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Monday, January 21, 2013

No Sh*t, Sherlock

When you think about someone with the ability to figure out a problem that seems to have no explanation, few names come to the top of your mind faster than the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

Sometimes in business, it feels like you could use someone like Holmes to outline a solution to a particularly perplexing situation. According to in Maria Konnikova her book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Homes, that “someone” could be you:

·         Train yourself to be a better decision-maker. “For Instance, use a checklist when hiring a candidate for a job instead of relying on your impression,” writes Konnikova. As Holmes proves time and time again, there’s no benefit to jumping to conclusions. page 73

·         Bolster your memory by recreating events to a friend. “Much like Holmes talks his theories through out loud to Watson,” writes Konnikova, “gaps and inconsistencies that weren’t apparent before come to the surface.” page 88

·         Gain some perspective. Getting psychological distance from your work “may be one of the most important steps” you can take to improve mental acuity. “It engages ‘System Holmes,’” writes Konikova. “Individuals who employ distancing in problem-solving scenarios emerge ahead of their more immersed counterparts.” page 130

·         Light a pipe, sit back and silently reflect. “[Holmes] the hunter knows when to quiet his mind, “writes Konnikova. “The world is a distracting place. It will never quiet down for you. ...Without that occasional silence, there can be little hope of a successful hunt.” page 130

Here are some Sherlock Holmes quotes (as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - story that contained the quote included) that can apply directly to the business world:

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” -A Scandal in Bohemia

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” -The Bascombe Valley Mystery

"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay." -The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

“What one man can invent another can discover.” -The Adventure of the Dancing Man

“The emotional qualities are atagonistic to clear reasoning.” -The Sign of Four

“Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoked several pipes over them, trying to separate those which were crucial from others which were merely incidental.” -The Crooked Man

“Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.” -Silver Blaze

“I confess that I have been blind as a mole, but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.” -The Man with the Twisted Lip

“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands on it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it - there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.” -A Study in Scarlet

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” -A Case of Identity

 
If you are interested in buying this book,
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Sources: Mastermind by Maria Konnikova (Viking); Bloomberg Businessweek 1/14/13

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