In simple terms, an insight is defined as follows: “Insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect in a specific context.”
Having an insight is to experience an “a-ha” moment, the moment when that light-bulb comes on in your head saying you figured out that “something.”
Wait a second. You have an understanding of specific “cause and effect” sequences in your daily life. Think about it. You know how to operate an ATM machine, you know how to make ice using your refrigerator, you know how to book a plane ticket on the Web.
Does it mean that you have insights on all these things?
Yes and no. Yes, they are insights when you first figured them out. No, because they remain insights for only a few moments. They are no longer insights as soon as you realize that knowing how to do these things are not considered “extra” valuable in the society. You are expected to know these things.
So, what is an insight? Here is what I think.
Having an insight is to see what everyone is seeing but notice what few else do.
Really, the premium is paid for those insights that move the needle in a big way.
When Muhammad Yunus started Grameen Bank with a mere $27, he had an insight. Today, Grameen Bank serves more than 7 million poor families with loans, savings, insurance and other services.
When Pranav Mistry at MIT Media Lab created SixthSense, a wearable gestrual interface, he had an insight.
The stories are endless, and you don’t need to get those “big” insights to move the needle. You can start where you are: at work and at home—and grow from there.
Here are three ideas to get started on your quest.
1. Make diversity a way of life
Ask someone whether they support diversity and they will say, “Yes, of course.” Ask them whether they have made diversity a way of life, and most of them are not sure. The easiest way to see whether you have truly made diversity a part of your life is to make a quick assessment of how “heterogeneous” your networks are. In my personal life, the love for writing fiction (mystery, suspense, thrillers) introduced much needed diversity and brought a whole new network into play. There is so much you can bring from that world to the business world that it almost provides an unfair competitive advantage when it comes to discovering new insights.
2. Put the three magic words to work
Those three words are: “Tell me more.” I wanted to talk about being more curious. But then the immediate question would be how can I become more curious. These three magic words automatically enhance your curiosity without breaking a sweat. Try this in your own life when someone shares something reasonably important. Say, “Tell me more” and listen closely. Whatever was said before will appear richer and more colorful than before.
3. Set yourself up to receive high-stakes help requests
A high-stakes help request is just that: the requester has a situation where the stakes are high (for him) and he/she is seriously looking for a solution. When such a request comes your way, you are automatically elevated to play your “A” game. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. Remember that the fact that they came to you with that situation shows that they believe you may be qualified to offer an insight or two. Some people feel that this is a burden, but the right way to look at this is as a gift handed out to you. The more you are on the giving side of the equation, higher your chances of getting insights on an ongoing basis.