Insight: Change at the Speed of Light

Do you ever feel like Miss Faversham or her boss? What would bring her up to speed in today’s world?

Rapid changes in business, technology and society demand greater flexibility and nimbleness.  But the tried and true ways to stimulate behavior change can’t keep up.

Research has shown that a very simple approach can facilitate change quickly, voluntarily, and in a way that is tailored to each person. 

Helping people have their own insights turns out to be that approach.  


Four clusters of neuroscience research help explain why.  They come together into an easy to remember acronym: LEGS.

LEARN: Davis, Chesebrough, Rock & Cox write: “Insights are heavy hitters for lasting learning.”  Why is lasting learning important to behavior change? Put simply, you can’t apply what you can’t remember. Having insights increases the likelihood that you will be able to recall what you’ve learned, and therefore be able to apply it.

ENGAGE: Insights also activate the brain’s reward system. People really do like to think for themselves. If you can tap into intrinsic motivation, you’re going to get better engagement and better performance.

GENERALIZE: Having insights also helps us expand our problem solving capacity from one kind of situation to the other, which gives us greater capacity for independent action and initiative.

SYSTEMIC CHANGE IN THE BRAIN: Finally, the combination of Learning, Engagement and Generation produces new connections in the brain as well as new  “frames” or conceptual filters. This results in greater cognitive flexibility, the capacity to look at situations from different angles, and the potential to arrive at breakthroughs…all necessary capacities to have in today’s environment.

How to stimulate insight in oneself and others?

It’s actually fairly simple. Research shows that four conditions facilitate insight:

  1. Limit perception of threat. Ideally people should be slightly happy.
  2. Ask powerful questions to focus inward.
  3. Provide quiet time to think.
  4. Allow space & time to reduce mental effort. That is, don't try to force insight.

While the process is fairly simple, a critical precondition is realizing that  directive and prescriptive behavior won’t enable people to perform flexibly and nimbly in today's fast paced environment.

Who wouldn’t want organizations where people think for themselves, are intrinsically motivated, and able to apply their thinking to new/novel situations and look at the world from varied perspectives? All through one simple approach to helping people grow.