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The Science of Insight: Discover Complex Problem Solving Techniques

The Science of Insight: Discover Complex Problem Solving Techniques

The Science of Insight

How to create conditions in the brain to gain insight

By Diane Craig,
President and Founder, Corporate Class Inc.

Legend tells us that Archimedes, the Classical Greek scholar, leapt out of his bath shouting Eureka! Eureka!” – meaning, I’ve found it; I’ve found it!”

In a split second, by simply stepping into the bath and displacing water he had grasped the law of buoyancy. This was Archimedes’ aha moment – his sudden comprehension of what had been a baffling problem.

During our workshops, I often ask participants how they problem-solve. Typically, people say solutions come to them just as they’re falling asleep, or showering, or walking the dog – anywhere and everywhere but when they’re at work, consciously focused on a problem.

Triggering a eureka moment
Dr. David Rock is the Director of the Neuroleadership Institute, a global initiative where neuroscientists and leadership experts are working together to understand and enhance leadership development.

According to Dr. Rock’s research, people can actually create environments for increasing the possibility of triggering an aha moment. This is not to say they can control their insights but they can increase the likelihood of producing insight by up to 500 percent! There are four simple techniques:

1. Quiet the mind
We live in a world that has so many distractions people are often overwhelmed to the point of stress. When a computer has too many programs running at the same time, its ability to process is diminished. This is precisely what happens in the “working memory” area of the brain. When people have too much on their mind, they don’t think clearly. The ability to answer questions or solve problems decreases.

2. Inward-looking
According to Dr. Rock, “insights are more likely when you can look inside yourself and not focus on the outside world. When you feel safe enough to reflect’ on deeper thoughts and not worry about what’s going on around you for a moment.”

3. Sense of happiness
Dr. Rock points to research conducted by Mark Beeman of Northwestern University that indicates people in a positive mood have greater success solving problems.

Professor Beeman’s research demonstrates that when people are even slightly happy, versus slightly anxious, they are more open-minded and therefore able to problem-solve.

4. Let go of the problem
When people concentrate on a problem, they create a state of chaos in the brain that leads to anxiety. To reduce this chaos or brain-noise – it’s critical to switch-off, to put the problem to rest. The expression “sleep on it” is often precisely what’s needed to bring deeper thoughts to the surface.

Today, more and more articles appear questioning the relevance of open-office, collaborative space. Last week I visited an office with several rooms dedicated to mindfulness, prayers and reflection. The person showing me around shared that every day, she spends 20 minutes in one of these hidden gems…

Diane Craig is certified in Neuroleadership Foundations and a certified Brain-based coach by the Neuroleadership Institute. To learn more about Diane’s Executive Coaching please contact Inna Labounskaia:

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