don’t relate to something, it can still help you sharpen your own understanding. Remember, a state of mind cannot be expressed fully with words. Our language can only point you in the right direction. Where This Book Came From Over the course of our combined forty years of management consulting, we became increasingly fascinated by the observation that so many intelligent executives, although armed with pages upon pages of data, logic, and analysis, nonetheless ended up making boneheaded decisions. It wasn’t a rare occurrence. And yet we saw exceptions. From time to time, clients on their own accord, or sometimes with our help, achieved a strategic insight—a simplifying aha moment that often radically redefined their business and the competitive space to their advantage. Once articulated, these strategic insights seemed like simple common sense to everyone. They were easily understood and acted upon. In fact, implementation usually occurred with far less effort than the forced march that often characterized strategy implementation. Could that phenomenon become a more regular occurrence? Was there some sort of formula for it? How might we go about looking for it? For more than fifteen years we have helped senior managers realize that the phenomenon of insight itself holds the key to these questions. As we explored these concepts with our clients, we found that it is indeed possible to increase the frequency, strength, and traction of insights, and by doing so, improve both thinking and decision making. In the course of our explorations, we reviewed research on the subject, but what we found to be far more useful were the numerous conversations we had with professionals engaged in helping executives, managers, and their teams be more insightful. When given a few basic principles and methods, clients reported having more insights and exhibiting better judgment as a matter of course. They solved problems more quickly and identified and avoided potential mistakes with greater regularity. Moreover, the plans and strategies they developed were creative and enduring—significant departures from prevailing thought and straightforward and unfettered in their implementation. As you might expect, what we learned about insight is far more widely applicable than just for improving business performance. All the principles we’ve found apply equally well to the activities of daily living. Imagine what it would be like to live a more insightful life. Through our shared experiences and with stories from our clients, colleagues, and friends, we hope you will join us on a quiet walk through our discoveries about practical insight, learning how you can increase the frequency and quality of your insights every day. How to Read This Book We would like to encourage you to read this book in a slightly different manner than you might be used to. Below you will find some tips about how you can approach reading so that you can absorb the concepts in a deeper way than you might otherwise. In addition, we hope you will take advantage of the Online Learning Experience that accompanies this book on our website TAOI Online Learning (see the link in “Online Learning Experience” in the back of the book). Developing Insight Is an Art and an Empirical Science Earlier we observed that everyone has the innate capacity for insight. Developing it is an art, and in this field, everyone is an artist—latently, a very capable one. But like any art, it requires practice to develop fully. Insight is a topic that has yet to be scientifically pinned down. We have great respect for the scientific method, and in this conversation, we are going to point toward empirical science as contrasted with theoretical science. Everything we posit should be and is testable in your everyday situations. So, you need not believe the concepts as you read them. In fact, it’s better if you don’t believe. Instead, simply allow yourself to make your own discoveries about insight and about how you think. Then, test your findings to see if they work for you. Use your own life as a laboratory. Here is an illustration. Thirty years ago, Charlie read a transcript of a keynote speech by Willis Harman, professor emeritus of engineering at Stanford University and then-president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Willis spent the latter part of his career working on how to study consciousness scientifically. Addressing intuition, Willis observed that if we have an intelligence within us that is greater than rational thought alone, then it is reasonable to allow that intelligence to inform all our daily choices and actions. Charlie remembers the experience of reading that speech: I can’t recall Willis’s exact words, but they triggered a thought for me, and I resolved to test my realization with my own personal experiment. For the next twenty-four hours, as best I could, I based every action on my intuitive sense of what was right—unless a rational assessment showed it to be ill-advised. Instead of prioritizing activities, as I had been taught in time-management classes, and mechanically marching through my design of the day, I selected my first task on the basis of what intuitively felt right and continued this method as I completed each task. (I did make all my scheduled meetings, calls, and so forth, on time.) I remember being faced with a couple of choices of minor consequence. I made them on the basis of feeling and without analysis. Someone (I can’t recall if it was a member of my staff or a client) came to me with a proposed course of action, along with a sound argument in favor, but it didn’t feel right. We had a conversation, and a better alternative surfaced. The outcome? I had a simply fabulous day! It was clear I should continue the experiment, in no small part to rule out any possibility of a fluke. The following day was equally terrific! I extended the