Last week I had the privilege of working with a fantastic new client organisation situated just around the corner from 221b Baker Street, the address of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
Each time I walked past there were dozens of people gathered around the famous doorway taking pictures and queuing up for the Sherlock Holmes museum. First introduced to the world in 1887 – Sherlock and his mysteries are enduringly popular.
There are lots of theories to explain why we love a good mystery. Mysteries stimulate the brain in lots of ways, and even change our brain chemistry by triggering the release of adrenaline (when we read or see something grizzly or exciting) and serotine and dopamine (when we solve the mystery and feel very pleased with ourselves for doing so). There are also theories to suggest that in difficult and sometimes frightening times, we find comfort when the ‘good guys’ or girls solve the mysteries and sort out the baddies.
And there’s amazing characterisation. Arthur Conan Doyle described Sherlock Holmes as being addicted to work long before the term ‘workaholic’ was invented. Sherlock is aloof, arrogant, selfish and sometimes cruel, but can be charming and mischievous, and he plays the violin beautifully.
Another attraction is the appeal of the ‘procedural’ aspects of detective books and dramas – where we see exactly how the mysteries get solved and gain insights into the methods used. This is what appeals to me, and I have noted that there is a lot a Lean Six Sigma practitioner can learn from the world’s first Consulting Detective!
Let go of preconceived ideas
Sherlock reminds us of the importance of staying objective and keeping an open mind to avoid jumping to conclusions, “It is of the first importance not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities.” We often see people jump to conclusions about the causes of process problems before an analysis has been undertaken. Which leads nicely to…
“Data! Data! Data!” yells Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, “I can’t make bricks without clay”. Observing things and collecting information is his starting point, and he observes that “it is a capital mistake to theorise before you have all the evidence.“ Using appropriate data is key to understanding what is really going on.
Formulate and test your hypotheses
In solving a mystery, if several possible explanations presented themselves, Sherlock tests them, one by one (“one tries test after test until one or other of them had a convincing amount of support”). This is exactly the approach used in the Analyse phase of a Lean Six Sigma project – testing the possible causes of an effect in a process, until we find evidence to support their involvement.
Making time for analysis is important. Dr Watson comments that “seclusion and solitude were very necessary for my friend in those hours of intense mental concentration during which he weighed every particle of evidence, constructed alternative theories, balanced one against the other, and made up his mind as to which points were essential and which immaterial.” Indeed!
Use the knowledge, skills and input of team members and subject matter experts
Because Sherlock doesn’t understand emotions, Watson’s ‘human’ insights and people skills are most helpful to him. Sherlock also has a network of ‘irregulars’ which he uses “to go everywhere, see everything, and overhear everyone”. Involvement and engagement of people in the know is vital too in a Lean Six Sigma project. As is a balance of skills – from the technical aspects of problem solving through to the skills required to work with people and manage change.
Sharpen your problem-solving skills and learn more about the tools and techniques available
Sherlock tells Watson that “education never ends”, and devotes hours to studying as it is his belief that allknowledge is useful to a detective.
Value intuition and imagination
As well as logic, intuition and imagination are valued by Sherlock. He is critical of those who lack these qualities. “If only the most If only the most obvious solution is sought, the correct one might never be found at all”. Instincts are important. As are imagination and creativity.
And finally…Don’t give up!
“There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you!”
Contact Catalyst to find out more about how we can help you to solve mysteries, sharpen your skills and master data analysis.