Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"I See Dead People"

 A famous line from the movie "Sixth Sense."

Some people thrive on trusting their intuition. Despite what the behavioral psychologists and neuroscientists say, many believe they can predict the future, or at least bits of it. When good things (or bad things) happen, we remember our wanting them to be so, and say "I could see it coming." Of course, our mind doesn't bring up all the things we thought might happen, but didn't.

I think there is something to intuition, even if we can't predict the future. As Steven Johnson notes in his book "Where Good Ideas Come From," slow hunches play a big role in innovation. Ideas don't really happen as light bulbs. They emerge, as one's mind reassembles puzzle pieces and learns new things.

For innovators, having problems to wrestle with is important. It provides the soil from which the slow hunches can grow. [for my bleeps, we could say that most innovations are rooted in suckage]. That gnawing problem gives one a perspective from which one views the world. It is a lens of unique creativity. It is where our intuition lurks. As we assemble many combinations in our mind, are we tapping our sixth sense?

Today, I heard the story* behind CeaseFire, a program aimed at stopping gang violence that was started by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin. Dr. Slutkin had been working in Africa on the HIV epidemic. Upon returning to Chicago, he saw that violence was similar to an infectious disease in the way it was spread between people in a community. Millions of people have lived in Chicago without noticing that. It was Slutkin's experience that gave him a different way to see a gnawing problem. And come up with the idea that violence could be treated as a public health problem.

How are you applying your unique perspective? What problems need your experience thrown at them?  What can you prevent? Where can you see live people, that might have otherwise been dead?
*Thank you to Andrew Zolli for the story. To find out more about Ceasefire, look here, and here. It is not a new story, although it was new to me. There is also a documentary, The Interrupters.

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