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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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.