Sherlock Holmes was every criminal’s worst nightmare. If you wanted to commit a crime, you waited until Holmes was out of town or caught in a potentially fatal battle with Professor James Moriarty before proceeding. Even then, there was no guarantee that you would get away with it. Holmes has come to be known as arguably one of the best detectives of all times. If you are trying to replicate his strategies for solving a crime, here are the top 7 strategies Holmes used.
1. Defining the Mystery
In order to solve a puzzle, you need to know exactly what the puzzle is. Sherlock Holmes dedicated a lot of time to “defining the mystery” that needed to be solved. He took all the information he had and created a detailed picture that painted a depiction of what was known, the facts, observations, asking questions, creating list, constructing a hypothesis, analyzing his data, and of course, the unknown. By creating this list, he made it easier for himself to focus his findings on the facts that actually mattered. Modern law enforcement and private investigators rely on this method today. When solving large cases, they have boards where each element is lined out and connected, detailed notes that are organized to go back to at a moments notice, and all information found throughout the case saved. Instead of trying to solve irrelevant data that does not pertain to the investigation, Holmes defined the mystery to know which areas to focus the bulk of his energy on.
2. Approach Each Mystery With a Blank Mind
Sherlock Holmes was a man with a thousand theories. Nevertheless, whenever he started a case, he approached it with a blank mind, with absolutely no theories formed. Everyone was guilty. And everyone was innocent. The difference between Holmes and many detectives is the fact that Holmes never relied on patterns. A bad detective can develop the lazy habit of relying on patterns and assuming the outcome with little information. For example, whenever a wife is murdered, the first suspect is always the husband. Such assumptions, though based on justifiable data, can easily lead you to the wrong person. There is a saying that if you look hard enough at something, you can trick yourself into believing its true. Never make any theories until you have collected and analyzed the data on hand. Otherwise, you could twist the data to fit with your preformed conclusions. It is a lot easier to do than you think. Instead of guessing first, start from the beginning by working with the information you have and then begin to work on a reasonable solution. Whatever you find, however illogical the answer may be, you will be on your way to the truth.
3. Learn How to Read A Situation
To understand the story behind each mystery, you must be able to read the narrative correctly. Fine-tune your detective skills by taking the time to analyze each room that you walk into. Sherlock was brilliant at that. He would see what was happening, observe items around, and construct a narrative that explained what had likely happened in the past. See. Observe. Deduce.
4. Use Logic
A sharp intellect is a powerful weapon. Whatever decision you come to during your investigation, it should be supported by logic. Burglars do not teleport into buildings. If you believe a person committed a crime, your conclusion must be supported by facts. Many detectives talk about instincts and having a ‘nose for a crime’. All of that is useful, however, in the end, convictions are made on facts. Knowing how to sieve though the information and create a clear connection between your findings is the logical way to find the truth.
5. Never Give Up the Opportunity to Listen
Sherlock had an obsession for understanding people. So much so that he would sometimes visit a public place and simply listen. Listening is an important strategy to solving crimes. You get to learn more about the person you are with and may even pick up accidental clues. Be polite when talking with parties linked to your case. Encourage them to talk more. When they start speaking, remain silent. The longer people talk, the more engaged their memory becomes. They may be able to remember details that they missed by reliving the experience. Listening is also a good way of catching liars. People who make up a story find it harder to keep the facts in order when they talk for long period of time.
6. Never Underestimate Anyone
A mother. An old man. To Holmes everyone was capable of committing the crime in question. It was only a question of unraveling the mystery behind ‘How.’ As a detective, avoid the mistake of underestimating people. People commit crimes for different reasons. It may be the outcome of uncontrolled passion, ruthless planning, or a combination of both. Holmes recognized that people were driven by complex emotions, and therefore capable of committing the worst crime given the right stimulus. Assuming that certain suspects do not fit a crime is a mistake many amateurs make. Like Sherlock, himself said. “Consider everything.”
7. Learn How to Recognize Vital Facts from Incidental Facts
During his investigation, Sherlock would come across dozens and sometimes hundreds of facts. But he was able to wean out the incidental facts, from those that were vital. Out of the hundreds of facts a detective works with, he may need only as little as three facts to crack the case. Of course, Holmes kept the other facts still in his pocket, as you never know when more information is needed. “Knowing how to spot this is the first step to becoming a sleuth detective” says Manhattan private investigator, Darrin Giglio.
Having a keen eye for detail and strong analytic skills is the key to becoming a good detective. You need to work with the right strategy. Sherlock Holmes was ruthless at collecting, analyzing, and deducing from information. It brings forth the importance of gathering as much evidence and data as possible. Nothing is useless until you decide it is. Whatever deductions Holmes made, he did it based on the evidence found. As Sherlock pointed out “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment,” which is a complicated way of saying, “Don’t just guess. Investigate.”