Connections

Connections is the most commonly used of Klein’s five strategies for achieving insight discussed in his book Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insight. He provides several examples of how this strategy achieved insight. One regards the Battle of Taranto. This battle took place at the beginning of World War II. The Italian fleet was restricting British efforts to resupply British forces in Europe. The British devised a strategy where they would use airplanes launched from an aircraft carrier. These aircraft were able to defeat the Italian ships. Two naval strategists were able to see the relevance of this attack to the general vulnerability ships had to the newly evolving air power. One was Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. He had the insight to see the vulnerability to an unexpected air attack of the American naval fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. He used this insight to devise the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto had been educated in the United States. He had the additional insight to see that an attack on Pearl Harbor would lead to the ultimate defeat of Japan. He passed this insight on to the Japanese leadership who refused to believe it. However, being a loyal sailor he designed the attack on Pearl Harbor.

There was also an American strategist who made the connection to the British naval success against the Italians at Taranto. This American was Admiral Harold Stark, who was no less than the chief of naval operations (CNO). Less than two weeks after the Battle of Taranto he sighed a memo stating,”By far, the most profitable object of a suddent attack in the Hawaiian waters would be the fleet unites based in that area.” He advised that it would be desirable “to place torpedo nets within the harbor itself.” On January 24, 1941 he sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, stating, “If war eventuates with Japan, it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the Fleet or the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.” Stark was ignored and Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” occurred on December 7, 1941. Moreover, Roosevelt unofficially blamed him for the attack on Pearl Harbor by removing Stark at CNO and reassigning him to London.

Connections is also the strategy that lead to the insight that lead to the mother of all scientific insights, the theory of evolution. Darwin came back from his five year voyage of the HMS Beagle with many observations regarding the diversity of the species. The question was what did this diversity mean? Where was the connection? Two years after returning from his voyage Darwin read An Essay on the Principle of Population by the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. This essay, written forty years earlier, claimed that populations grow until they exceed the food supply and then the member of te population compete with each other. Darwin made the connection and had the insight how this could explain the variations in species he had observed. In a competition for resources, any random variation that created an advantage would be selected and others would lose out. Member of species with the competitive advantage would be more likely to survive, breed, and transfer their traits to their offspring. Hence, the theory of natural selection relying on blind variation and selective retention.

It should be noted that Darwin’s contemporary naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, who independently arrived at the theory of natural selection also had read Malthus and had had the same insight and made the same connection as Darwin.

As was mentioned at the beginning of this post, the connection strategy was the most prominent of Klein’s five strategies and used in 82% of the 120 instances of insight Klein studied. However, these strategies are not mutually exclusive and and frequently used in combination.

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