How to Think Deeply and Gain Insight into Things

There exists a timeless quote in the film ‘The Godfather’: ‘An individual who discerns the very essence of something within a single moment will inevitably face a distinct destiny compared to one who spends half a lifetime devoid of a clear perception of that essence.’

The capacity to perceive the intrinsic nature of phenomena is akin to profound insight.

In the realm of professional endeavors, the higher one’s position, the greater the demand for insight. For only with profound insight can one detect and resolve issues ahead of competitors within an era characterized by rapid change. This ability enables individuals to seize fleeting opportunities effortlessly, paving the way for promotions and salary advancements.

Hence, what does it truly require to embody insight? It necessitates the cultivation of one’s ability to engage in profound contemplation. Certain scholars have put forth a framework for deep thinking:

The essence of phenomena = model of thought

Deep thinking, as it is called, entails uncovering the essence and pivotal elements of contemplation. From this equation, it becomes apparent that to gain profound insight into the intrinsic nature of things, one must employ suitable models of thought to deconstruct the dynamic mechanisms governing their development. By comprehending the laws governing their progress under the influence of primary variables, individuals can glean insight into these principles and harness them to their advantage.

At first glance, the equation appears simple, but the endeavor to grasp the essence of phenomena is not as effortless as one might imagine. Firstly, let us examine a query: What impedes us from ruminating on the essence in our actual work and daily lives?

Put simply, habitual modes of thought hinder genuine contemplation. We have become accustomed to labeling others, treating outcomes as causes, and formulating formulaic solutions, instead of delving into the underlying truth of matters. Had Sir Isaac Newton merely concluded that the apple would fall to the ground without conducting thorough research when it struck him on the head, he would not have made the monumental scientific discovery that he did.

So, how ought we to engage in profound contemplation?

In the book ‘MIT Deep Thinking Method,’ the renowned consultant and writer Hirai Takashi presents four progressive steps of deep thinking, aiding individuals in gradually mastering the art of profound contemplation.

The initial step involves constructing a conceptual framework.

Sketch the abstract structure of the problem, encompassing its causes, outcomes, and individuals or entities connected to the issue. Enumerate the relevant internal and external factors.

Strive to ponder the problem from multiple perspectives, such as examining it beyond the confines of present time and space or contemplating it from alternative standpoints.

Consider the following interview question as an illustration:

One day, you find yourself driving a car through a station. At the station, three individuals anxiously await the train. The first is a critically ill patient in dire need of immediate transportation to the hospital. The second is a doctor who once saved your life, whom you’ve always yearned for an opportunity to repay. The third is the woman of your dreams, the one you desire above all else.

However, there is only one vacant seat in your vehicle. Whom do you choose to allow on board?

Some individuals may elect to permit the patient to board, as they cannot postpone their impending demise. Others may opt for the doctor, driven by a sense of obligation to reciprocate kindness. And there are those who would select the enchanting woman, fearing the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime love.

Each person makes their choice based on their individual values and outlook on life.

This interview question was posed to 200 job seekers, and only one person answered it correctly. He did not elucidate his reasoning but simply stated: ‘Hand the car keys to the doctor and request that he transport the patient to the hospital. I shall alight from the vehicle and proceed to rendezvous with the beautiful woman.’

This question serves as a metaphor: Have we ever contemplated relinquishing the advantages we possess (symbolized by the car keys)? At times, by relinquishing our stubbornness, narrow-mindedness, and advantages, we may attain far greater rewards.

The second step entails deciphering the dynamic mechanisms.

Behind the development of every entity lies an explicit or implicit power mechanism. Our task is to unveil these laws. Common power mechanisms governing progress encompass the following:

1. As the temporal dimension expands, observe alterations in various factors.

For instance, if you are presented with two employment offers—one from a state-owned enterprise and the other from an internet company—both offering similar remuneration, how do you make your selection?

Indeed, in the current context, deciding such an issue can prove challenging. However, envisioning the timeline ten years hence may facilitate the decision-making process.

Contemplate which choice you would regret relinquishing in a decade. Numerous young individuals lament choosing comfort during their formative years of struggle. Hence, they should venture forth and explore while young, rendering the decision less arduous.

2. Linear and nonlinear.

Consider the scenario of an apple descending from a tree. Byanalyzing the laws of physics, we understand that the apple falls linearly due to the force of gravity. However, when it comes to human endeavors, progress often follows a nonlinear trajectory.

For example, the growth of a startup company may experience exponential growth after a prolonged period of slow progress. Recognizing this nonlinear pattern can help individuals make informed decisions regarding investments, partnerships, or career choices.

3. Cause and effect.

Identifying the causal relationship between various factors is crucial for understanding the underlying mechanisms at play. By recognizing the cause-and-effect relationships, individuals can anticipate potential outcomes and make strategic decisions accordingly.

3. Feedback loops.

Feedback loops occur when the outcomes of a process influence the future iterations of that process. Positive feedback loops amplify the effects, while negative feedback loops mitigate or stabilize them.

Understanding the presence and nature of feedback loops can provide valuable insights into how systems evolve and how individuals can intervene to achieve desired outcomes.

The third step involves exploring alternative possibilities.

Once you have constructed a conceptual framework and deciphered the dynamic mechanisms, it is important to explore various alternative possibilities. This step encourages creative thinking and allows individuals to consider unconventional solutions or approaches.

By challenging assumptions, thinking outside the box, and embracing diverse perspectives, individuals can uncover new opportunities and insights that may have otherwise been overlooked.

The fourth and final step is to synthesize and integrate your findings.

Synthesis involves combining your insights, observations, and alternative possibilities into a coherent and comprehensive understanding of the problem or situation at hand. This step requires critical thinking, logical reasoning, and the ability to connect disparate pieces of information.

