Seeing What Others Don’t by Gary Klein, 2013

The Gist

Cognitive scientist Gary Klein collected and analysed 120 stories of human experiences that altered someone’s “core beliefs.” His analysis of these stories persuaded him that “connections, coincidences, curiosities, contradictions and creative desperation” were the markers of insight. Once we have had such insights our understanding, behaviours, perceptions and desires can all be shifted. 

What’s Good

It’s well researched, it provides some great stories – 60 in total – to illustrate the key points.


“We are built to notice associations and coincidences and we are also built to detect anomalies, inconsistencies, irregularities.” If we fail to be insightful, we expose ourselves to poor judgement, flawed decisions and unnecessary failure. There is a tendency in organisations particularly to exert a ‘down arrow’ of pressure to get conformity, reduce errors and uncertainty. The ‘up arrow’ is how we boost insights. The arrows are in tension. For example, in Olympic Gymnastics scoring is based on a ceiling of the perceived difficulty of the routine. Errors are then sought to reduce the ceiling score. Success is about minimising errors. Klein argues pressure to conform squeezes out breakthroughs in thinking.

Something to Try

Be more aware of how we arrive at insights: make connections, reflect on coincidences, unravel contradictions, make connections through curiosity and don’t give up on finding solutions.