experiment until the end of the week, and in a sense, I’m still going. Over the years, I haven’t replaced rational thought, but my intuition developed as a legitimate and often-employed complement to reason. Typically, I revel in a thorough analysis and explore all known alternatives, crunching the numbers on a spreadsheet—I can go on quite a tear. Then, I switch off the intellect entirely and check in with what I feel and what my intuition tells me. While insight isn’t exactly the same as intuition, we’ve included this story here to illustrate the value of running disciplined experiments. We hope you will try this sort of testing and self-assessment as you read this book. Interest within the scientific community in insight, intuition, cognitive science, and the nature of thought has grown considerably in recent years. A great deal of research has been conducted, and much has been written on topics such as neuro-psychology, neurophysiology, and consciousness. By contrast, the source material for this book is based on our experience and on the experiences of our clients. While the findings we share are generally consistent with the formal research we have come across, we have decided to focus on practical approaches that you can apply to your community, workplace, and life. What You “Hear” When You Read Is More Important Than What We Write In the course of our explorations of insight, we attended many meetings and lectures on the subject. Charlie recalls how during one of these lectures, George Pransky, a prominent psychotherapist, spoke about insight, psychological well-being, and related ideas: I listened quietly, as George instructed us, letting his words float through my head without thinking too much about them. Suddenly, a rush of energy hit me, and I had a flash of awareness—a new understanding of how the reality we experience is formed by our thoughts. Moments later, I had a second flash. A major part of my prior understanding was completely reversed! The simplicity of these realizations was, for me, awesome; issues that had intrigued me for thirty years now made sense in a new way. After George’s speech, I approached him, grateful and excited. “My God, George, that was great! I’ve been pondering these things for years. Now it’s all clear to me: why things work the way they do, why life turns out the way it does.” I repeated back to him what he had said, and George responded with the shy, sheepish grin I’ve come to know well: “I’m so pleased for you, but I don’t think I said any of that. In fact, I don’t think I was even talking about the things you now say you just discovered.” Taken aback, I thought, “What’s going on here?” I somehow misunderstood what he was saying, yet I had had a life-changing insight. A few days later, I had still another realization: when it comes to insights, what you hear is more important than what someone else says. Remember What You Already Know Here’s something that you will find really comforting: if you want more insights in your life, you don’t need to learn much more. All of us already hold all the knowledge and experience that we need. Samuel Johnson is said to have observed that people need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. Most authors have a new idea they want you to learn, but since you already know all you need to about insight, simply explaining our ideas or those of our clients and colleagues won’t suffice. Nor will extolling the value of insights—you already know this as well. What we will try to do is show you how to have more insights. Of course, we don’t know how you think, so teaching you how to think differently could be quite a challenge. Luckily for you and us, we don’t have to tackle this. Instead, we will focus on helping you find and reclaim that which you already know. Think of this book as a conversation guiding you toward where to look for insight, not just advice on the specifics of what to do. Very little of our conversation may strike you as new, but fortunately, this means you have nothing to memorize. Even better, anything you rediscover automatically becomes more present in your life—with no further work on your part whatsoever. As you read, don’t be concerned with remembering facts or grasping the material with your intellect. Instead, let yourself capture the topics intuitively. Look for as many insights as you can. Later, we will examine why a bit of latitude or imprecision in language and analysis can help you find more insights. Once you experience an insight of some sort, ask yourself, “Does this really make sense?” Try it out over a few days. Just notice whether it’s true. Don’t worry about doing anything with it. Ultimately, everything true should be observable in some way. By immersing yourself in our stories and examples of the principles of insight, you will begin to habitually access your best thinking—to the point where insight and wisdom will occur with greater frequency in your life. However, our experience has shown us that the principles are not a “prescription” to be followed. Rather, the key is for you to look for your own insights about these principles. A few stories can’t prove a point, at least not a scientific point. Our examples show how you can find your way back to a nice, easygoing state of mind where fresh thoughts can occur. An artist, Carolyn, once had a teacher who talked constantly during class about art, technique, and anything else that came to his mind while his students were painting. During the first few days of class, Carolyn found Michael’s chatter distracting, but she didn’t say anything since it was apparently his style and no one else seemed to have a problem with it. As time went on, she learned to tune out the prattle and immerse herself more deeply into her painting. One day, she explained (with a sense of pleasure) how the chattering had actually trained her to become more