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How coaching fuels insight and makes better engineers

Bruna de Palo, certified IMechE Coach

Insights reveal phenomena and behaviours, and often point to ideas and solutions.
Insights reveal phenomena and behaviours, and often point to ideas and solutions.

With an “estimated global revenue from coaching in 2019 of $2.849 billion U.S. dollars”, coaching is undoubtedly a key-boost for individuals and companies’ growth.

What makes it so effective?

Einstein said “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

The coaching process helps elevate your level of consciousness and self-awareness, shift entrenched mindsets and change habitual thinking patterns to enable outside-of-the-box solutions.

While a personal trainer keeps you accountable while helping you develop your body’s muscles, a coach does the same job in developing your brain’s muscle.

When do I need a coach?

When you lack clarity on important matters or key decisions: 
  • What is next for me career-wise?
  • What do I need to do to get promoted?
  • Am I in the right job?
  • I am thinking of going self-employed – where do I begin?

When you are stuck:

  • How can I empower my team?
  • Why is my work/life balance so poor?
  • How can I stop being anxious when I do presentations?

When you need to change mental habits:

  • Why do I keep procrastinating?
  • Why do I take things so personally?
  • I am terrible at conflict
  • I de-value myself
  • need to be more positive.

Your coach will lift you out of entrenched thinking patterns and keep you accountable, so you can access a wider range of opportunities while moving consistently towards your goals.

Specifically, your coach can help you sustain and accelerate movement by triggering “insights” and maximising the energy they produce.

What is an insight?

An insight is an idea or a thought that suddenly bursts out of nowhere and often offers the solution to something you were thinking about. Technically, an insight is a “connection” between two seemingly unrelated and dormant thoughts which collide and connect.

Think about the last time you watched a film with a complex plot and suddenly the whole story made sense. How did you feel in that moment? That quick elation signals you just had an insight. Two thoughts connected and produced a little rush of dopamine.

A trained coach is skilled at triggering these and will do so by using specific tools and techniques which will expand your perspective.

Why is insight important for engineers?

The Oxford Dictionary defines engineering as the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures. In simple terms, engineers use science and math to solve problems. Insights reveal phenomena and behaviours, and often point to ideas and solutions. Therefore, insights and engineering are closely linked.

Which conditions trigger insights?

Your brain must be in a “reward” state; this is a positive and engaging state, when you produce hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin as a result of internal stimuli such as memories, thoughts, sensations – or external events. By keeping you focused on the solution instead of the problem your coach creates the ideal condition for insights to emerge.

Insights are a staggering resource we all possess, but unfortunately, we haven’t been trained to trigger or trust them. Geniuses, on the contrary, naturally know how to access and follow them, which is how they come up with startling, often off-the-wall discoveries.

Do I need a coach to get insights?

Not necessarily, although it will help to put them into perspective and maximise their power. If you want to trigger your own insights, here is what you can do:

  1. Be 100% clear on your goal or objective. Forget the details of the problem, think in terms of solutions; “How to empower my team” vs “I don’t want to lead an underperforming team anymore”.
  2. Put your brain into a positive, reward state. Reflect on how it will feel and look like having solved your issue. What opportunities will open up that are not available now to you? Why is this so important to you?
  3. Give it “incubation” time: distance yourself from the problem, let it rest. Watch a film, spend quality time in a relaxing, comfortable, quiet environment, ideally with white noise in the background (or calm, relaxing music) and soft lights.
  4. Let your mind wander without actively thinking about your issue. Wait for insights to emerge.
  5. Repeat.

By softening the boundaries between your inner and outer world, you create the perfect environment for insights to arise. The more your mind wanders, the more outside-of-the-box ideas and opportunities you couldn’t see before emerge. It is not a coincidence that most of us have insights during the shower.

If you would rather follow a structured process, explore the Institution’s new coaching service and how it could help you at imeche.org/coaching.

IMechE coaching

Committed to making your journey and experience one of genuine growth and self-empowerment, IMechE has launched a new coaching service, which is led by qualified industry experts and aims to give you the insights, tools and strategies you need to reach and remain at the top of your industry, performing at your peak.

Upcoming webinar

How scientific, performance-based coaching can elevate the way you think, act and lead 12 February 2021 at 12.30 pm GMT.

Recommended reading

“The Eureka Factor: AHA Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain” by J. Kounios, M. Beeman.

Further information

To talk to one of our advisors about coaching, email us at training@imeche.org .

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