My Insights on Insightful Thinking

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – May 22, 2023

What is insightful thinking, and why should it be understood as an alternative to methodical thinking or other problem-resolution strategies? Insight, or insightful thinking, is the sudden and immediate comprehension or understanding that takes place without overt trial-and-error testing.

Insightful thinking occurs when people recognize relationships (or make novel associations between objects or actions) that can help them solve new problems. It is the process of making an unexpected association. Methodical thinking is the application or the adherence to an arranged set of systematic steps used to solve problems.

You see, to me, it boils down to this: If you have an issue, use methodical thinking and apply the obvious solution. If it works, great! If not, you are probably paying attention to the wrong thing. I find that most people have surrendered their control of what they pay attention to. As a result, society (and corporate America) largely directs our attention to the solution of the day with no regard for the unique individuals we are. In the end, applied solutions can be random, and their success based on chance or luck. To me, coaching as an industry was born out of the need for individuals to reclaim control of what they pay attention to as a conscious choice.

Attention coaching helps individuals use insight to move forward. I see insight as the ubiquitous theme that underlies our fables, tales, analogies, metaphors, and mental models. Intuitively, we understand the important role it plays in our world. However, few of us acknowledge or understand that there is a fundamental difference in addressing a problem using insight versus a more analytical or methodical approach. At its core, insight is a sudden comprehension after viewing something in a different light (i.e., paying attention to it differently). It is the process of making unexpected associations, which can be made more difficult by methodical reasoning.

To me, insight is synonymous with “Ah ha,” “Eureka,” or “I got it!” Attention, or what we pay attention to, is what drives insight. To pay attention to something differently, the first step is to focus on what you are paying attention to. Once you determine that, then you can begin to shift your focus and pay attention to things differently.

Evidence of insightful thinking abounds in our world. Just look at science as an example. It was Einstein’s insight (i.e., sudden comprehension) that time slows as you approach the speed of light. Once he had the insight, we were able to prove it methodically. When you think about it, it’s our lack of insight that obstructs our ability to cure cancer.

For those of you who may be wondering what the purpose of my collective writings, programs, audio recordings, and other media are all about, I say this: They are designed to put a spotlight on attention, specifically, to help you pay attention to what you are paying attention to, thereby helping you to find more insightful solutions when your rational mind’s methodical approach (or top 10 solutions) just don’t seem to work.

If you find yourself stuck, consider this: Maybe it’s your methodical thinking strategy that has you stuck. I challenge you to begin paying attention to what you are focusing on and then try using your insight to pay attention to something completely different. In the end, you might find that using your insight is the key that unlocks the door to YOUR obvious solutions, which may not seem so obvious to others.

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