Left Out

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Something missing?

Well, you can safely assume that any information you are presented with has some relevant information “Left Out”.

The originator’s perspective, the logic bubble in which he perceives the world and how the  information is applied are some possible reasons for the missing information.

Also we may unconsciously miss the presented information because it doesn’t fit in our logic bubble or it contradicts our value system (we are biased). Left Out

What is Left Out could be accident or we may simply not be aware of it. But information could also be Left Out deliberately. It could be a way of framing or spinning an uncomfortable truth. Politicians and their spokesmen and women are notoriously for their way of deviating from the “truth”.

If confronted with a report,  from an accountancy or consultancy firm or from a parliamentary inquiry, be alert of Left Outs.

Don’t trust pleas from State prosecutors. Although they are legally required to seek the truth, as employees they are vulnerable for pressure from bosses and society to get suspects to get defendants convicted and to Left Out exculpatory evidence to the accused.

Left Out strategies are a proven means of  state-owned and private press enterprises. In a next blog post we will delve in the patterns of daily news to explore the mechanisms of press logic bubbles.

An interesting question has been posed by Eric Drexler in his contribution to How The Internet Changes The Way You Are Thinking: Nowadays we see better what there is not there.

Could we use the Internet to use the principle of Detection of Absence to develop knowledge, to test existing knowledge and to destroy anti-knowledge (wrong ideas)? Eric launches the idea to set up a Wikipedia, but not an encyclopedia with consensually validated information as “right”, but one with known controversies about facts. In such a kind of Wiki both sides gives as biased as possible but with their best proofs and fully documented their”facts”.

Make it a habit to ask yourself, before continuing reading beyond the heading of an article, title of a book or jumping to the summary of a report, “what is Left Out”. This could be a first step to a critical examination and exploration of the facts and information value of what you are about to start reading.

  • What is Left Out?
  • What information is relevant?
  • What information should be provided?

See also our blog post about Cassandra information.

Photo: “Left Coloured Dice Shows Www. Addresses” by Stuart Miles

Questions about Questions

QuestionsAlways the beautiful answer

Who asks  a more beautiful question.

E.E. Cummings

The single most important habit for an innovative thinker may be to ask questions. A well formulated question stimulate and inspire. Questions leads to more questions and the question is why we focus so much attention on answering questions and so little on asking questions.

Warren Berger says,
“Questioning—deeply, imaginatively, “beautifully”—can help us identify and solve problems, come up with game-changing ideas, and pursue fresh opportunities.”

Part of the answer lies in the way education values answer. The educational system is built to create workers and compliance and rote memorization are valued qualities. These qualities are not necessarily valuable qualities in the 21st century and they are definitely not qualities if you want to develop innovative thinking skills.

Seth Godin says,
“Our grandfathers and great grandfathers built schools to train people to have a lifetime of productive labor as part of the industrialized economy. And it worked.”

Warren Berger is the author of the book  A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas  and he says that the most innovative and creative people tend to be good questioners. Warren interviewed and studied innovators and designers and the common factors was the way these people kept asking questions. These people asked and formulated a question or a series of questions which lead to their discoveries. Yet, question asking is seldom taught.

Warren says,

“A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something – and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.”

Hal Gregersen has used a technique called Question-Storming. The idea is to generate a few powerful questions, which may help to determine direction for a search for new ideas and information. A crucial step in Question-Storming is to improve upon the questions and an advantage with this approach is that “good and fruitful” questions have a certain attraction to people. They are the questions that captures people’s attention and after a session you feel inspired to continue to explore the question.

Another approach to asking questions is to use three words to generate ideas.

“How might we?”

This approach avoids the problems linked to using questions such as “How can we do that?” or “How should we do that?” When posing these types of question, it is easy that questions such as  “Can we really do that?” are asked. These types of questions are problematic when you are trying to generate ideas and explore possibilities that can lead to an innovation.