Integration involves incorporating your synthesized findings into your decision-making process, strategy development, or problem-solving approach. It is the bridge between insight and action, ensuring that your profound contemplation translates into tangible outcomes.

In summary, cultivating the ability for profound contemplation and gaining insight into the essence of phenomena requires constructing a conceptual framework, deciphering the dynamic mechanisms, exploring alternative possibilities, and synthesizing and integrating your findings. By engaging in deep thinking, individuals can develop the capacity to perceive the intrinsic nature of things and make informed decisions, leading to personal and professional growth.

Indeed, even if all the bovines in the realm were slaughtered and extensive manpower employed, there would not be an abundance of bovine hide attainable. All the ministers were cognizant of the imbecilic nature of this decree, yet they were bereft of any superior alternatives and dreaded incurring the wrath of the monarch, thus they refrained from disclosing their reservations.

At this juncture, a sagacious minister proffered to the king, “Your Majesty, there is no need to labor tirelessly and slay countless cows. Why not enrobe your feet with a duo of bovine hides?” The king was taken aback by this proposition, and instantaneously comprehended its merit, consequently rescinding the order. It is purported that this incident marks the genesis of “leather shoes.”

Hence, contemplating from myriad vantage points frequently yields efficacious solutions to predicaments while evading conundrums.

The aforementioned constitute four ubiquitous principles governing the progression of matters. In addition to assimilating these principles, attending to the junctures of metamorphosis in phenomena can also augment our capacity for profound cogitation.

Firstly, delve into the inflection point, the demarcation. The evolution of numerous entities unfolds subtly, eluding casual observation. Therefore, scrutinizing inflection points and demarcations can facilitate the unearthing of patterns.

For instance, the advent of mobile internet burgeoned swiftly, unbeknownst to many, including myself. The watershed moment that genuinely signaled the arrival of the mobile era was the announcement by Taobao, heralding the surpassing of PC users by mobile users for the first time. In that instant, I was abruptly awakened: the mobile era had indeed materialized.

Secondly, scrutinize phase transitions and observe phenomena. This entails both microscopic scrutiny and macroscopic analysis. Through daily observations, perusal of third-party data, and analysis reports within the industry, we can glean insights into shifting trends.

Furthermore, ascertain the underlying motivations and delve deeply into the rationales for these transformations. Refrain from being content with superficial analyses, and persistently excavate the essence of the quandary, progressively nurturing your professional acuity.

Once we surmount the second stage and unearth the root cause of the problem, we can subsequently devise solutions.

The third stage involves formulating countermeasures to alter the paradigm.

Through the aforementioned learning, we apprehend the necessity of modifying our cognitive framework to unearth genuine solutions to predicaments. This can be encapsulated in four facets:

1. Identify the prerequisites for the problem. Typically, these factors lie closest to the essence of the problem, bearing direct influence upon it. Altering these conditions may constitute the optimal means of resolving the predicament.

2. Broaden the scope of cognition. Visualize the entire event and delineate a logical diagram on a blank canvas to enhance cognitive abilities. Research attests to the efficacy of visualization in fostering cogitation.

3. Enhance perspectives. In the workplace, it is facile for subordinates to defer to superiors, thereby circumscribing the versatility of their own thinking. At such times, one must endeavor to adopt a leadership vantage point before appraising the issue. This shift in perspective engenders a divergent perception.

4. Ponder the art of thinking. Reflect extensively upon the nature of cognition itself, and scrutinize whether any blind spots or cognitive fallacies persist. Progressing from an underlying operational framework will engender a quantum leap in the profundity of cogitation.

Step 4: Initiate action and garner feedback through practice.

Regardless of copious contemplation bereft of action, resolving the problem holds no meaning. Regarding action, three facets warrant attention:

1. Prior to embarking on action, explore the model and dynamic mechanisms. Having conducted the aforementioned three-step analysis, we have acquired comprehension of the model and dynamic mechanisms governing the problem. It is imperative to adhere to these models and principles during the execution of action, undertaking targeted measures to effectively rectify the problem.

2. Communicate with others to validate the model and dynamics. When resolving problems, securing the support of relevant individuals holds utmost significance. By elucidating and verifying the model and dynamic mechanisms through discourse, one can garner greater support and confirm the efficacy of the model from multiple perspectives.

3. Learn from action and iterate. In most instances, our research findings and action strategies are not flawless, necessitating continuous iteration and refinement through action.

The aforementioned elucidates the four stages of profound cogitation. May you diligently practice them in your daily endeavors. Herein lie six methods to facilitate practice:

1. Method of title association. Peruse the title of an article or book, surmise its content, and subsequently compare your own ruminations with those of the author.

2. Foster the prototypical framework of thinking. Endeavor to employ transposable models in solving problems, gradually accumulating them to cultivate an innate intuition concerning predicaments.

3. Visualize cogitation. Human cognition thrives when contemplating tangible entities. Hence,when engrossed in contemplation, endeavor to depict your cognitive processes through illustrations. This practice aids in ruminative thinking.

4. Engage in intellectual collisions with divergent opinions. Broaden your outlook on matters by engaging in discussions with others, drawing insights from their perspectives.

5. Hone your historical perspective. Delving into history and studying how past generations grappled with present predicaments serves as an invaluable practice, offering lessons and inspiration gleaned from historical accounts and biographies.

6. Tackle seemingly insurmountable problems. Contemplate existential questions such as the meaning of life, the future of humanity, and global harmony. These inquiries serve to deepen your ruminative capacity.

Such is the essence of profound cogitation. May it inspire and invigorate your intellectual pursuits.

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