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How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Paying Attention Is Anything but Elementary

Attention is a limited resource. Paying attention to one thing necessarily comes at the expense of another.

We cannot allocate our attention to multiple things at once and expect it to function at the same level as it would were we to focus on just one activity.

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How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

https://fs.blog/2013/04/how-to-think-like-sherlock-holmes/

fs.blog

9

Key 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 and in using it in order to accomplish more, think better, and decide more optimally." - Ellen Langer

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.

Respect the Memory Attic

As Holmes tells Watson, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”

Attics have two components: structure and contents. Your memory attic should not be jumbled and mindless so that knowledge gets lost.

Cultivating knowledge

"To cultivate our knowledge actively, we need to realize that items are being pushed into our attic space at every opportunity. "
 When we’re in our default System Watson mode, we don’t “choose” which memories to store. They just kind of store themselves—or they don’t, as the case may be.

Observation

Before we include something in our brain attic we must first observe it.

It’s not just about the passive process of letting objects enter into your visual field. It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? 

It’s about understanding how to contextualize those details within a broader framework of thought.

Paying Attention Is Anything but Elementary

Attention is a limited resource. Paying attention to one thing necessarily comes at the expense of another.

We cannot allocate our attention to multiple things at once and expect it to function at the same level as it would were we to focus on just one activity.

The Holmes solution is Habit

Habit and motivation. Become an expert of sorts at those types of decisions or observation that you want to excel at making.

Take a Step Back

To think we also need distance.

Forcing your mind to take a step back is a tough thing to do. It seems counterintuitive to walk away from a problem that you want to solve.

Not only does distance facilitate imaginative thinking but it also helps counter short-term emotions.

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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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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 switchin...

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.

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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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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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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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Common errors when reading people
  • Ignoring context: Crossed arms don’t mean much if the room is cold or the chair they’re sitting in doesn’t have armrests. 
  • Not looking for clusters: It’s a consisten...
Trusting your instincts

Your first impressions are usually pretty accurate. But whether they are wrong or right, first impressions affect us in a big way and we are slow to change them.

You have to be willing to update them quite rapidly. 

Reading first impressions
  • Studies show that if someone seems extroverted, confident, religious or conscientious, they probably are.
  • We all pay more attention to pretty people, and so we tend to take the time to evaluate them.
  • If you want to know if someone is good at their job, watch them do it for 30-60 seconds. 
  • Funny people are smart: Effective humor production acts as an honest indicator of intelligence in humans.

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A cluttered mind

It can make navigating even the most basic parts of our day exceedingly stressful and frustratingly inefficient.

Mindfulness
It is the habit of being aware of and noticing our own minds and the world around us, without judgment.
It strengthens 2 essential mental muscles: metacognition (watching our own minds at work) and attentional shifting (the ability to deliberately refocus our attention away from one object and onto another).
A Consistent Organizational System

It is an external strategy for keeping track of what we need to do and accomplish.

By creating and maintaining a reliable organizational system, we give ourselves the best possible chance of efficiently processing the day-to-day Have-Tos, so that we have sufficient time and energy to focus on the Want-Tos (the things that really matter to us).

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Humans are wired to worry

As it turns out. Our brains are continually imagining futures that will meet our needs and things that could stand in the way of them. And sometimes any of those needs may be in conflict with each ...

The mind always needs something

We worry because our pre-conditioned mind cannot be left alone. Like a motor that cannot be switched off, the mind keeps running, performing background thinking at all times.

Studies show people would rather prefer to be electrocuted with mild electric shocks than to just sit in a room doing nothing.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice of observing our mind's activity and is the antidote to worry.

Mindfulness results in increased attention, better working memory, and an awareness of mind while enriching the neural connections of the brain.

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What's Most Important To You
Before you can set your priorities, you need to figure out exactly what they are. 

"You have limited time and energy, so you need to determine what your top two priorities are at any giv...

Create An Action Plan

Take a few moments to create a plan of where you would like to see yourself in the next couple of months or years. 

Align those dreams with your priorities to help you focus on making your wishes come true. 

Designate Specific Time Slots For Tasks

It's important to remember to set time aside for things that truly matter to you. 

Whatever it is, you won't feel fulfilled if you constantly put other things before your own happiness.

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