The wonders of a wandering mind

Common wisdom is that if you have a problem, you’d better focus, brainstorm as hard as you can, and find a solution. Make a spreadsheet perhaps, or map out your next steps—but do it quickly!


Maybe not—it could be your best insights are waiting to sneak up on you while your mind wanders.

Research into how people tap into insights, or “aha! moments” suggests that these flashes pop up when the mind is quiet or involved in unconscious or repetitive activity. Ever gone for a long walk or a hot shower and had a solution suddenly jump to mind?

Harvard Business Review published an article last October entitled “4 Steps to Having More ‘Aha’ Moments.” It’s a fascinating look at how our minds generate insights that may flip your thinking about how you approach problem solving. Chances are you already regularly engage in the suggested behaviours. Isn’t it great to know that when you do, you’re not slacking off? You might be at your most productive!

So what do you think about this research? And what are its implications for instructional design? Is there a way we can tap into the insight-generating abilities of our learners? Send us a comment—we welcome your ideas!