The Opposite Of Déjà Vu

Nikki Heat might just be the most fictional person ever. Never heard of her? I’ll explain.

The ABC crime series Castle recently came to an end after eight seasons. The show was about Richard Castle, a best-selling mystery novelist, and Kate Beckett, an NYPD homicide detective, who teamed up to solve crimes in New York City.

In order to promote the show, the network released a book in 2009 written by “Richard Castle” called Heat Wave. The book featured NYPD detective Nikki Heat and her unlikely partner, author Jameson Rook. Sound familiar?

The book is about fictional characters created by fictional characters, thus making Nikki Heat even more pretend than the Real Housewives of Hill Valley.

Nikki Heat was great at solving crimes for two reasons. 1) She was the title character of a crime book series, so of course she was going to solve every case, and 2) she had a unique ritual called the “walk up.”

Every time Heat approached a new homicide, she followed the same pattern. For roughly two hundred feet as she walked up to the crime scene, she would briefly erase all her previous cases from her mind. She would approach each new case with a clean slate, a fresh set of eyes. Sure she had years of experience, but as one book describes, every crime scene has its own “flavor of chaos.” To take every detail in the current homicide, and not get it confused with a case from the past, she would view a familiar problem with a fresh perspective.

Turns out this way of thinking isn’t just limited to characters who are fictional to the nth degree. Author Adam Grant calls this vuja de. It is kind of like déjà vu, only in reverse.

Déjà vu is when we encounter something new, but it seems like we’ve experienced it before.“Vuja de is when you look at something you’ve seen many times before and all of a sudden see it with fresh eyes,” Grant says.

Experience is great, but sometimes we need to take a cue from Nikki Heat and create our own version of the “walk up.” By having a fresh perspective, we are able to gain new insights into old issues.

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