How To Think

Thinking Skills

Focusing On HOW Not WHAT To Think


How To Think- Thinking Skills - Focusing On HOW Not WHAT To Think. Picture of Rodin's sculpture of


How to think effectively is especially relevant, at the time of writing, as the world slowly emerges from post Covid-19 lockdown and starts to come to terms with the societal, economic and financial consequences.

We are currently living in an age of unreason where:

  • Experts are denigrated and ignorance, bias and prejudice is celebrated;
  • Woke thinking takes precedence over reasoned debate;
  • Virtue signally takes precedence over private philanthropy;
  • Intelligent discussion and agreement to disagree and respect for other shades of opinion are denied in the current cancel culture;
  • Public debate is hijacked and taken over by group think and mob rule.

All of which provides another very powerful rationale and motivation for learning how to think effectively.

In this article [and the associated articles that follow] we are going to look at a number of ways of improving your cognitive capabilities and  provide you with a range of practical tools and resources to do this successfully.

We are going to start the process of understanding and learning how to think effectively with several key reference points:

  1. Focusing On How To Think Not What To Think
  2. Critical Thinking Skills
  3. The Strategic Mindset
  4. Metacognition
  5. Mental Models






How To Think: [1] Focusing On How To Think Not What To Think

In recent research into the neurology of creative brains, the lead author of the study [Roger E.Beaty] said:

People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don’t typically work together.”

The evidence suggested 3 sub-networks:

  1. The default mode network involved in memory and mental simulation.
  2. The salience network which detects important information.
  3. The executive control network which plays key roles in creative thought.

“It’s the synchrony between these systems that seems to be important for creativity...”

Neuroscientist and Neuropsychiatrist Nancy Andreasen scanned the brains of 13 of the current most famous creative people across various domains and summarised key patterns in the minds of these creative geniuses:


# They have patience and persistence and allow the time

Creative work takes time, often a lot of time, and that requires patience and persistence.

"Isaac Newton's formulation of the concept of gravity took more than 20 years and included multiple components: preparation, incubation, inspiration — a version of the eureka experience — and production...”

[Nancy Andreasen]


# They are largely self-taught

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg were all self-learners preferring to figure things out for themselves.

“Because their thinking is different, my subjects often express the idea that standard ways of learning and teaching are not always helpful and may even be distracting, and that they prefer to learn on their own...”


# They are good at making juxtapositions between dissimilar subjects

Many creative geniuses make connections between things that are unrelated to their main research. They can force relationships where there is none. They make connections where ordinary minds see opposites.

Leonardo da Vinci forced a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water, which enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something...” [Steve Jobs]

When presented with a problem, creative people will ask :

  • “How many different ways can I look at it?
  • “How can I rethink the way I see it?”
  • “How many different ways can I solve it?”

They tend to come up with many different responses, some of which are unconventional and possibly unique.


# They are open-minded

Every problem — no matter how apparently simple it may be — comes with a long list of assumptions.

These assumptions must be tested especially the most obvious and the "sacred cows".

They ask "Why!?"


# They are so good, we can’t ignore them

Cal Newport says:

“Until you become good, you don’t have leverage.”

Truly creative people are always seeking improvement:

  • Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents
  • Bach wrote a cantata every week
  • Picasso made 50,000 works of art in his life.
  • Mozart composed over 600 pieces in his lifetime.
  • Charles Schulzmade made 17,897 Charlie Brown strips before he died.
  • Aside from his paper on relativity, Einstein published 248 other papers.

“On average, creative geniuses aren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers, they simply produce a greater volume of work which gives them more variation and a higher chance of originality...”

[Prof. Dean Simonton]

In summary, patience, persistence life long learning and approaching things differently are the keys to high-level creative thinking.

For a fascinating insight into the thought processes of Bill Gates I do recommend the Netflix 3 film series for which this is the trailer:







How To Think: [2] Critical Thinking Skills


What Is Critical Thinking?

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” [The Foundation for Critical Thinking]


Quote from Bertrand Russell about the importance of critical thinking and how few people do it.


Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better.

