Lateral Thinking and Incubation
The story of a monumental discovery by Dr. Rishi Rajpopat, who recently published his thesis defense at the University of cambridge this month.
If the solution is complicated, you are probably wrong.
Often, we are tempted to create or “invent” new solutions to challenging problems. Yet, in most cases, the answer simply lies under a cloak of simplicity and lateral thinking, waiting to be discovered.
To recall from a recent OLAD,
To discover is to reveal, or make light to, that which is already there.
And uncovering, by lateral thinking, literally, was what Dr. Rajpopat did as he solved a grammatical problem that was created in the 5th Century BC.
The key for Rajpopat’s a-ha moment though, laid in his process of thought. More specifically, the "Incubation” stage of Graham Wallace’s Four Stages of the Creative Process that I outlined in an earlier Cross-Pollination post.
The Incubation Phase is the period immediately after you put in the work. Where you remove yourself and let things “simmer.” This is the stage of unconscious processing and that which precedes the “a-ha” or “eureka” moment, the Illumination Phase - the moment when the answer bursts into one’s consciousness.
While working on the problem (Wallace’s Preparation Phase), naturally Rajpopat struggled at times. But it wasn’t until his supervisor told him, “If the solution is complicated, you are probably wrong,” that he decided to take some time away from the problem and place himself (perhaps unknowingly) in an Incubation Phase which led to his Illumination.
“Six months later, I had a eureka moment. I was almost ready to quit, I was getting nowhere. So I closed the books for a month and just enjoyed the summer, swimming, cycling, cooking, praying and meditating.
Then, begrudgingly I went back to work, and, within minutes, as I turned the pages, these patterns starting emerging, and it all started to make sense.
At that moment, I thought to myself, in utter astonishment: For over two millennia, the key to Pāṇini’s grammar was right before everyone's eyes but hidden from everyone's minds!"
The mind can be powerful, if we let it. Far too often we try too hard to be creative and end up complicating matters. But by putting in the work and thinking laterally or cross-pollinating, combined with giving the mind the ability to unconsciously process via rest, we give ourselves a greater chance of solving challenging and complex problems.
Peloton Formations in Hockey
As a reminder, Richard Martin penned a collection of pieces regarding organizational and team dynamics utilizing road cycling as a framework. An overview was included in Cross-Pollination Vol. 5.
"What cycling illustrates constantly is that leadership can come from anywhere. At the heart of the peloton formations concept is the notion of fluidity; fluidity of organizational structure, as well as fluidity of roles and responsibilities."
He describes the following team members within the peloton and the potential for leadership roles dependent upon the daily context:
"Strong, trust-based relationships are the genuine currency of networks…What characterizes the network in situations is a fluidity of knowledge, roles, responsibilities and authority. Leadership is in motion, governed by context."
In the sport of hockey, similar "formations" seem evident. Where, on any given night, individual players may work themselves into such positions or roles throughout the game. The pace and dynamic nature of the sport, combined with injuries and relatively compressed schedules create windows of opportunities where player roles both magnify and work together in dependant complex systems.
"Leadership has to come from within the team, from anywhere on the playing field. It is not the case of a coach simply instructing players on what to do. Instead it is about developing a partnership, recognising the skills and mastery, the autonomy, of each individual."
The very best teams harness individualism, not exile it.
Perfectionism and Loss Aversion
A good episode on coaching Gen Z athletes. The focus here was on swimming but the principles discussed within can certainly be applied to any sport, though other realms included. One thought, in particular, came to light:
That the fear - and/or pain - of losing being twice as powerful than the pleasure of gaining. Where loss aversion may prevent younger athletes from getting started.
Catch Them Doing Things Right
Todd McLellan was recently a guest on 32 thoughts. As above, he too discusse coaching the new waves of athletes. Specifically, he shared his thoughts on the importance of catching players doing things right.
"Coaches have always been repairman. They open the hood of the car even if it’s running good, and tinker around with it. Not so much anymore. (Now) they fine-tune things a little bit. They (look for) things that players maybe wouldn’t have tried before..."
And they guide and encourage them.
"I don’t believe there’s no "I" in team. I think there are 23 "I's" and they’ve got to fit your team. If you approach them that way, then you give them the self satisfaction and the recognition that they’re their own individual identity, and that they fit the group. Because players think about themselves first and that’s okay. We just need to recognize that and understand it and manage it. And deal with players (in ways) they may be more receptive to."
Great perspective in my opinion and a podcast episode I truly enjoyed.
The Mood Meter
Speaking of working with younger generations, we know that these athletes are more in tune with their feelings, thoughts and emotions. And we know that each of these impact their moods.
The Mood Meter below is a tool that helps identify, in greater depth, one's mood. The tool is divided into four coloured quadrants, each representing a different set of feelings. The feelings are grouped together on the mood meter and based on their pleasantness and energy level.
In many settings, I think this may be helpful in fostering connections and relationships with young athletes.
A quote to sign off with, courtesy of Michael Garfield:
When unpredictability increases, the inefficiency of the generalist starts to pay off.