Trust Your Aha Moments

A team of international researchers, including Drexel’s Dr. John Kounios, have discovered that “Aha moments” often yield the right answers. They suggest that analytical thinking may be best when there are known strategies for arriving at solutions – like in arithmetic. But when there is no set path to a solution, sudden insights are often best.

The researchers also concluded that these insights can’t be rushed. In timed experiments, participants who used an analytical approach and rushed to beat the deadline answered incorrectly more than those who experienced sudden insights and worried less about answering in time.

It takes time to connect all of the dots. Dr. Kounios believes deadlines create anxiety that shift one’s thinking from insightful to analytical. Where you need creative and innovative solutions, allow time for your brain, or time for you team, to process information naturally. You’re more likely to land on just the answers you need to be successful.

How to Observe More and React Less

Manish Chopra, a principal at McKinsey & Company, was addicted to email, checking it first thing every morning and constantly during the day.

He says meditation helped him do three things that made him a better leader: he was better able to control of his thoughts and feelings, he lessened his Pavlovian response to email, and avoided knee-jerk reactions to situations.

Meditation helped him find positives in the negative. For example, after losing a prospective client to a competitor, instead of disappointment and frustration ruling his mood, he was able to let go and see the good in the outcome. Chopra also shed some of his me-me-me insecurities. Newly self-aware that his decisions had been driven by “what’s in it for me,” he now focuses on the needs of others and looks for what is best for the company.

Manish Chopra shares his journey with Vipassana meditation in his book, “The Equanimous Mind.”

How Everyone Can Be Part of Innovation

Looking to spur innovative thinking in your organization? Here’s a suggestion that could help you engage your entire company’s creativity.

Rather than coming up with solutions in silos, share what you’re trying to achieve with everyone – no matter what they do for the company. Invite them to speak with you one-on-one about their proposed solutions. Consciously choose to block the natural tendency to think about their age, gender, length of service, title, or experience. Just listen without judging. When resistance to their idea starts to build within you, remind yourself that you’re in listening mode. The analyzing and decision-making modes come later.   Repeat this reminder as often as needed.

Write down the fleeting “eureka” thoughts that come into your head during and after engaging with others. Delay making decisions, until you’ve had the time to think through and weigh the benefits and consequences of what you’ve learned.