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How To Solve Problems Like Sherlock Holmes

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Notice important details. 

“Holmes is an expert at person perception,” says Konnikova. Holmes is also an expert at identifying his own biases–i.e. the memories in his brain attic that might influence his perception of a person or situation.

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How To Solve Problems Like Sherlock Holmes

How To Solve Problems Like Sherlock Holmes

https://www.fastcompany.com/1682203/how-to-solve-problems-like-sherlock-holmes

fastcompany.com

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Key Ideas

Holmes practices mindfulness

Mindfulness means focusing on only one problem or activity at a time.

Our brain cannot do two things at once. “What we believe is multi-tasking is really the brain switching quickly from one task to the next.” 

A study points out that those who are multi-taskers are less efficient.

Organize Your Brain Attic to remember more

The “brain attic” is Holmes’s analogy for the human mind and how we store information.  Just consuming information leads to mental clutter that gets difficult to access when you need it.

We are more likely to remember something if we connect it to a sensory experience or previous action, like writing or connecting memories to smells or sounds.

Take a brain break if you want to be more creative

Holmes plays the violin, because it takes him out of his thinking mind and places him in a purely physical state.

“Taking mental holidays can be incredibly productive for creativity", even something as simple as taking a walk in the park during your lunch break instead of eating at your desk.

Become an Expert

Notice important details. 

“Holmes is an expert at person perception,” says Konnikova. Holmes is also an expert at identifying his own biases–i.e. the memories in his brain attic that might influence his perception of a person or situation.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...

Engagement
As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

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Systematic approach
Most people jump straight from finding a problem to attempting to solve it.

Having a systematic approach to how you deal with problems, as opposed to just going by gut and feelings, ca...

Study the problem first

Detectives and investigators use the process. They ask both obvious and unthinkable questions.

Get close and collect information about how the problem is manifesting.  Understand where the problem does and doesn’t happen, when the problem started, and how often the problem occurs to generate critical insight for the problem-solving effort.

Question for great answers
  • Don’t look for solutions immediately; Keep redefining the problem until you arrive at the root cause.
  • Don’t try to guess the solution; try to understand how the obstacles, or challenges manifest first.
  • Gather data to analyze all potential root causes.
  • Consider all options, regardless of how irrelevant they currently appear.
  • Find a way to connect the dots. Make better analogies. One good analogy is worth three hours of discussion.

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Observing people and situations is an incredibly valuable tool. 

It gives you the ability to notice subtle cues during conversations, job interviews, presentations, and anywhere else so ...

Increase Your Powers of Observation

Learn how to notice small details.

It's not a superhuman ability. It's important to note when talking about Holmes that he has spent a lifetime cultivating the habits of mindfulness. So it's not like he was just born with this ability to be in touch with the world. What we choose to notice or not notice is a way of framing it in our own mind. We have a lot of bad habits in our mind, and we have to retrain ourselves to really notice the world. Everything we do rewires the brain, but we can rewire it in a way that mindfulness eventually becomes less of an effort. -- Konnikova
Force Yourself to Slow Down

Give yourself monthly or daily challenges to form a new habit of observation.

Ideas could include trying new foods weekly and writing about them, noticing the color of a co-worker's shirt every day, or even just looking at a new piece of art closely once a day.

The idea is to gradually teach yourself to notice small details in your environment and daily life. 

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Observe the details
When Holmes first met Dr. Watson, his soon to be partner in solving crimes, the detective deduced his personal history from his appearance.

Holmes sees his new acquaintance's symptoms of trop...

Pay attention to the basics

When Holmes famously quips that the solution of a case is "elementary," he's not simply dismissing the detective work as easy. Rather, he's talking about elements, the essentials of a situation.

"Whatever the specific issue, you must define and formulate it in your mind as specifically as possible — and then you must fill it in with past experience and present observation," -- Konnikova writes

Use all of your senses

In the novel " Hound of the Baskervilles," Holmes assembles clues not just by reading everything he can find, but involving all his senses.

We shouldn't neglect our senses — since they influence our decisions in ways we don't even realize.

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See and observe

It is important to both see and to observe. As Holmes told Dr Watson: “You see, but you do not observe,”

This mental alertness, or mindfulness, is cultivated with deliberate pra...

Why mindfulness is so important to us

Over the past several decades, researchers have discovered

  • Mindfulness can lead to improvements in physiological well-being and emotional regulation.
  • Mindfulness can even enhance our levels of wisdom, both in terms of dialectism (being cognizant of change and contradictions in the world) and intellectual humility (knowing your own limitations)
  • Mindfulness can lead to improved problem solving, enhanced imagination, and better decision making.
Mindfulness is good against inattentional blindness

When we focus on one particular element in a situation or problem, our brains can cause all the other elements to ‘disappear', so that we will have no conscious experience of having ever been exposed to them.

Inattentional blindness illustrates the limitations of our attentional abilities. We can’t ever multitask the way we think we can. Something will get lost. 

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Deduction and Mindfulness Go Together

Sherlock Holmes observed facts without being judgmental. He would construct a hypothesis about what he believed happened. He would then search for more evidence to logically validate his ini...

All Stories Are Possible — Until They Are Not

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot encourages everybody to tell their story.  Stories help Poirot comprehend what kind of person the victim was. And to uncover the murderer’ motive.

Storytelling is powerful to uncover insights, not just the truth. Design Thinking — a process for creative problem solving — leverages the power of stories to detect human desires and needs.

Be Relentless

Sarah Linden is the least self-aware television detective.

Her dedication to her work and stubbornness are unbeatable. She never gives up. Even though she fails in many aspects of her life — like being a mother. But, she keeps showing up and trying to do better. She tries again, fails again, and fails better.

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How to Develop Habits
  • Focus on just one habit, for 30 days.
  • Put it on paper, together with your motivations, obstacles, and strategies for overcoming them.
  • Commit fully, pr...
attributed to Aristotle
attributed to Aristotle
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Confucius
Confucius
“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.”

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Practical ways to use First Principles Thinking
  • If you’re starting a business, use first principles to build a product or service that’s fundamentally better than the competition.
  • If your day is too busy, first princip...
Mindfulness at work
Mindfulness at work

Means being consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state. 

If you’re writing a report, mindfulness requires...

1 min/session

That’s the minimum required for a mini-mediation.

Just focus on your sense. You don’t need to close your eyes. You don’t even need to be sitting down.

Use Mindful Reminders

You can use interruptions as hooks to make you more mindful.

Every time your phone rings, take a mindful breath. Every time you hear the ping of a text message, pause to be mindful of your surroundings rather than immediately reacting by checking the message. 

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Asking For Help
Asking For Help

Not wanting to seem weak, needy, and incompetent or like we’re taking advantage often keeps us from asking for help, but that’s often an overblown fear caused by our tendency to think the worst....

Seeking Help Is Strength

By taking an active step in seeking help or advice, you’re actually taking control of your life, and not letting external circumstances (such as what people think) affect how you behave and perform. It is courageous to accept your weaknesses.