The book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, is about questions that cannot be typed into a search box. Questions that challenge your thinking and inspire you to keep asking new questions. Yet questions themselves can be flawed and we must learn to question the question. The way we pose questions says something about our assumptions, biases and experiences.

“Have you visit The Right Question Institute?”

“What I am assuming when I ask that question?”

“Should I ask another question?”

 

How to Outsmart the Internet – Thinkibility Boost

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The Internet! Maybe the most outstanding communication innovation in the history of mankind. A little tap on the keyboard and we have access to all sorts of knowledge, information, ideas, pictures. . . Indispensable business tool that offers faster communication, social networking, and eCommerce.

In this blog post the focus is on the negative aspects with the Internet (Black Hat Thinking). This type of thinking should not be of a negative character; instead a  search for possible faults and risks is carried out. There are many blog posts on the Internet providing lists with disadvantages and the aim with this post is to explore risks and problems but also to encourage a search for ways to overcome  these problems. We explore search engines in general and we look at a wide range of ways that we use the Internet to access information, for example, read the News.

The Annual Edge question 2010 was  How is Internet Changing the Way You Think. Yet none  of the scientists and artists who contributed, directed their attention to possible disadvantages and risks of the overwhelming use of search engines. Instead they explored ideas such as “Is the Internet making us stupider since it is getting more difficult to read a long piece”, and “We have become hunter gatherers of images and information”.

Our brain has an effective filter. Yet when we are looking for information, this filter is not always effective. We are surrounded by things that are trying to impress us and to capture our attention. Our filter tends to leave through things that are familiar to us, while new things and things that require time to process may be ignored.

Brain is an Effective Filter

We can reduce the volume of data by processing it into information and knowledge. We may complain about data overload but we are strangers to the idea of knowledge overload. The problem could be described as a filter failure rather than information overload. When our filters fail, we end up spending time on things that we would not do if the filters were working. In some cases, it takes courage to stop opening emails that we know have no real interest to us. A more serious problem is when there are filters that we are not aware of. We may be aware of that search engines are filtering our searches, yet it may be difficult to know how to avoid the effects or at least work around the effects.

Interactivity

  • The Internet is NOT the machine that immediately gives you always the perfect answer.
The concept of search engines is interactivity: they deliver information in exchange for information from you.
Do you believe that search engines are charitable, idealistic organizations?
Search engines may provide you with information but they also want information from you.

Thus, it is not you who controls the machine.

Affirmation

  • A characteristic of the Internet is affirmation.
Search engines confirm our expectations, opinions, and ideas.

For example,  I wanted to differentiate my company for training creative thinking because the market consisted of  companies training people to use brainstorming techniques, which I consider a  weak form for creative thinking.  Brainstorming  does not fulfill the need that businesses, technical, and public organisations have concerning creative thinking. So I called my company Practice for Bold Thinking.

This resulted in my company not showing up  with search terms such as creative thinking. People looking for creative thinking will always be given links to providers using brainstorming techniques. They will not ever learn about other existing creative techniques.

The Internet reinforces opinions we may have or may have had. Thus, the way the collected data is interpreted reinforces our ideas.

The ads that I am seeing on my screen seems to be directed towards a golf enthusiastic. i must have moved to Spain to play golf and to invest my money, look at my health insurance. . . Thus, the information that has been collected by the search engine  reinforces standard thinking about people. I do not see any ads inviting me  to join the next Mount Everest expedition. Yet 90-years-olds are climbing that mountain and I am rather fit!  I do not see any ads with an invitation from Columbia university to get a degree in humanities. Or to set up a company that use fish to nibble away dead skin cells on your feet.

The Internet reinforces the idea of Wisdom of the Cloud. The items that receive the most clicks are equal to the truth. So they must be the truth. This way of working is based on the idea of consensus. However, all scientific breakthroughs are the result of breaking standard opinions about what were true till then.

