Review: Seeing What Other’s Dont, by Gary Klein

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Seeing What Other’s Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, by Gary Klein.

The most compelling part of this book for me was taking his research on how people gain insights and putting that in the context of school. In other words, if I take as a given that we want our children to develop insights about the world around them, then we must be intentional about putting them in situations (in school) that will help them to become conscious of the mindset required to achieve insight.

He describes the 5 types of conditions during which significant, life-changing insights occur.

  • Connections: people will ‘see’ and make a connection between disparate facts or ideas when others don’t make those same connections. Think of how Charles Darwin developed his theory of natural selection. This is described well in the book.
  • Coincidence: “chance occurrences that should be ignored except that every so often they provide us with an early warning about a new pattern.” Klein also describes the danger of people relying too heavily on coincidences because they are inherently biased towards a particular viewpoint.
  • Curiosity: “a single event or observation that provokes the “what’s going on here” reaction.”
  • Contradictions: Insights sometimes arise when we are faced with information that simply doesn’t make sense and the stark strangeness of the situation gives way to a desire for further investigation. I love this quote, “We are built to notice associations and coincidences, and we also are built to detect anomalies, inconsistencies and irregularities. We are built to attend to cues that violate our expectations and arouse our curiosity. We are built to be surprised.”
  • Creative Desperation: This one is easy to understand. When you are absolutely under so much tension and pressure to produce that suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, insight emerges.

To be fair, Klein brings all of this to life through compelling anecdotes and stories backed by science. He then morphs into why people and organizations are structurally not disposed towards insights amd he concludes by making recommendations for organizations to develop cultures that foster insight.

The main take-away for me, within the context of learning is this: when we focus on-

  • testing and assessments
  • being right and not wrong
  • avoiding mistakes
  • following the mainstream thinking
  • etc, etc.

We will be stifling creativity and the very mindset that will allow a child to notice a contradiction or to chase a curiosity, even if it is not on the path that the teacher wants to take.

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