Ways to critically think about information include:

  • Conceptualizing
  • Analyzing
  • Synthesizing
  • Evaluating

That information can come from sources such as:

  • Observation
  • Experience
  • Reflection
  • Reasoning
  • Communication

And all this is meant to guide:

  • Beliefs
  • Action

These notes are an extract from an excellent article by Ramson Patterson: 7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

The Five Whys Technique is used to help determine the root cause of a problem by asking the question “Why” five times.







How To Think: [3] The Strategic Mindset

The strategic mindset is focused on the most efficient thinking process to achieve a result.

We are all familiar with that well-known quote from Thomas Edison, with reference to his 3,000 failures before he successfully invented the lightbulb, when he said that:

“Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration”.

However, usual interpretation of that story suggests dogged persistence and determination was the key to his eventual success. However there was far more to it than just that. Edison didn’t just randomly move from one failed design to another.

He was constantly adapting and refining his ideas:

“I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable... then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved.”

At each step of the process, he was making intelligent decisions that learnt from the failures and built on the small successes.

A recent study, at the National University of Singapore suggests we might all benefit from the strategic mindset.


While others diligently follow the same convoluted path, people with the strategic mindset are constantly looking for a more efficient route forwards.

“It helps them figure out how to direct their efforts more effectively,” says Patricia Chen who ran the study and the research shows that the strategic mindset may just spell the difference between success or failure.








How To Think: [4] Metacognition

Thinking about thinking: knowing how to apply the most appropriate cognitive processes to the task in hand.





Our brains process and organize information in a variety of ways. The core cognitive processes used for learning were first defined by Albert Upton [a professor at Whittier College] and later refined with David Hyerle. They include:

  • Defining: Listing the facts, details and key information you know about a topic or term.
  • Describing: Identifying the essential characteristics of something using adjectives.
  • Comparing and Contrasting: Analyzing how two things are similar or different from one another.
  • Classifying: Organizing information into groups or sets and listing the details, members or characteristics of each set. 
  • Whole-to-Part Relationships: Defining the parts and subparts of a system. 
  • Sequencing: Outlining the steps in a process or the sequence of events in a narrative. 
  • Cause and Effect: Analyzing the root causes and impacts of an event. 
  • Analogies and Relationships: Showing how things relate to one another using an analogy or relating factor. 

By deliberately activating and combining these 8 cognitive processes, and knowing which ones to apply for different tasks, we understand and interpret the world around us.

These thinking processes are built into our brains; we use them all the time and automatically. But we don’t always use them efficiently.

Effective thinkers have good metacognition, they know how to access these different modes of thinking deliberately and apply them to different kinds of tasks.








How To Think: [5] Mental Models

A mental model is a high level representation, or overview, of how something works.


Quote from Charlie Munger about the importance of Mental Models

Since it is impossible to keep all of the details of all of the information that you absorb in your brain, you use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organisable chunks.

Mental models shape how you reason and how you understand, and they also shape the connections and opportunities that you see, and also why you consider some things more relevant than others.

Charlie Munger on Mental Models

Latticework of Mental Models

How To Prioritise Learning Mental Models

Charlie Munger: Adding Mental Tools to Your Toolbox










    “A large part of the difference between the experienced decision maker and the novice in these situations is not any particular intangible like “judgment” or “intuition.”

    If one could open the lid, so to speak, and see what was in the head of the experienced decision maker, one would find:

    • That he had at his disposal repertoires of possible actions;
    • That he had checklists of things to think about before he acted; and
    • That he had mechanisms in his mind to evoke these, and bring these to his conscious attention when the situations for decisions arose.”