Eric Drexter has suggested that next to Wikipedia there should be a Wiki of controversies. The standard Wikipedia  is the result of a process of consensus seeking, the AntiWikipedia should seek conflict. The effort required from the contributors is to make a claim pro as stark as possible, and also the opposite claim.

Then there is the trait of absence of randomness. In an earlier blog post we have stressed the importance of randomness when thinking.

Perhaps we should every time we inject a search word combine it which a word from a random word generator. The word I got was Agonist.

I tried this with the search Obesity, which I had tested before without finding any new ideas regarding  possible remedies. So I typed Obesity Agonist. I discovered the role of a 5-HT2c receptor agonist as a possible remedy against obesity.

Thus, you do not control the Internet and the Internet does not control you. “Communication” is a two-way process, even if you are typing information into a machine. In a similar way as if you do not ask your neighbour in the right questions, there is no way you will get the answer to the question regarding how much you should prune the hedge that you share. The mindset has to be that you have to be creative and inventive when you use a search engine, just like you have to when you talk to your friends, family and neighbours.

Personalisation

The full impact of personalisation puts a questions mark around the idea that the internet as a tool to opening up information.  Personalisation leads to funnelling what we see by delivering what the search engines knows, or thinks it knows, we are interested in. Personalisation can lead to a person with a good degree from a modest university from a humble background not gaining access to good jobs despite begin bright. Recruiters may target people who have graduated from certain universities and with the help of social media these people may be easier to reach. The bright student who has graduated from a modest university may never see the advert for the job. Consequently, the person will never send in an application.

If you have previously searched for articles about obesity you may get the newest research, while someone who has never searched for it but has done lots of searches about food may get links to information about links between obesity and food.

A serious consequence for society is that a person may miss out on important news because of their interest in other subjects. When a person buys a newspaper to read about a sport event, the headlines on the front page may attract his or her attention. There may be a bank crises in the country. However, on the  internet this news may not reach the person. The internet feeds a person news depending upon what he or she interacts with. Thus, a broad search using different  media is one way to make sure that we are outsmarting the Internet.

Photo “Arrows On Dartboard Showing Perfect Aiming” by Stuart Miles

Stop and Think about It

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Which animal would you like to save?

What criteria are you using when you are thinking about working for endangered animals or donating money to save a species?

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The Ugly Animal Preservation Society (UAPS) works towards raising the profile of some more aesthetically challenged animals. The panda gets a lot of attention and it might be easier to feel that this animal is worth saving compared to the blobfish with a “miserable” expression and  the promiscuous monkey with an enormous long nose.

Raising the profile of animals that are not at first sight anyway “cute and cuddly” makes us think about our underlying values and the way we are “automatically” drawn towards certain things, animals, or people. Drawing the attention to ugly animal is not in itself a new idea. There are many of the ugliest competitions such as the world’s ugliest dog, cat, men, and women competitions and using an ugly model. Yet the idea can be used to generate new ideas for things that we need to turn other attention to make the world if not a better place at least a more interesting place.

What ideas can you think of?

Photo Simon Elgood, Flickr, worldwildlife.org

Blocking the Left Brain Functions

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One of the most fascinating books I ever read was written by  Paul Watzlawick, a family therapist, psychologist, communications theorist, and philosopher.

In his book The Language of Change he explores the idea that sometimes a completely nonsensical interaction may lead to a very concrete result. He suggests that using language patterns from the left brain half ( explication, explanation, argumentation, analysis, confrontation, interpretation) is an attempt to translate the right brain thinking in images and holistic world views of the patients. As such therapists  repeats and reinforces the symptoms the patient urged to seek help from a therapist.

He proposes three strategies to change the right brain thinking of the patient by

  • using language patterns of the right brain half
  • blocking of the left brain side
  • targeted behavioral rules

This book was a breakthrough in psycho-therapy when it was first published in 1977 .

