How to think as Sherlock Holmes

On a flight from Copenhagen to Frankfurt not too long ago I read the book How to think as Sherlock Holmes by Daniel Smith. Read it on my Kindle with a notebook close by to be able to take notes as I was reading. Notes were then transcribed into Evernote and my report archive together with additional notes on my key learnings and takeaways.

Book notes

Thinking is the process of intellectual & logical cognition

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator define the following personality types

  • Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) – Perception (P)

Where each person is a four-letter combination of the types. An example profile would be a Sherlock Homes that is said to be an INTP but this is naturally also debated.

The Knowledge, London cab drivers

London cab drivers must take the test of “The Knowledge” which consist of 320 key routes through London. A good cabby has a good mind and a great memory. If you want to know what happened at a specific spot in a city, speak to the cab drivers.

Find the truffle, the key to observe

Seeing is easy while observing is harder. First is passive while the second is active. Instead of looking into a forest and see only trees, it is the pure observation that can lead you to where the truffles grow. Find the truffle!

The silent dog tells just as much as the loud one

The dog who does not bark tells just as much of a story as the one that does. This excerpt was from The Hound of the Baskervilles where Sherlock was the only one noticing that the dogs were not barking when they usually were and based on that observation went to investigate.

Observation is just as much of what is as of what is not but should be.

Observe and listen

Observation is also about listening. To become a better listener, remember the following steps

  • Ask questions
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Focus on the speaker
  • Cut out distractions

Repeat keywords as names or locations out loud to make them stick in the memory.

“As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”

― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Do lucky persons get more luck?

Lucky persons generate their own luck by noticing chance, listening to intuition and create positive expectations. Failure sucks, but instructs!

“The harder I work, the luckier I get!”

― Samuel Goldwyn

The process of logical deduction

  1. Accumulate evidence. Collect it all and analyze what you have often.
  2. Ask questions to fund answers.
  3. Create hypothesizes and analyze
  4. Evaluate your hypothesis to see if they hold up to scrutiny
  5. Conclusions based on all the above and back to first.

The devil is in the detail. Often the tiniest details give away the biggest truths

Facts and theories

Fit theories to facts, never fit facts to your theories. In the first, you are reading the evidence, in the latter, you are rewriting evidence to fit your theory.

The Google effect

Even Socrates identified that memory changed with the written word. This is not a Google effect.

Body language

Body language is the biggest part of communication. Part of the dialogue.

Focus on the big picture

Always keep your eye on the big picture, even though you only have a small piece of information. Find your own optimal place and process to analyze information in the best possible way. Don’t put over-trust in intuition!

Note taking

Power of note taking is to stop taking verbatim notes. Cut out the discussions and instead note down thoughts. Draw and color code. Categorise! Use memory relocation and bind important data to personal anchors. Use churning or mnemonics to build a story.

When all the impossible have been excluded, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

― Arthur Conan Doyle

Don’t mistake correlation for causation

Key learnings/Takeaways

My biggest take away from this book must be the power of deducing based on a better observational skill. It made me so interested in the subject that I have started to read the actual Sherlock Holmes books to pick up his way of seeing the world. To become more observant in everyday situations is something that really does seem like a superpower.

How to think as Sherlock Holmes book cover
How to think as Sherlock Holmes book cover


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