deeply immersed in her painting. It helped her attain an effortless focus where she was less conscious of the chatter of her internal mind. As she spoke to us about this, she had an insight: this must have been Michael’s intent all along—jabbering away to get his students “out of their heads” and into their art. Let our stories about insight serve the same function for you. Reading This Book for Insight Psychologists have identified a state of mind that is most conducive to insights. Although more than a few of our clients say they get insights while reading, only a small percentage report reading as their primary path to insight. Those who get insights while reading generally describe being in a quiet place, deeply engrossed in a subject, as opposed to skimming pages or rushing through an e-mail. Insights that occur during reading are often not about a concept the writer is addressing. Instead, they are often new understandings about something indirectly related, like Charlie experienced while listening to George Pransky. Sometimes, the insights are entirely unrelated. Nevertheless, reading can be a very powerful tool. In 1977, reading an article by the management consultant Dave Berlew provided one of the most important insights of Charlie’s professional career. In the article, Berlew described the power of what he termed Common Vision—an idea he and others employed in the Peace Corps—and the extraordinary results it produced. Connecting Berlew’s ideas to his own understanding of the relationship between thought and reality, Charlie saw why Common Vision worked and founded Innovation Associates based on that insight. How does one read for insight? We haven’t discovered a universal answer, but we bet you have an answer that works for you. Pause for a moment and think of a time when you had an insight while reading. What was the setting? For the most part, you probably find it less effective to cram your reading into tiny slots during the middle of a crowded day. It’s better to clear a block of time and allow for reflection as you read. What helps you get the most out of your reading? How would you be most apt to absorb something of significance? Consider our exploration of insight an invitation to know yourself more deeply. You may notice that you like to do your reflective reading before you go to bed, when the time seems ripe to read contemplatively. You’ll meet our colleague Ed later. His wife calls this gazebo reading, a time when she can let everything disappear for a while. Online Learning Experience Reading about insight is one thing. Acting on what you read is quite another. This book is supplemented with web-based exercises and illustrations that are an important complement to this text. We have developed these exercises over the past fifteen years, and if you use them, you will connect with and absorb the methods in this book in a deeper and more permanent way. In any art, practice is all-important. Finally, when we began our exploration for methods to increase insight and wisdom, one of our early challenges was that none of our clients had any sense of how often they currently had insights; they only knew that insights didn’t come as frequently as they would like. We wanted to teach our clients some of the ideas we were discovering, but in the absence of a baseline, how could we clearly discern whether someone’s “insight meter” had actually changed? In the section titled “Assessing Your Progress,” you will find an exercise to gauge how your capacity for insight is changing. If you are interested in this, you may want to jump to it to create a baseline before you read much further. image If you put the insights and methods of this book to good use, you will become a more effective thinker. Fresh ideas will abound. You will make better decisions quickly and confidently. You will find solutions to long-standing problems. And you will ultimately enjoy a more effortless and engaging life. The path to finding insights is simple, but simple things are sometimes not so easy. If you sharpen your image of what an insight is and reconnect with the clearheaded, calm, and receptive state of mind you dwell in when insight occurs, rest assured, you will have more insights. We aim to provide you with guidance and practical steps to increase the frequency, strength, and quality of the insights you experience each day. You will learn how to cultivate your own Insight State of Mind and practice Insight Listening while having more insights on the topics that matter to you most.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Aha Moments
Chapter 1. What Is Insight?
Chapter 2. The Insight State of Mind
Chapter 3. Insight Listening
Chapter 4. Thinking Into and Out of an Insight State of Mind
Chapter 5. Insight in Practice
Chapter 6. The Art of Insight in Organizations
Chapter 7. Life In an Insight State
Assessing Your Progress
About the Authors

Editorial Reviews

“Creating insights isn't a magical process-this book provides a practical framework for generating insights for yourself and your organization. We've used many of these techniques with our innovation teams and they work.” -Wayne Delker, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Vice President, The Clorox Company “Conventional wisdom holds insights to be elusive and mysterious. Kiefer and Constable turn conventional wisdom on its head with this marvelous addition to the libraries of all those devoted to improving the quality of their thinking.” -Len Schlesinger, President, Babson College, and former Vice Chairman, Limited Brands “In my forty-five years in business, I have found insights to be invaluable in strategy formulation and vital in forming best-in-class products and services. This book provides a simple road map of how to achieve such insights.” -Dick Kovacevich, retired Chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo & Company