However, this post is not about therapy. But it could be interesting to transfer his findings  to other domains. What is interesting about the idea? What can we learn from it?

Many people, particularly people in the Western World,  believe that economic growth will increase as more people are educated in mathematics, which is often described as left brain thinking skills.

Other people, like the Chinese, believe that  economic growth will come from innovative thinking involving the  right brain side thinking.  An holistic and analogue approach to problems and design.

It may be that Watzlawick’s book 35 years after it was published becomes relevant for stimulating right brain thinking in ordinary, healthy people.

Using language patterns of the right brain half

  • Compressed text and Contamination: syfilisation (civilization), freudful mistakes (Freudian mistakes), popollution (population)
  • Use of images: pictures, cartoons, painting, story telling, dreaming, dramatic expression, visualization, poems,
  •  Humor: “Soldier Katz”, asked a sergeant of the Prussian Army, “why should a soldier give his life cheerfully for the Emperor? “. “Indeed, why would he?” answered Katz
  • Pars Pro Toto: a complex whole of related things are displayed in a very detailed description of a tiny part of it. “Suddenly a straw drilled like a nail in the door” reflect better the idea of a heavy storm than an extensive description about air going busses, trees and cars. A Pars Pro Toto is a part (taken) for the whole
  • Aforism:  a statement that is really quotable, it makes a profound point in a simple, easily remembered way, by using ambiguities, puns, allusions and the like. No better life than a good life. Retired government servant offers himself for work. Brains as well as new. Never used.

Blocking the language patterns of the left brain hemisphere

We saw already in one of our earlier blog posts that drawing skills can be improved when we close our right eye, and put the object of the drawing upside down. It is a way to block the right brain thinking functions.

When blocking the functions of the left brain it is supposed that the right brain take over its functions.

  • Confusion. Provoking confusion as opposed to intellectualizing or talking things to broke. Deliberate creating confusion make it impossible to make logical sense of what is said. The left brain gets overloaded. Someone do present a overly complex plan and someone will ask: when do we have lunch?” Many Zen koans have this function to disrupt ineffective thinking.
  • The Contra Paradox. Many people get caught in a paradox. Posing a contra paradox could help escape them from  vicious logical circularity. Consultant: ” Every time I give you advice, you give me four reasons why it cannot work. But I tell you, now I have the ultimate solution, but I won’t tell you”. Patient: “I can’t sleep”. Therapist: “It is very important that you try for the next week not to sleep”.

Of course, these are all techniques from psychotherapy, regarding the kind of effective communication to a patient who wants to change. And they are not easy to explain, nor to apply.

It is yet unclear how we can use those strategies by ourselves to stimulate right brain thinking. Perhaps we should explore how we communicate with ourselves, with our brains, like a psycho therapist does with his client.

See also our blog post about Left and Right Brain Thinking. We will explore this subject more in our forthcoming book Thinkibility – Thinking about Thinking, Creativity, Innovation and Design.

Information Stored About You – Malte Spitz

Flow of Information

A characteristic of modern society is the flow of information – information is the lifeblood of modern civilization. The creation, distribution, and manipulation of data are vital activities – we rely on data to draw conclusion and make decisions. The capacity to store information has dramatically increased the last decades and new ways of using data has developed. Some of these may surprise you.

Most of us use our mobile phones without reflecting on the kind of data that can be collected when you make a phone call. Mobile phones can be used as a surveillance tool to track your calls and your friends’ calls. How many times did you phone your best friend when you were travelling to work?

A problem is often that we can find more information than we need when we start searching. Prioritising is a part of the process but in an information society; information technology is used to gain advantage by using data in creative new ways. Finding new creative ways to display information to make it easier to understand  is vital. Yet the explosion of information must be properly dealt with – some of the issues are of a moral character.