    [Herbert Simon - "Models Of My Life"]










Try these blogs to stimulate your thinking:

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Sam Thomas Davies

Bernardo Kastrop

Farnam Street

Mark Manson

Scot Jeffrey







How To Think: Thinking Skills

Mental Models

Cognitive Distortions

Charlie Munger

Elon Musk

Cal Newport

Julia Galef

First Principles Thinking

Second Order Thinking

Occams Razor


Mental Models - General Thinking Concepts

The Map Is Not The Territory

Circle Of Competence

First Principles Thinking

Second Order Thinking

Occams Razor

Probabilistic Thinking

Inversion

Iatrogenics - "Do Something Syndrome"


Mental Models - Human Nature

Heuristics

Availability Heuristic                                                                      

Representativeness Heuristic

Affect Heuristic
Cognitive Distortions

Confirmation Bias

Fundamental Attribution Error

Hindsight Bias

Survivorship Bias

Herd Mentality


Mental Models - Productive Thinking

Deep Work

Applied Rationality and The Scout Mindset

The One Thing

The Pomodoro Technique

Less Is More - Subtractive Solutions

Thinking Fast and Slow

The Long Game

Knowing When To Quit

Atomic Habits

Delayed Gratification

The Challenges Of The Road Less Traveled

Root Cause Analysis

Inflection Points

Nassim Taleb

Black Swans

Antifragile

Living Antifragile

Skin In The Game

Satisficing

Getting Things Done

Just Do It

Positive Asymmetry

Slack

Fat Tail Fractal Factor

Going The Extra Mile

Finish What You Start

How Not To Be Stupid

Checklist Manifesto

Signal In The Noise

Unseen Margins

Discernment - Exercising Good Judgement

How To Win Without Succeeding

Keeping Things Simple

The Art Of Saying No

The Long Game

Knowing When To Quit


Mental Models - Physics, Chemistry & Biology

Speed and Velocity

Leverage

The Red Queen Effect

Incentives


Mental Models - Systems

Margin Of Safety


Mental Models - Numeracy

Compounding

Pareto Principle

Regression To The Mean

Multiplying By Zero










Further Reading: Asking The Right Questions

Free Download: One Page Summary Sheet With Action Points & Resources

Return from "How To Think" to: Home Page




English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. How To Benefit From the Unseen Margins - 5 Key Tips For Success

    These Unseen Margins Can Have A Very Dramatic Impact On Your Life. To understand how to benefit from the unseen margins we need to start by understanding what they are and where we find them. In this…

    Read More

  2. The Art Of Thinking Clearly - How To Do More Than Just Survive And Reproduce

    3 Key Tips The art of thinking clearly starts with the sobering realisation that our brains are designed to achieve two things: Survival and Reproduction! 98% of our thinking is unconscious, automatic…

    Read More

  3. Algorithms to Live By - 5 Useful Rules Of Thumb

    5 Useful Heuristics From Algorithms To Live By The thesis of the book "Algorithms to Live By" is that algorithms developed for computers can be used by people in everyday life in a wide range of situa…

    Read More

  4. Finding Signal In The Noise - How To Avoid The Noise Bottleneck

    The Art Of Being Wise Is The Art Of Knowing What To Overlook. We are blessed and cursed to live in the digital age. We have access to more information than we can possibly handle yet we struggle to fi…

    Read More

  5. The Checklist Manifesto - Your Personal Safety Net

    A Checklist Is A Safety Net That Encourages Better Results And Prevents Avoidable Mistakes. The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correc…

    Read More

  6. How Not To Be Stupid - 4 Key Tips

    How To Avoid The 7 Causes Of Everyday Stupidity. We are all capable of everyday stupidity as we undertake routine tasks in our business and working lives and also in our personal lives. This is not ab…

    Read More

  7. Beginners Mind And The Voice Of Experience

    Only The Experts Survived Evolution. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." These are the famous words of Shunryu Suzuki in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Min…

    Read More

  8. The Art Of Being Alone Is A Skill

    Let's Make Today A Good Day. You may not have chosen the condition of being alone, and it may have been imposed upon you by circumstances beyond your control, but your response to the situation is wit…

    Read More

  9. Intuition & Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Calling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? We all struggle with these inner voices…

    Read More

  10. Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery

    It Isn't The Process Of Prayer That’s The Problem, It’s The Way It’s Framed. Regardless of what we feel about Madonna or her song the topic of prayer often arouses strong reactions. Usually, it is som…

    Read More

  11. Fear Of Missing Out - "I'll Have What She's Having!"

    We Follow The Herd - We Mimic Other People's Choices. Fear of missing out - or FOMO as it is popularly referred to - is the feeling that everyone else in your peer group is having much more fun than y…

