The Importance of Insight

9309425943_b07ef75c4c_k This post was written by Dennis Rader

In a world of white water, insight becomes increasingly important, because there simply isn’t time and opportunity for analysis. Too much is happening; too much is unpredictable. An excessive dependence upon analysis results in being capsized by problems or possibilities are missed while the organization floats along ineffectually trying to make a decision. Analysis is needed; it always will be—but insight, the quick apprehension of the problem or possibility, is increasingly necessary. Without insight, the rush and whim of the current in a white-water world controls the situation.

Insight depends upon the interactive dance of Imagination, Interest, and Initiative. Leave any one of those factors out of the mix, and the magic of insight cannot emerge. But here is what is important. THE MAGIC OF INSIGHT CAN BE ENCOURAGED.

Jonah Lehrer writes in Imagine: How Creativity Works, about the 3M Company, which has had a 75 year history of successful innovation. The company has learned to establish the cultural conditions that encourage the mix of imagination, interest, and initiative that produces insights. He writes:

“. . . The first essential feature of 3M innovation is its flexible attention policy. Instead of insisting on constant concentration–requiring every employee to focus on his or her work for eight hours a day–3M encourages people to make time for activities that at first glance might seem unproductive.”

Employees can take a walk around the college-like campus, daydream, lie down on a couch by a sunny window, or play a game of pinball. People can do whatever it takes to get their left brain off of the grindstone and allow the insights emanating from the right side of the brain to come to the foreground. In other words, when the going gets tough–take a walk, both literally and metaphorically.

The key concept here is cultural condition; condition means something that must exist before something else can occur. 3M has a long history of successful innovation because it knows how to design and implement the cultural conditions that make innovative thinking possible. That is how they are successfully riding the current of change. What is your organization doing–or not doing–to encourage innovative thinking?

Comment from Madelyn: Whenever I hear about the 3M story, I say, but I’ve heard that before. And then I stop and think about the message. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear this story, it has power to remind me of taking that moment of time to allow my mind to reflect – even if that reflection is non-verbal and done in the silence of my subconscious. For surely if I do that, new ideas pop up into my conscious mind that are unexpected and often life-savers. And then I think of Steve Jobs who, when he needed to think about something, took a walk.

Photo by Luigi de Guzman