🕵️‍♂️ Mastermind: Observation

In honor of her new book, The Biggest Bluff, we’ll spend this week revisiting Maria Konnikova’s book Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes. 

The story of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson begins with bafflement. Watson is amazed at how the detective deduces what happened with so little information. Ah, suggests Sherlock, there’s ample information all around. For example, Holmes asks Watson how many steps lead up to their Baker Street abode. Watson has no idea. 

“You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.” 

The first thing to think about with Sherlock is that he observes the world. He’s active which means he’s curious. This requires him to move past the obvious (without dismissing it) and consider other possibilities. 

We can ask, ‘what is legible’?

Our firehose of information involves something Sherlock never encountered or countered, numbers. Computers make everything easier to count, so we count everything. While numbers are precise (1+2=3), numbers may not be accurate. Like Watson focusing on the immediate and easy, numbers may lead us further from solving our own mysteries.

Let us start then at the end, here’s how Konnikova wraps her book:

“If you only get one thing out of this book, it should be this: the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present, reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state. It doesn’t often multitask, and when it does, it does so with a purpose.”

That’s the mind we will cultivate this week.