Enumeration can serve as an invaluable intuition pump.
Often you will come across a gem of an idea, this seems to have merit on its own and deserve exploration. For example, you may observe that good musicians have a certain set of personality traits. It’s worth expanding on and testing this idea. There may be something to it. It’s a valuable piece of knowledge to spread, however, there’s much more to be gained from ideas such as this with the application of a little abstraction.
Firstly, abstract the traits - find a set of traits that encompass a classifying discriminator in both the positive and negative cases. Second, abstract the individual, no longer constrain the outcome to a single label. Restrict the labels to an intuitively interesting set, then expand this set to include items within its natural boundaries. This will now allow for enumeration of possibilities, ease of testing assumptions, but most importantly, new insights.
There are many insights to be gained in specific instances of traits and labels by applying research and experimentation, but even more powerful is the potential to build an underlying predictive/generative model based on these trait variables. This could actually grant an understanding of why the presence of “traits a, b, and c” and the absence of “traits x, y, and z” make someone a good musician… Or something else.
The lesson here is really to recognise the opportunity to abstract and enumerate. If you keep this notion in mind it has the potential to magnify the impact of your epiphanies.
Quite a few of the posts on this blog have stemmed from this idea. The most notable example being “Projecting Value”. Another post that I came across recently on Organizational Physics was “PSIU”. It’s interesting to see who is talking about specific epiphanies, who is talking about existing combinatorial ideas, and expanding their cases and creating models and who is finding new combinatorial axes.