How You are the Most Important Generator of Insight



Where does the world’s best insight come from?


Sure, somebody can lead you along, but it has to be your light bulb that goes off.

You are your most important change agent (and you are your most important meaning maker.)

Nobody can just hand you a bucket of brilliant conclusions and expect meaningful change.

David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz write about why moments of insight need to be generated from within, in their article, “The Neuroscience of Leadership”, in “strategy+business” magazine.

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Share insights over conclusions.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.  Insights need to be generated from within.  The only insights in your world that end up making a difference are the insights you self-generate.
  • Focused attention shapes your world.  What you focus on changes your brain.  It rewires you and your world in all sorts of ways, especially when you light up those ah-has.  This means you put a premium on where you consciously focus your attention.  If you dwell on the negative, that’s what you’ll get.

2 Reasons to Help Others Come to Their Own Insights

First, insights are really only useful when they are self-generated.  You need the neural circuitry and emotional connection behind the ah-ha. 

Basically, you need everything that goes into the creative synthesis and the process of internalizing information for that insight to be relevant and useful.

Second, it’s more effective to give somebody the building blocks to organize their thinking than to simply give them the output of organized thinking.  They need to make sense of it themselves, and that’s part of putting the blocks together.

Rock and Schwartz write: 

“For insights to be useful, they need to be generated from within, not given to individuals as conclusions. This is true for several reasons.

First, people will experience the adrenaline-like rush of insight only if they go through the process of making connections themselves.

The moment of insight is well known to be a positive and energizing experience.

The rush of energy may be central to facilitating change: It helps fight against the internal (and external) forces trying to keep change from occurring, including the fear response of the amygdala.

Second, neural networks are influenced moment to moment by genes, experiences, and varying patterns of attention. Although all people have some broad functions in common, in truth everyone has a unique brain architecture.

Human brains are so complex and individual that there is little point in trying to work out how another person ought to reorganize his or her thinking.

It is far more effective and efficient to help others come to their own insights.

Accomplishing this feat requires self-observation. Adam Smith, in his 1759 masterpiece The Theory of Moral Sentiments, referred to this as being ‘the spectators of our own behaviors.'”

Your Attention Density Shapes Your Identity

You get more of what you focus on.

Rock and Schwartz write:

“The term attention density is increasingly used to define the amount of attention paid to a particular mental experience over a specific time. The greater the concentration on a specific idea or mental experience, the higher the attention density.

In quantum physics terms, attention density brings the QZE into play and causes new brain circuitry to be stabilized and thus developed.

With enough attention density, individual thoughts and acts of the mind can become an intrinsic part of an individual’s identity: who one is, how one perceives the world, and how one’s brain works.

The neuroscientist’s term for this self-directed neuroplasticity.”

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