Let It Simmer: Generating Game-Changing Insights Often Requires Time and Space

Let Insights Simmer

Date: December 1, Molly Stafford-Mastey

In a 24-7, “always on”, fast-paced, competitive business world, pressure is strong to deliver meaningful insights and solutions at lightning speed. And certainly, speedy delivery has merits.  But only up to a point because if quality is sacrificed, or connections are missed in the interest of a whirlwind turnaround, is it really worth it?”

This past fall, I had the opportunity to represent KNow Research at a workshop called “Analysis Without Paralysis,” lead by Tom Rich, and sponsored by the QRCA Minnesota chapter. During the workshop, Rich highlighted several key components of a well-designed process of inquiry that begin with a solid foundation of careful, well-reasoned planning and end with a structured and focused analysis that is influenced by relevant models, lenses and thought-exercises. One important step of the analysis process that caught my full attention is a step called Consolidation.

In the simplest terms, Consolidation is a neurological process of the brain that helps us acquire and encode new information, data and learning and translate it from short-term and working memory into stored, long-term memory for future recall.

Consolidation is an important step that better equips the brain for deeper understanding. And sometimes, in the rush to move forward on a project or decision, this step can get the squeeze. However, when we fail to allow adequate time for the brain to organize and synthesize new learning and opt instead to rush straight into a definitive next-step, then we risk missed-connections and faulty, ill-formed insights. That’s why any time we face large or intense streams of new information (e.g. being in the field and learning from consumers or conducting team work sessions and learning from one another) we must allow our brains proper processing time to consolidate that learning.

Consolidation is kind of like making soup. Once all the ingredients are gathered and mixed, before the soup is ready to eat and enjoy, it’s imperative to let it simmer. Ingredients in a soup need time to blend, mingle and warm into a flavorful, aromatic feast. Similarly, before we can successfully serve up fresh, piping-hot insights, they need proper time to develop and simmer.

But this simmering doesn’t have to compromise a tight schedule; to generate provocative insights that lead to action, we recommend building in even just a day into your project timeline at key stops along the way (e.g. after big data share outs, fieldwork, or work sessions). These pauses to step back and let it simmer before jumping to conclusions can make all the difference.

This doesn’t mean “spend more time thinking about the problem”! The possibilities for HOW to let it simmer are endless. Take a walk. Play with your kids. Go to bed a little early and sleep in a little late. Enjoy your favorite hobby. Or, our personal favorites here at KNow: practice yoga or mindfulness meditation. Give yourself the freedom for your focus and awareness to fall on anything at all for a day or so other than the issue-at-hand.

Allow your thoughts and learnings proper time to incubate and percolate before forcing conclusions, next steps or decisions. In the long-run, allowing a window for Consolidation into a timeline could be the key to making meaningful connections and deriving game-changing insights. Let it simmer. I promise, it’s time well-spent.

What are your favorite ways to let it simmer?  Can you share examples of how your thinking has evolved or insights you have unearthed by taking a step back?

 

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