"In our fables of science and discovery, the crucial role of insight is a cherished theme. To these epiphanies, we owe the concept of alternating electrical current, the discovery of penicillin, and on a less lofty note, the invention of Post-its, ice-cream cones, and Velcro," writes Robert Lee Hotz. "In today's innovation economy, engineers, economists and policy makers are eager to foster creative thinking among knowledge workers."
I spend a lot of time looking at how information overload is largely a matter of forcing cognition into conscious and explicit processes rather than leaving them at the level of sub- or pre-conscious sense-making, where bandwidth is about 800,000 times greater. "A Wandering Mind Heads Straight Toward Insight," a great article in Friday's Wall Street Journal, covers new discoveries in the neuroscience of insight.
Sudden insights are unconscious shifts in perceptions or perspectives about something or someone. What research has discovered is that insights are also the result of brain activity that is more intense and patterned differently from the neural resources used for deliberate, conscious analysis.
By most measures, we spend about a third of our time daydreaming, yet our brain is unusually active during these seemingly idle moments. Left to its own devices, our brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving, which researchers had previously assumed were dormant during daydreams. Moreover, it appears to be the only time these areas work in unison.
Studies cited by Hotz also found that people in a positive mood were more likely to experience an insight.