By Kevin Meyer
Understanding lean manufacturing is often a difficult undertaking due to how counterintuitive it can be. How can a process yield more with less? Move faster, with higher quality, by making one unit at a time instead of in batches? Sometimes it just doesn't make sense… until you see it in action or the constellation of nuances suddenly becomes clear. The underpinnings of that "a-ha!" moment are becoming better understood.
bed while watching flies on his ceiling. And to Newton it occurred in
an orchard, when he saw an apple fall. Each had a moment of insight. To
Archimedes came a way to calculate density and volume; to Descartes,
the idea of coordinate geometry; and to Newton, the law of universal
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. The burst of mental clarity can be so powerful that, as legend
would have it, Archimedes jumped out of his tub and ran naked through
the streets, shouting to his startled neighbors: "Eureka! I've got it."
So what is actually happening?
and complex series of brain states that require more neural resources
than methodical reasoning. People who solve problems through insight
generate different patterns of brain waves than those who solve
In fact, our brain may be most actively engaged when our mind is
wandering and we've actually lost track of our thoughts, a new
brain-scanning study suggests. "Solving a problem with insight is
fundamentally different from solving a problem analytically," Dr.
This explains a lot, at least to people at my company. I have a 40 minute commute along the coast, through avocado orchards, and ending with a nice long winding drive through some vineyards. Every now and then I try to listen to books on CD but find I don't remember a thing. My mind is wandering. And I usually have some hair-brained idea to try by the time I get to the office.
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.
She suspects that the flypaper of an unfocused mind may trap new ideas
and unexpected associations more effectively than methodical reasoning.
That may create the mental framework for new ideas.
So besides allowing our team members to daydream, how do we promote a propensity for insight?
affect whether or not we will likely resort to insightful thinking.
People in a positive mood were more likely to experience an insight,
researchers at Drexel and Northwestern found. "How you are thinking
beforehand is going to affect what you do with the problems you get,"
Dr. Jung-Beeman says.
A positive mood. Perhaps by treating people right… respect for people. The second pillar of lean.