Thinking in Images

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Most people think in words. When asked to imagine a traffic accident they come up with not very detailed descriptions, in comparison with people who are thinking in pictures. It became even worse if the words are becoming more and more abstract. Words as society, market, law, inflation etc. stay for them just words; they are unable to convert the words into images. Picture thinkers don’t have to translate, they think in pictures.

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As school systems are mainly auditory-sequential oriented, it is not surprising that mainly visual-spatial thinkers will have problems at school. Usually, they encounter learning difficulties. But not only at school. Most picture thinkers don’t fit well in traditional companies and institutions. They do things in other ways than expected or “normal”, due to “weaknesses” in thinking.

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Picture thinkers are also called right-brainers, as some popularisations oversimplify the science about lateralization, by presenting the functional differences between hemispheres as being more absolute than is actually the case.

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We have also committed to this theoretical sloppiness with left/right brain generalisations, although, a handy mini theory to generate creative ideas as we have demonstrated in Blocking the Left Brain Functions.

As we wrote in left brain/right brain thinking, the debate regarding about what goes on in our left and right brain hemispheres seems like a never-ending story. You will find support for the idea that creative people use the right hemisphere while people who are good at organising things are using their left hemisphere. But we can also find support for the idea that creative and non-creative thinking are not two different things but are more reinforcing each other.

The idea that the brain has different specialised functions that can be used to improve memory, learning and thinking are also the part of the foundation behind mind mapping.

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A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future, a book by Daniel H. Pink, posits that the future of global business belongs to the right-brainers. He outlines six essential senses:

  • Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  • Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
  • Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  • Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  • Play – Bringing humour and light-heartedness to business and products.
  • Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself.

Daniel Pink is one of an increasing number of writers on the importance of the Conceptual Economy, as a follow-up of the Information and Knowledge Age. Conceptual economy is a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context. Other contributors to our understanding of the conceptual economy include Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation, explaining the role of assets such as empathy, storytelling, individual experiences and stimulating work environments in fostering creative ideas.

The discussion about the necessity to escape from dominant linear-sequential thinking was earlier argued by Howard Gardner. He developed The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in his 1983 book Frames of Mind:

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In one of our next blog posts, we will give hints and tricks together with some useful resources to become “picture smart”. An essential skill to use mind mapping to the fullest of its advantages.

Practise Thinking

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 In our recent post  A Thinkibility Home Trainer we said that we found a home trainer for thinking. A site that strives towards: 

  • Thinkers arrange facts and experience to see more clearly. 

  • Thinkers surprise themselves with new insights. 

  • Thinkers like discipline and focus rather than drift. 

  • Thinkers like to change their minds. 

  • Thinkers can be of any age. 

  • Thinkers never think their thinking is good enough. 

 

The site is called Practise Thinking and is designed by Phil Bachmann.  

The site enables you to ask the crowd to perform some thinking for you, or to practice and show off your own thinking.  

 

Among the subjects are thinking tasks that doesn’t have any purpose other than for fun or training. Topics and problems such as: 

  • What is important when a kid is making a cake? 

  • What is important for building a rocket ship? 

  • How many uses can you think of for a cup?  

  • Ways to calculate 100-40+58?  

  • What if you could only talk for one hour per day? 

  • How to prevent shark attacks? 

 

Other thinking tasks are more serious and future oriented – what are the consequences of a downgrade of U.S. Credit Rating or a massive introduction of 3D-printers? 

 There also subjects for creative evaluation, f.i. raising salaries for teachers by three, a list of the least popular songs of the month, or fixed prices in supermarkets are replaced by “make me an offer”? 

 Some thinking tasks ask for thinking about more abstract things, like concepts, function, purpose or  dominant ideas. What is the concept of a stoplight for a museum? What could be the purposes of public transport or books written for toddlers? What is the dominant idea of taking medicines or a philharmonic orchestra ? 

 Sometimes participants bring in personal problems such as my partner and I are planning our wedding and…, or a friend has been sharing a house with me for a year. He has now used up his last month’s rent that I have paid for him.  

 

Using a structured thinking technique, or function – a specific task with a precisely defined input and output- , is mandatory. There are now at least 23 functions, and descriptions and examples are provided. Applying the functions stimulates to come up new lines of thoughts and enhance the breadth and depth of the thinking. 

 

The design is of utmost simplicity but sophisticated. 

 It is not possible to look for contributions of other thinkers before you have given your own input. This prevents laziness, as thinking laziness is the worst kind of laziness.  

There is also no opportunity to react or discuss contributions. As such this site is the first that implement in its software the concept of parallel thinking. As Wikipedia explains: 

 “Parallel thinking is defined as a thinking process where focus is split in specific directions. When done in a group it effectively avoids the consequences of the adversarial approach (as used in courts). In adversarial debate, the objective is to prove or disprove statements put forward by the parties (normally two). This is also known as the dialectic approach. In Parallel Thinking, practitioners put forward as many statements as possible in several (preferably more than two) parallel tracks. This leads to exploration of a subject where all participants can contribute, in parallel, with knowledge, facts, feelings, etc. Crucial to the method is that the process is done in a disciplined manner, and that all participants play along and contribute in parallel. Thus each participant must stick to the specific track.” 

