retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There is a good piece in Fast Company about how to think, using two iconic fictional characters as a reference point. Here's how the story frames the discussion...

"Are you a Dr. Watson or a Sherlock Holmes?

"If we could choose between a Watsonian and Holmesian mind, I’m sure most of us would prefer Holmes. He’s brilliant and perceptive: the consummate problem-solver. He’s an intellectual badass, capable of reading a complete stranger’s biography based on the guy’s cuff links. Sadly, most of us are like Dr. Watson: perfectly observant and well-intentioned but unknowingly judgmental and blind to the small, critical detail."

The story goes on:

"Holmes practices mindfulness, which sounds new-agey, but is actually quite practical. Mindfulness means focusing on only one problem or activity at a time ... This means that focusing on one activity or thought at a time will help you notice or remember details in your work, the things your read, and the people you talk to. This kind of focus will also make you better attuned to how you’re feeling, physically and emotionally."

The piece uses as its reference point a book by Maria Konnikova entitled "Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes." The author suggests that the ability to focus is a vastly underutilized and critically important quality, saying, “Your attention is a finite resource ... Even when we’re walking down the street--not on the phone, not listening to music but simply thinking about what we’re having for dinner--we’re not really noticing the world around us.”

Which is interesting, because it sounds like what she is suggesting is that in order to be effective in business and in life, what we need to do is not practice epistemic closure, in which we are not open to what is going on around us, but rather be practitioners of empiricism, which allows us to factor into our thoughts and feelings the reality of the moment, not just our preconceptions.

You can read the entire piece here.

One final note: there is another line of reasoning that suggests that in order to be more like Sherlock Holmes, what we really need is a sidekick who is willing to be in awe of our every deduction. When I interviewed the mystery writer Robert B. Parker years ago, he suggested that Sherlock Holmes's conclusions were not all that startling ... but were made more so by Dr. Watson saying, "Good Lord, Holmes, that's extraordinary!"

(This is less so in the new and excellent BBC modernization of the Holmes mythology, "Sherlock," in which Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson have more of an equal partnership>)

But, of course, a good flunky does not make for a good leader. Just a good fictional hero.
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