Monthly Archives: April 2009

conscious thought does not solve problems

This article indicates two ideas that speak directly about the minds of innovators, the minds of their collaborators, and the minds of their customers.

While it is not news when I say it, it is news when the Economist reports it: we don’t solve difficult problems with conscious thought [alone]. We solve them, or break through, with background processes.  But more interestingly those processes aren’t always available or accessible to us. In Dr. Sheth’s research we notice that their is a relatively long lead time, 8 seconds, in which we arrive at the state in which we allow insight to emerge.

Is this something you can improve upon with practice? Like say a jump shot, or more legible handwriting? A question it raises for me is: how do collaborative teams find synchrony with one another, across differences in discipline of study, job function and power or status?

…the difference was noticeable up to eight seconds before the volunteer realised he had found the solution. Dr Sheth thinks this may be capturing the “transformational thought” (the light-bulb moment, as it were) in action, before the brain’s “owner” is consciously aware of it…

…But this is the first occasion that such a long lead time has been shown for more complex thought processes.

This finding… …poses fascinating questions about how the brain really works. Conscious thought, it seems, does not solve problems. Instead, unconscious processing happens in the background and only delivers the answer to consciousness once it has been arrived at. Food for further thought, indeed.

via Unconscious thought precedes conscious | Incognito | The Economist.

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hide and seek

Like many, I learned as a child, that rules were made to be broken. Not in the I-fought-the-law-and-the-law-won kinda way, nor in a Lindsay Lohan kinda way, but in a more earnest and inquisitive way. People who know me, know me as a questioner of sorts. So as I roll out this carpet of words, I kick it forward with a question – to all questioners I suppose: What makes it so common for us to hide from that which we are in search of?

I am interested in simple ideas. And drawn to the unorthodox ones. Whether we are talking about innovation, design, entrepreneurship, or culture writ large, magic is repeatedly found with these two hooks.

In the company of others I twitter, I flickr, I linkIn and I facebook, for glimpses of the new-new thing. Which begs the question: why is it so easy to get all up in the next big thing? Especially when people are more likely to track the last big thing, in the hopes of squeezing out untapped riches… Call it the orthodoxy of the unorthodox, but this pattern plays out again and again – like sightings of fool’s gold in a gold rush.

And why does any of this matter to anyone? Well, a good place to look for answers is in the dark clouds over Detroit right now. The companies that were once the big three have so consistently avoided change that they find themselves begging for their very existence. Is change just too hard for managers of large companies? Or is it just too hard to imagine?

It seems that so much of our human potential, is captured and expressed in the activities and organisms of commerce. And not just as a way to pay the mortgage. We are what we do. So how we go about it matters. Furthermore, how capable we become at renovating what we do is indicative of the wealth that we can achieve when we work at it together.

A good deal of the time and money of any corporation already goes into Innovation. Fortune 1000 companies invest billions to support innovators; people like me, in fact. But, speaking broadly, little of that investment ever yields return. Our salaries, our benefits, the facilities we work in and expenses we rationalize add up to this considerable sum of money. This news isn’t so interesting for the sunk costs, as it is for the lack of yield.

When Taylor founded scientific management he established the rule, “that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Maybe it is time break this rule too. Because where Innovation is concerned, you can’t manage what you can’t define.

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