Mapping Your Life

In 2006, the EU issued the Data Retention Directive, which allows phone companies to store user data for six months to two years. This legislation has been rejected or declared as unconstitutional by several countries.Malte Spitz, a German politician raises the issue of our right to self-determination in the digital age. What information does a phone company collect and retain and how this information can be used. Mapping information is a way to explore data in new ways. Spitz mapped his activity across an interactive timeline and combined it with data from Twitter feeds, blog entries, and websites. A picture of his life emerges over the course of a six months period when he asked the telephone company to release the data they had collected.

Photo: “Cloud Computing And Information” by Victor Habbick

Challenging Thinking about Exercise – Searching for Positive Benefits

Challenging Thinking

How little exercise do you need to do to get fit? Surprisingly as little as 3 minutes of exercise, a week may improve your health – improve the insulin sensitivity. It has always been assumed that training should consist of for example, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day at least 5 days per week . However, the opposite is also true.

High Intensity Training (HIT) challenges the idea that you need to workout for a couple of hours every week. Vigorous bouts of exercise mixed with short breaks in between is not a new idea as such, athletes have used this enhanced form of interval training to strengthening their muscles and improve their fitness. Recently, researchers have looked into the health benefits of using this type of training. And the results have challenged traditional thinking and it looks like it is possible to get more by doing less.

A less extreme form of HIT, where a person does not exercise for long may suit groups that belong to a group where doctors might have concerns about them. High intensity training may be suitable for overweight, less fit, and older people. The method is also suitable for improving muscles and ten one minutes sprints on the exercise bike with a one minute rests in between, three times a week, may achieve similar effect as hours of less intensive training on the exercise bike.

Searching for Positive Aspects

The new ideas is challenging traditional thinking and a search for other groups that may benefit from high intensity training lead to these new insights. Challenging the idea that only certain groups benefit from a specific types of training, included broadening the search for possible positive benefits.from training. In this case, the idea emerged by listening to groups who claim that “traditional exercise regime” does not help them to lose weight.

Spending time broadening the search for plus points in any idea is beneficial since it helps to provide a more rounded view of the idea. It is also vital to consider if the positive features can be better used in other ways. Can the plus points be enhanced and improved? An active search for new potential plus points can significantly improve a product. New ways to incorporate these new plus points could be explored and developed.

Writing a list of advantages highlights the fact that advantages are relative – an advantage is a favourable position over one or more alternatives or opponents. Providing reasons behind why a certain idea has an advantage over another helps to emphasise the underlying positives with the idea. Identifying the group or individuals that may have an advantage if the solution is carried out is also important. We can give an advantage to a group or individual by carrying out a certain idea. For example, the unwanted side effects of an experimental medicine might be used to advantage in the treatment of a different medical condition. Thus, an open approach to how we can search advantages relies on a broadening of the concept advantages.

Different Ways to Approach a Search for Advantages for X

  • Decide what groups to include in the search for advantages and explore what these groups would highlight – children, elderly, people with good sense of smell, visual artists, animals, plants.
  • Compare the idea with another idea, what factors stand out?
  • Choose different things to compare ideas with – some that are similar and others that are completely different.
  • What would happen if the product or solution were used every day? Or everyone used it the whole time?
  • Look at different bits of the idea – it is possible that there are some positive points with parts of the idea.
  • Explore what would happen in the future if the idea were not carried out.
  • Imagine working in a society where the idea has never been implemented and we have to explain it to the people.  What would we say? And what would they say are the positive aspects of the idea?

We recommend that you explore in depth that advantages with an idea before reacting to it. We often react to an idea – looking for negative points – from our current practices, frames, vested interests, established industries, or old paradigms. This prevents us from further developing the idea and testing the idea. In this case, the idea that some groups do not benefit from exercise due to their genetic heritage could be explored from a range of perspectives to support them to a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, we provide you with a different view about the benefits of HIT by Adam Richmond from Lace Market Clinic.

Photo: “Walk The Dog” by federico stevanin