Look away

When you try to make sense of your CI data and can’t seem to do so, what do you do? If you’re like most people, you just take a look at your notes and materials again, and you review the most recent draft you made of your report or presentation, and try to puzzle it out. There are better ways to do this when you really are stuck.

The key is to take your mind off what you’re doing, but to have your mind still operate in a similar channel.

Let’s say your problem is dealing with something that has a confusing chronology, such as tracing the launch of a product, or the expansion and modifications of an old factory. You probably have your notes arranged, either physically or in your own mind, in order, from the oldest to the newest. Try reversing that. Start reading your chronology backwards, from the newest to the oldest. You are still trying to analyze the chronology, but by changing the way you are looking at it, you are forcing yourself to read exactly what it is that you have, rather than just to skim over what you already “know” you have.

Sometimes you have to look away even further.  Assume you are working to analyze a very complex situation. The nature of the problem is really not relevant. What is important is that you are trying to look for patterns, keys, or even missing pieces. What you are looking through is a field of unconnected, disparate pieces of data.

You should do something separate from the project that you are working on which forces you, even for a brief period of time, to transfer your pattern analyzing skills to another context. What do I mean by another context? It can be as simple as playing an online game of chess or even Solitaire. Doing that forces you to look for and develop patterns, as well as to fit your activities into pre-existing, predefined patterns.

When you are doing this, you are still working on your project. While you are looking away, your mind is still churning around on your problem. You’ll be surprised how often, when you return to your project, you can now make more sense of it.

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