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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dictionary Fallacy

Dictionaries are a useful tool for learning the definition of words, but may not be enough to understand their meaning. Words that express strategies, philosophies or other big picture concerns require more than a few phrases.Using simple definitions in arguments makes for simplistic arguments.

In today's short attention world, it's easy to get caught in the trap of simplistic thinking, The brevity of expression required in social media can turn complex concepts into rhetoric such that words lose their meaning. Assumptions of meaning can make for misunderstanding and poor communication.

The current use of "liberal" and "conservative" in today's political environment is a prime example. Rather than delineating differing strategies of governing, these two terms have become identities that assume no middle ground, overlap or shared values. Sadly, win/lose arguments in governing mean everyone loses.

Relying on dictionaries for understanding complex ideas undermines finding resolution, whether in argument or problem solving. Taking the time to better understand ideologies and strategies requires work but is worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is bending evidence to fit one's beliefs. Arguments that use confirmation bias can sound reasonable. Evidence is provided and conclusions are made. However, the evidence can also be manipulated to conclude something else or even the opposite.

Politicians are especially skilled at using confirmation bias. Sound bite rhetoric reinforces the claims made. When fear-mongering is added to the mix, arguments turn into tirades. This is one reason for the current bipartisan divisiveness. Each side manipulates the facts to confirm what they believe and support their thinking with emotional drama..

Want proof of this phenomenon? Try this:

  • Go onto Twitter and calmly engage in an debate with someone who disagrees with you. 
  • Ignore the name-calling and focus on the arguments
  • Manipulate their evidence to prove the opposite of what they are claiming
  • Some will respond with more rhetoric that can be picked apart. You can bombard these folks with facts, but it likely won't make any difference. 
  • Others may offer new information and resources. Investigate, assimilate and/or discard. You may discover your own confirmation bias in the process.

Thinking people want to find a meeting point so they can walk away from a debate without rancor. Yes, there is always a meeting point because we are all human.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Neener Neener Mobile

When thinking entails too much effort, becomes too difficult and requires research, it's easy to resort to rhetoric or even name-calling. This is especially true in social media that requires short responses to complex issues. The best example are election campaigns. Many people not only let others do their thinking for them, but inappropriately use rhetoric when debating substance. In politics this becomes a useful tool for building or derailing popularity through sound bites. Sadly, it works.

Another doorway onto the Neener Neener Mobile is through senseless name-calling of the individual arguing as opposed to their arguments. Even when accurate, the context can pervert the content. The result is a childish game of one-upsmanship.

A personal favorite are those who wish to have the final say by stating things like "that's it, so lets move on" or "quips like "you don't know what you're talking about" or those who end their arguments by saying "period."

If you are unable to debate a certain issue without malice, you are unable to debate that issue because you will more invested in being right than in communicating your point. Thus, you will end up taking a ride on the Neener Neener Mobile. We all do it at least every now and then, but trying to avoid it is a step forward in advancing thinking skills.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Thinking About Thinking

In the above comic, Penny wants to learn to think so she can write Textman. She has help from critical thinker Tikka, creative thinker Chaco, symbolic thinker Aleister and strategic thinker Miko. However, taking that first step is a doozie.

Thinking is a commitment to venturing into the unknown. Why? Because:

  • thinking does not occur in a vacuum
  • new knowledge is continually embraced and integrated into what is known
  • beliefs and opinions adjust and change with new knowledge
  • new knowledge can provoke high emotion from unconscious sources
  • thinking invites periods of chaos and entropy
  • at any time, the thinking process can shut down for reasons not easily understood
These are only a few reasons why the commitment to thinking is challenging. However, once you train your mind to think, thinking is automatic and a joy to behold whether you are contemplating the future, solving a problem, writing or cooking a meal. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thinking Systems

Critical thinking, check, creative thinking, sure, but what about other forms of thinking integral to success in today's world?

Strategic thinking is more than planning, it's about understanding the present so you can predict the future. In the most simplistic of terms, you learn the rules and then you use them to your advantage or break them to serve your purposes.In complex terms, strategic thinking resembles game theory. Strategic thinking is more often used in groups but can also be applied to individual endeavors.

Symbolic thinking recognizes the shortcuts of symbols we use to understand our world. Sometimes these symbols are archetypes. Other times they are icons that have gone viral. Symbolic languages are as old as communication. The merging of the meaning of symbols exercises the thinking mind.

Learning different thinking systems is a way of expanding thinking skills.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The New Knew

Go ahead and read all of those books on thinking and writing. Identify the behaviors involved. Learn the rules and how to break them. Quote your favorite passages. Share what you know.

But what do you know? Are you memorizing or are you learning? Are you thinking for yourself or parroting what you have read?

Thinking about thinking or even learning about thinking is an active process that requires effort if you want to do more than talk the talk. If you're ready to walk the walk, be prepared to push beyond your own limitations to originate new ideas. The ideas themselves may not be new. However, the spark of recognition from synthesizing ideas will be new for you.

Celebrate what's new about what you thought you knew.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Consensus Reality

One of the rudimentary beliefs of Jain philosophy is the idea that because reality is multifaceted, it is impossible to view its entirety. No single statement or set of statements can capture the entire truth about anything described. The story above is an example.

This concept of reality vaguely resembles the western notion of the Heisenberg Principle in that the observer changes the observed.

To function in effectively, we build a consensus reality. That's not to say we don't also break our own rules to push the boundaries of thinking. However, like the wise person in the story, we are also required to understand the context.

Breaking the rules for purposes of innovation works best after you learn the rules.