October 21, 2015 at 3:52 am #5297
“In this chapter, I shall ask at what stages in that thought-process the thinker should bring the conscious and voluntary effort of his art to bear.”
October 21, 2015 at 4:29 am #5298
“Our mind is not likely to give us a clear answer to any particular problem unless we set it a clear question”
Sounds a lot like TDD or BDD or simple story grooming to me. Getting a clear, concrete problem to solve seems to be a necessary step.
I tell people that the worst way to solve a problem is in the abstract, in advance of any instance of the problem. I don’t know how to solve vague problems or build vaguely useful software. Or how to coach to general goodness or to avoid general badness.
“… and we are more likely to notice the significance of any new piece of evidence or new association of ideas, if we have formed a definite conception of a case to be proved or disproved.”
Ladder of inference, anyone?
There is also a call out to cognitive dissonance, here in the description of a scientist who would feel his mind confused (“frustrated” I would say) until he discovered which of two contrary “facts” must be untrue.
This is the chapter where Wallas extolls the virtues of multitasking.
I am expecting to see some kickback there. “it is desirable not only that there should be an interval free from conscious thought on the particular problem concerned, but also that that interval should be so spent that nothing should interfere with the free working of the unconscious or partially conscious processes of the mind.”
“The human organism gains more from the alternation of various forms of activity than from a consistent devotion to one form.”
I was happily reminded by Wallas in this chapter that I really should not try to be always learning, always coding, always thinking but that it is good to sometimes “sit still and label his thoughts” — to examine what I’m thinking/feeling/incubating/intimating. Who am I in this question? What is this question to me? What am I thinking?”
I hope this chapter helps you encourage and coax your thoughts into being felt and defined.
November 4, 2015 at 1:51 am #5305
I didn’t interpret “multi-tasking” for what to do during Incubation. At least not “multi-tasking” that we think of in software development.
During Incubation Wallas says the mind must turn to something other than the problem to be solved. Work on another problem, get exercise, something.
On one particularly gnarly project, when I got stumped and progress stopoped, I’d go the golf course and drive a bucket of balls. Usually, sometime before I finished the bucket, the answer would appear. Focusing on holding the club, weight shifting, head down concentration, allowed my “back mind” to work on the problem, connect the patterns, and then Illuminate the “fore mind”.
Imagine doing other activities (multi-tasking) during the Preparation phase. How much longer would it take the mind to get ready for Incubation? Would it ever get there?
November 4, 2015 at 2:12 am #5308
I find it interesting that neuroscientists are now proving what Wallas posited almost a century ago. We now use the term “diffuse thinking” for Preparation, Incubation and Illumination.
I recently took a Coursera MOOC on Learning to Learn. Here’s the summary that talks about diffuse mode thinking, and exercise.
Oh, and sleep! I guess it’s bed time.
November 4, 2015 at 3:04 am #5310AmitaiParticipant
I don’t have time to say much about the chapter, because tonight’s my chance to write Agile in 3 Minutes. So just these two bits.
- Given this four-phase model of thinking, the middle two of which are not to be consciously controlled or directed, Wallas argues that efficient use of brain calls for some mental WIP >1. If you can load a problem into your head when you want, but you can’t have Incubation or Illumination on any particular schedule merely by working hard enough at it, then being busy with Preparation or Verification on another problem makes good use of cognitive resources… for certain kinds of problems. If we’re talking about “the more difficult forms of creative thought”, then we’re talking about “a large amount of actual mental relaxation”.
- I don’t know which topic I’m going to write 3 minutes about, let alone what I want to say. In a moment I’ll sign off here, pick a topic off my backlog, and let my mind wander on it while I’m chillaxing in the whirlpool. If that don’t work, I dunno what will. 😉
Glad to be back on the reading wagon with y’all.
November 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm #5326
A quick story:
I was coaching at a Chicago company and one of the young SMs I was mentoring was asked to give a talk in the afternoon.
He was frantic. He thought he had good content generally, but there was so much of it, and he wasn’t sure it was organized, or how to present it. He felt like he was missing something that should be obvious (note my “frustration is excellent” bit here).
