Any recommendations for converting experience into insight?
April 19, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I better convert experience, knowledge and intuition into insight?

I work in research in a technical field and it's become obvious to me over the last few months that while I have an extensive amount of experience and knowledge in diverse domains I tend to lack that "little bit extra" that characterises good research -- namely the ability to distil experience, knowledge and intuition into insight. I'm looking for resources and/or anecdotal experience on how I can more effectively gain insight.

I've read quite a bit in the past on creativity, and it's been really useful in improving my creativity I'm hoping there are similar resources for insight.
posted by gadha to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is off the top of my head, so...

Insight comes from thinking about how a thing connects to the rest of the universe, and what such connections mean.

You have expertise. You want to add wisdom. That is the result of deep contemplation about such meanings and those connections.

This requires asking the right questions about the thing and its nature and its relationship to other, seemingly unrelated, things. Often the answers are less important than the questions.

Most people are uncomfortable spending time with their own thoughts. They have to drown them out with music or other forms of loud entertainment. If you can stand to be alone with your own thoughts you can find what you seek.
posted by trinity8-director at 6:26 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you are asking about professional insight, but I find I get the kind of synthesized revelations you are describing about my personal life when I journal regularly. It can be easy to view life as a string of unrelated experiences, but writing things down helps me to recognize patterns and cause and effect a lot more readily. It's about bringing all of that experience, knowledge, and intuition together in one place instead of using them as the situation warrants. Perhaps some writing exercises would be useful for you. Keep it low-pressure - just put something on the page and let it percolate.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 8:02 PM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding journaling. I use this method to process all my thinking - personal issues, decision making, solving global issues, devising better questions, seeking out patterns - all of it. The beauty of journaling is there is no wrong way to do it - whatever works for you is what is best.

Another idea is neurofeedback, specifically the alpha theta protocol. Although it is not targeted - in other words, I don't go into my session with a specific topic that I want to work on resolving - I am finding the alpha theta therapy helps my mind relax and expand, which brings insights during the session that I am then able to use outside it. Not sure if I am articulating that well, as I am only on my third session, but I am feeling very positive towards this modality because I'm already seeing significant improvement in clarity and focus since I started it.
posted by deliciae at 8:20 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some thoughts that come to mind are (1) the benefits of more and more experience (2) mentoring, and (3) living with rich sets of data in detail and on their own terms, letting it say what it needs to say, rather than setting yourself up in advance to look for it to say what you think it's going to say (or even to answer the question you think it was going to answer).
posted by spbmp at 9:16 PM on April 19, 2013

I find insight is built from wrestling with something very deliberately, stepping away, and returning to it, again and again. Writing, or talking through it with someone else, almost anyone else, is also a productive part of the cycle.
posted by Good Brain at 12:51 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice above.

Sometimes thinking about things becomes unproductive because you're just following the same well-worn grooves. Exposing yourself to different stuff can sort of knock loose these thought habits and give you a shining insight.

I guess this is akin to the stepping away that Good Brain refers to. . . but for me the trigger for the insight is often some sort of 'cross-disciplinary' exposure, for lack of a better phrase.
posted by abirdinthehand at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2013

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