The waitress came with the check, enclosed in one of those black leather book things. Since they were a table of 14, Ed was mystified as she unhesitatingly set the check down directly in front of him. He wondered: maybe, waiting table, you gradually learn to recognize groups from work, and then how to figure out who will be paying.
He looked at the check. A hundred ten dollars didn't buy as much pizza as it once did, but Ed was sure it was a good investment, and slipped a credit card into the black leather book. He leaned forward, to better see everyone. "I've got this," he said. "Why don't you all get back, and we'll reconvene at 1:30. OK?"
A chorus of 'OKs' and 'See you thens,' as chairs were pushed back and people arose. Marian remained seated. She leaned across the table to Ed. "OK if I ride with you? I have something…"
"Sure, soon as I pay this off."
After everyone left, Marian began, "I hope you aren't doing this pizza on your own."
Ed shook his head. "No, the company will cover it. Especially after someone figures out the answer on the way back to the office from here."
"You hope," said Marian.
"I'm sure it'll happen. It's the shower effect. You know, when it suddenly comes to you in the shower."
is often the key
difficult problemsWhen we work on a difficult problem, a sudden insight is often the key to the solution. By taking the whole group out to lunch, Ed has encouraged them all to put the problem aside, freeing them to stop working on it. And he hopes that that freedom will help stimulate sudden insight.
If we understand how sudden insights happen, and if we can make them happen sooner, we can solve problems faster and better. Here are some tips for generating sudden insights.
- You probably already know what you need to know
- Frequently, it turns out that the key to the solution was already in hand. Find new ways to look at the information you already have.
- Some of what you know is irrelevant
- Subtly clever solutions are often camouflaged by the irrelevant. Try throwing away items that you already know, and then examine what's left.
- The irrelevant often isn't
- Some of what you think is irrelevant might be relevant. Ask yourself, "What if this matters?"
- Abandon the usual approaches
- What makes the problem difficult is that your usual approaches aren't working. Try something completely different.
- Stop trying to solve it
- When you stop trying, you free your brain to stop using conventional approaches. This is one reason why the answer so often comes to us "in the shower."
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- Mickey Kirksey (www.Trane.com), Trane, Inc.
- I keep a note pad and pencil beside my bed, because I normally have those blinding flashes of insight as I am falling asleep and if I don't write them down, they fade like a dream and I can't recall them.
- Another reminiscent thought from the same vein, when I was a service tech, and could not figure out the problem, I'd call my wife and talk about nothing for a while. Suddenly, I'd realize the solution. Once I said, "Hey, thanks." she knew I had figured it out and she'd say, "Bye, glad I was able to help."
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Mind Reading Trap
- When we think, "Paul doesn't trust me," we could be fooling ourselves into believing that
we can read his mind. Unless he has directly expressed his distrust, we're just guessing, and we can
reach whatever conclusion we wish, unconstrained by reality. In project management, as anywhere else,
that's a recipe for trouble.
- When Meetings Boil Over
- At any time, without warning, you can find yourself in a meeting that boils over. Sometimes tempers
rise, then voices rise, and then people yell and scream. What can a team do when meetings threaten to
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- No Surprises
- If you tell people "I want no surprises," prepare for disappointment. For the kind of work
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want no surprises," and if we think about it carefully, we can get what we really need.
- Workplace Barn Raisings
- Until about 75 years ago, barn raising was a common custom in the rural United States. People came together
from all parts of the community to help construct one family's barn. Although the custom has largely
disappeared in rural communities, we can still benefit from the barn raising approach in problem-solving
- Teamwork Myths: I vs. We
- In high performance teams, cooperative behavior is a given. But in the experience of many, truly cooperative
behavior is so rare that they believe that something fundamental is at work — that cooperative
behavior requires surrendering the self, which most people are unwilling to do. It's another teamwork myth.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 5: Red Flags: III
- Early signs of troubles in collaborations include toxic conflict, elevated turnover and anti-patterns in communication. But among the very earliest red flags are abuses of power. They're more significant than other red flags because abuses of power can convert any collaboration into a morass of destructive politics. Available here and by RSS on August 5.
- And on August 12: Cognitive Biases at Work
- Cognitive biases can lead us to misunderstand situations, overlook options, and make decisions we regret. The patterns of thinking that lead to cognitive biases provide speed and economy advantages, but we must manage the risks that come along with them. Available here and by RSS on August 12.
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