Book Review: “Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights” by Gary Klein

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Scott Drotar Seeing What Others Don't
An interesting, but frustrating, look at human intuition.

Have you ever had one of those moments where somehow, you just knew something? Or a time when out of the blue, the light bulb in your head sparks, and a problem you had been trying to solve for days suddenly makes sense? These moments of intuition are as intriguing as they are enlightening, because of their unexpected and ethereal nature. Author, Gary Klein, spent years trying to understand these lightning strikes of genius, with the hope that by better comprehending them that we could learn to harness their power into a more voluntary, reproducible act. He presents his findings in his book, which is also this week’s entry into the Scott Drotar Literary Review, “Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights.”

In this book, Klein tries to unravel the mystery behind human intuition. He does this primarily by studying and comparing hundreds of examples and stories of different types of insights, in an attempt to find some common factors. He ends up with 5 categories of intuition, with most moments of insight belonging to 2 or more categories. He uses 5 specific examples to illustrate the nature of each category in a way that gives the reader a thorough understanding of the various types of intuition. He then goes on to talk about how these different categories interact with each other. The author also discusses the careful balance that must be made between creating more insights and generating more errors, since following your intuition can often end in failure, as we know all too well.

The process of learning about and comprehending these epiphanies is the focus of the first part of the book, and in the second part Klein attempts to decipher what you can do to create more of these “a ha!” moments. This portion of the book was a little disappointing, especially after the first part was so good. The writing starts to get a bit long winded and repetitive, as he ends up reiterating the same points over and over. The biggest issue though was that he never really states whether it is possible to cultivate moments of insight, or how to do so. I felt like I was riding a rollercoaster, making the huge climb up to the big drop, and right as I was about to make the plunge, he turned off the ride and sent me home. I was left wanting an answer, or at least an opinion, one way or the other, but he basically said “who knows?” I could have come up with that much on my own, several hours and hundreds of pages ago. Thanks, Gary.

Despite the extreme frustration that I have with the second part of the book, I did learn a lot about intuition that was quite interesting. If you find cognitive psychology or neuroscience intriguing, I would recommend the first part of this book. Even if you are just interested in amazing stories of human ingenuity, the first portion of this page turner is worth reading. In any case, you should skip the second part to avoid the frustration and disappointment that I felt. Due to the enormous disparity between the two sections of the book, along with the anticlimactic ending, this one gets a 3 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.

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