The always brilliant (and incredibly adorable) Alina Koyfman shared a fantastic New Yorker piece about where insights come from (download it below). In it writer Jonah Lehrer consults the leading scientists in the field and learns some startling, helpful things.
Most interesting to me: "the insight process is an act of cognitive deliberation - the brain must be focused on the task at hand - transformed by accidental, serendipitous connection. We must concentrate, but we must concentrate on letting the mind wander."
I particularly enjoyed the reference to my favorite contemporary physicist, Richard Feynman, "who preferred the relaxed atmosphere of a topless bar where he would sip 7UP, watch the entertainment, and, if inspiration struck, scribble equations on cocktail napkins." (NOTE: it's not clear whether Feynman himself was topless or just the entertainers)
Lehrer at one point observes that the "clenched state of mind may inihibit the sort of creative connections that lead to insight breakthroughs." Particularly in today's economically challenging times where clients are cutting budgets and expecting us to do more with less, I think it's critical to learn how to unclench your mind, and unclench the minds of your team-mates. It's only when we're all unclenched that we can wander optimally to the biggest idea.