In 1962, former CIA Director John McCone used his own insight to take a second look at American U-2 spy plane images indicating the Soviet Union was installing surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles (SAMs) in Cuba.
“Aha!” moments hit us all. Although they can range from new ways to tie a shoelace to ideas for the latest smart phone, acting upon such “insights” remains key to our collective future.
Or so says Gary Klein, a longtime applied cognitive psychologist and author of “Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights” (Public Affairs), due out next month. In deft, readable and well-researched chapters, Klein argues that by simply being more attuned to life’s connections, contradictions and moments of creative desperation, we have a better chance of recognizing insights as they happen.
And therein lies the rub. As Klein notes, acting on insights can be both risky and complicated, particularly inside bureaucratic hierarchies which aren’t naturally disposed to disruption and change. History is rife with accounts of messengers bearing insights simply being ignored or worse. Thus, Forbes.com called Klein at his Ohio home for ideas on what to do with insights once we have them.
How do you define insight?
An insight is an unexpected shift in the way we understand events and the story we tell about what’s happening.