    Read More

  12. Free - Self Improvement Resources

    Exercising Balance and Discernment. I have just updated these self improvement resources with a number of additional sources of material that are practical and can help you change your life. Check it…

    Read More

  13. Your Higher Self - Your Hardwired Portal To The Universe

    This Is The You That Is Beyond Your Thinking Mind. This is the big you, the transcendent you, the you that is often referred to as your higher consciousness or higher self. This is the you that acts a…

    Read More

  14. The Power Of Gratitude - It's Good For You!

    Gratitude And Attitude Are Not Challenges, They Are Choices. The power of gratitude quite simply is that it is good for you! Many of us were raised by parents who instilled in us the social niceties o…

    Read More

  15. Living With Your Thoughts - 4 Tools To Help You

    Develop A Good Working Relationship With Your Mind. The first step in living with your thoughts is to understand and develop a good working relationship with all areas of your mind. The key to develop…

    Read More

  16. You Are Not Your Thoughts - How To Escape This Ferris Wheel Of Suffering

    The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts. You are not your thoughts, at least that's what your rational mind tells you most of the time, but that's definitely not how it feels at 3 am when you have…

    Read More

  17. Finish What You Start - Action Will Destroy Your Procrastination

    4 Key Tips To Help You Finish What You Start. So why do you fail to finish what you start? Or in my case, why do I fail to even get started? There is a wealth of information out there about how to avo…

    Read More

  18. Going The Extra Mile - The Power Of One More

    Life Is Non-Linear, Which Makes The Rewards Of Continued Effort Disproportionately Big. In the pursuit of a long term goal you have to go countless extra miles to set yourself up for a big success. Go…

    Read More

  19. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  20. Dying To Self & Dropping The Ego

    Everything Does Not Revolve Around Me. The two phrases dying to self & dropping the ego are Christian and Buddhist expressions of the same fundamental truth - the need to correct the inbuilt, hardwire…

    Read More

  21. The Confident Mind - 4 Keys To Peak Performance

    Peak Performance Is Meditation In Motion. Peak performance is grounded in the Tao practise of Wu Wei which means "doing with out doing". This is all about how you take action by being so immersed in p…

    Read More

  22. Going With The Flow - The Balance Of Being And Doing

    Steer The Boat Each Day Rather Than Plan Ahead Way Into The Future. Going with the flow is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to exploit the potential hidden withi…

    Read More

  23. 8 Principles For Success

    A Timeless Foundation On Which To Build Your Success. There are Universal laws and processes that work to support us and guarantee that we achieve all our goals. But first we need to know what they ar…

    Read More

  24. The Loving Father

    A Love That Will Not Let You Go. I had a loving father. I knew that I did, but I never felt it. My father was a good man but very damaged and unable to show his feelings. So I grew up knowing in my he…

    Read More

  25. Your Ebenezer Stone Of Help

    How To Stay Connected To Your True Source Of Power. Approximately 2,500 years ago the Israeli town of Kafr Qasim was close to the site of two battles between the ancient Israelis and their neighbours…

    Read More

  26. The Stockdale Paradox

    How To Deal With The Attrition Factor. The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietna…

    Read More

  27. Embrace Your Fear Of Failure And Uncertainty

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did i…

    Read More

  28. The Wilderness Years - 3 Keys To An Exit

    How You Got Into The Wilderness Matters Less Than The Lessons To Be Learnt There. The wilderness years can be described as any lengthy time, longer than a year, that is spend aimlessly; without an imm…

    Read More

  29. Boredom – Your Greatest Threat to Results

    We Live In A World That Glorifies The Results And Not The Process. We all know what we should be doing, but the trouble with that is that sooner of later we get bored. The enjoyment fades, the excitem…

    Read More

  30. The Luck Factor - 4 Basic Principles

    You Can Master The Art of Creating Your Own Luck By Mastering 4 Key Principles "The Luck Factor" is the title of a book published 20 years ago based on the research of Professor Richard Wiseman who fo…

    Read More



Get new posts by email:









Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site