If insights are more likely in the absence of distractions, then why are business executives so universally gung-ho on imposing on their workers the open office space layouts that are guaranteed to maximize distractions?
(p. C7) We can’t put a mathematician inside an fMRI machine and demand that she have a breakthrough over the course of 20 minutes or even an hour. These kinds of breakthroughs are too mercurial and rare to be subjected to experimentation.
We are, however, able to study the phenomenon more generally. Enter John Kounios and Mark Beeman, two cognitive neuroscientists and the authors of the “The Eureka Factor.” Messrs. Kounios and Beeman focus their book on the science behind insights and how to cultivate them.
As Mr. Irvine recognizes, studying insights in the lab is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Scientists have devised experiments that can provoke in subjects these kinds of insights, ones that feel genuine but occur on a much smaller scale.
. . .
The book includes some practical takeaways of how to improve our odds of getting insights as well. Blocking out distractions can create an environment conducive to insights. So can having a positive mood. While many of the suggestions contain caveats, as befits the delicate nature of creativity, ultimately it seems that there are ways to be more open to these moments of insight.
For the full review, see:
SAMUEL ARBESMAN. “Every Man an Archimedes; Insights can seem to appear spontaneously, but fully formed. No wonder the ancients spoke of muses.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 23, 2015): C7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 22, 2015.)
The book under review, is:
Kounios, John, and Mark Beeman. The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. New York: Random House, 2015.