After talking to him, I realized he was blocking his incubation, probably preventing intimation. I suggested that he counter-intuitively put it down for an hour and a half and refuse to think about it. He could do anything else, go to lunch, take a walk, but he was to let his brain have the problem and not interfere with it. Then if it doesn’t do the trick, 45 minutes before the talk I’d join him in final edits and we’ll go for “good enough.”
It took 45 minutes of undisturbed processing time for his hindbrain to reach intimation. He realized the organizing principle he needed to have and put the edits out in another 5 or 10 minutes, deleting or hiding many slides and reformatting a few others.
You can prevent yourself from completing your thinking. Incubation is real stuff, and I patted my friend on the back for being so aware of his mental state that he was aware that he had another thought brewing, but it was in a pre-verbal state. That story came to mind as I re-read the last half of chapter 4 on the plane last night.
November 6, 2015 at 5:14 pm #5328
Amitai: How did the 3 Minutes go?
November 8, 2015 at 10:20 pm #5333AmitaiParticipant
Thanks for asking. The whirlpool gave me a moment or two of clarity that I was able to use, but not till later in the week. A friend is having a rough time and, having talked it over with him, I couldn’t empty my mind sufficiently to make room for the disciplined and concentrated thought I needed to conjure. I wound up writing most of the thing on Thursday evening at the airport and had to edit and record at home (which I try to avoid). Still figuring out the art of knowing when I have that discipline and concentration and when I don’t, when I can help bring it about and when I have to make do with what I’ve got right now.
November 6, 2015 at 8:57 pm #5327
Oh, by the way, the talk was very successful and very well-received. It was a feather in his cap, and led to other opportunities to share.
I got an email from him a year or two later. One of the young ladies under my tutelage is also now a full-time SM there, and that’s kind of nice. If we make good connections, and have good theory behind our work, we will influence the next generation of thinkers at some organizations.
November 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm #5335
So sorry to be late… I should let everyone know that I’m going through a bit of “trouble” at my employer. The board fired the CEO that hired me… and it looks like they’ll let me go, as the company is changing direction entirely. So, I’m spending more time with my networking & job search, with less mental focus on reading.
But, here I am nonetheless with notes on Chapter 4.
Like Don, I didn’t get a sense of multi-tasking, at least in the way I perceive teams and organizations working effectively. Rather than a list of tangible tasks in progress, I felt the view on multi-tasking was more passive as a means to provide energy for incubation. I think Wallas would frown on filling the mind with many desired “problems” to solve… I sensed the stage of Preparation is best when a single problem is investigated “in all directions”.
This chapter, and all of your subsequent insights & experiences with Incubation, made me realize I need to self-study it more. For example, I have a presentation I’ve been working on for months… it’s a concept I feel deeply about. I know there is a strong message. But… what is it? How should I organize it? I don’t have a clue. And after a long while of letting it “simmer”, I’m no closer to understanding what I want to accomplish yet.
Perhaps I need to focus more on Preparation, instead?
November 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm #5337
Or have a conversation with a coach.
Any coaches reading this book? 😎
November 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm #5339
Why is it that we, passionate about helping others learn and discover their best, struggle to reach out for help in the same fashion?
My use of “we” is poorly masking the obvious “I” that conveys my true meaning here.
November 9, 2015 at 5:46 pm #5341
My daddy told me “Even the wisest person overlooks his nose.”
November 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm #5342
Re-read a couple parts and I’m wondering:
What base conditions might need to exist for someone to -artfully- transition from Preparation to Incubation?
November 12, 2015 at 1:46 pm #5344
Any non-coaches reading this?
G.W. did say that the work should be a different kind of activity. Then went on to the stories about walking and mountain climbing.
“A Different Kind of Activity” would not be more of the same — another story, another feature, another test suite.
So when I say “multitasking” here, I recognize that it’s about variety of activity, which apparently is as healthy as variety in diet. You should be able to do many things, so that the thing that requires the most thought can run in the background.
Maybe what you need is to give the preso a break for a day, then have a conversation about it with someone. We are someones. Then if you don’t have it, go back to preparation again. I’ve found it a good pattern for me, but I’m not everyone.
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