Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Follow the Leads

In which Kimm draws parallels between reporting, troubleshooting, geo-caching, and intuition... In the newsroom, I had a basic plan for tracking down stories that worked mostly without flaw - I'd poke around enough to come up with a handful of names worth contacting to get more information and I'd talk to them if they did. Sounds simple enough, except a lot of times they didn't have the sort of information I was looking for, so that's when the plan kicked in. I never let anyone off the phone until they answered one other question - "Do you know anyone else who might be able to help?"

It might take a few calls, but this method almost always worked; I'd just keep following the trail until I got what I wanted. Looking for the next clue if I couldn't get at the answer itself helped get me out of a few jams when I was in tech support too. Sometimes it was as simple as following a single thread and other times it was tougher and more like following breadcrumbs - find one breadcrumb then start searching for the next one, hoping the birds haven't eaten it.

This summer, small person and I have discovered geo-caching and I'm finding there are some similarities. We go to the latitude and longitude coordinates identified for the cache and then start following whatever clues and intuitive instincts available until we make our find. Sometimes the GPS coordinates are just the starting point - there are more clues or coordinates to find and follow before we actually find the treasure box and that makes it all the more fun. Or frustrating, depending on our perspective at the time.

Sometimes I stumble upon clues by accident and it occurs to me that this may be the best metaphor I've stumbled on yet for how to understand intuitive insights - especially the really strange ones defy any kind of reasonable explanation, even when "reasonable" is stretched enough to include some mechanism such as uncommon senses beyond the normally agreed-upon five senses. Sometimes where you're led isn't the ending point. Sometimes it's just the next clue in the trail of breadcrumbs we're meant to follow.

If that's true, recognizing whether we're at the destination or just another step closer is probably part of the puzzle to be solved. Good thing I like puzzles!

How do you solve puzzles? Send your methodology to me at and let's talk about what does and doesn't work, when and why, and when & why not.

Where might the thread I'm following be leading?