 

The site can be used as a home trainer to maintain your thinking skills or for leisure time when others prefer to do word puzzles or sudoko’s. Sometimes it is hard work but also fun!  

If you have a problem or just a subject you want to think about, you could ask people to join and to spur the thinking. Again and again I have been surprised – or a little disappointed in myself – by the thinking of other contributors.  

 Personally I use it as a Thinking Agenda, a list with topics not to forget to think about.  It compels myself to a structured and systematic approach and by publishing the question I can’t disappoint other contributors by coming up with sloppy thinking or nothing at all. 

Many times I have experienced that merely publishing  a question on the site makes me receptive for newspapers items or articles on the Internet about the topic. 

Often I did some additional study about the published question.  

 Putting thinking tasks on this site seems to have prepared my mind to notice things I was not prepared to notice before.

The creator of the site:

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“Perhaps what pleases me most about the site is that it allows truly excellent thinkers to lead and shine.  I      hope to be one day regarded as the thinker’s equivalent of whoever created Wimbledon: Just as we need a world-class tennis tournament to allow the skills of a champion to be properly demonstrated, we need a place where good thinking is acknowledged and applauded.” – Phil Bachmann 

Skills need maintenance, try Practise Thinking. At the moment there is no fee involved in using this site.  

A Thinkibilty Home Trainer?

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The idea with using a home trainer is to improve your physical fitness. Physical fitness affects the body’s physiological functioning, overall health, and motor skill related to aspects such as agility, balance, and speed. A home-trainer is at hand; to help with exercises and there is no need to go to a fitness centre or gym.

Any home trainers for your thinking fitness?

There are some training program for brain fitness, like the ones from PositHealth, BrainTrain or Lumosity.

However, there are some doubts about the claims these programs have on improving cognitive functioning. In an article by Steven Novella in Science Based Medicine, the bottom-line recommendations were:

  • Engaging in various types of cognitively demanding tasks is probably a good thing.
  • Try to engage in novel and various different types of tasks. These do not have to be computer-based.
  • Find games that you genuinely find fun – don’t make it a chore, and don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t spend lots of money on fancy brain-training programs with dramatic claims.
  • Don’t believe the hype.

In addition, to us it seems that existing brain fitness exercises are derived from cognitive tests. Therefore, it is not surprising that cognitive skills, as defined by the tests, improves.

In our opinion, cognitive tests do not reflect thinking as referring to the ideas or arrangements of ideas that result from thinking, the act of producing thoughts, or the process of producing thoughts.

In Thinkibility Ultimately Explained we suggested that Thinkibility is a bit football-ity, similar to something shown by great football stars. It is not just agility and ball control. Nor velocity, or technical skills. It is more, much more. It has something to do with thinking movements, the ability to manipulate your thoughts or virtuosity in it.

Are there any Thinkibility home trainers?

We found one site that we regularly use for Thinking skills. But we will save that for another post. In the meantime, try out some of the mentioned brain trainers. Be aware that in summer holidays your Intelligent Quotient can decrease with several points. It seems that what is true for muscle fitness also applied for the brain: Use it or lose it. But it is vital to reload the batteries. So enjoy the summer heat!

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Creativity and Building New Ideas

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Jeffrey Baumgartner says “creative people come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colours and personalities. What truly distinguishes them from others is that they use more of their brains to generate ideas – which provides them with more raw material for building unique ideas – and less of their brains to regulate the development and sharing of those unusual ideas.”

But we may complain when we try to learn a new skill. But adult brains may be more pliable than we thought. Research into brain plasticity suggests that we can continue to learn new things throughout our lives. Although this research has suggested that we can grow new neurons, a young child’s capacity to learn new things has always been regarded as much better. Studies have suggested that there can be an increase in grey matter in adults after weeks or months of training. Grey matter is a major component of the central  nervous system and it consists of neuronal cell bodies. It consists of regions in the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and speech.

By studying how children learn, some good news emerged – it is possible to induce changes in less than two hours of ‘child-like’ learning. Adults learned nonsensical names for colours. Shades of blue and green were given made-up names that lacked meaning. The training consisted of five sessions, totaling one hour and 48 minutes over three days.  Listening, naming, and matching tasks were used. And the results suggest that the adult brain is t more changeable more quickly than anyone thought. We can learn new tricks and that is the first step towards being creative and gaining new insights.

Veronica Kwok and colleagues – “Learning new color names produces rapid increase in gray matter in the intact adult human cortex“.

Go here to read about Creativity – Left and Right Brain.

Photo 3d Neuron Cell” by renjith krishnan

World Thinker’s Ideas – Rethink and Re-examine

Where does the mind dwell? This question has occupied the best brains for thousands of years. Now, a patientwho is self-aware – despite lacking three regions of the brain thought to be essential for self-awareness – demonstrates that the mind remains as elusive as ever.

Alva Noë, part philosopher, part cognitive scientist/part neuroscientist, explores why we need to rethink our assumptions about consciousness and the brain in the book  Out of Our Heads . He argues that we need to rethink and re-examine basic assumptions. Scientists and humanists need to work together to enhance the understanding of consciousness.“The science of mind could benefit from interruption. It is time to slide our chairs back from the table and to invite intelligent latecomers to join our circle. In cognitive science, specialist jargon and technical details are too often an impediment to clear and honest thinking” (p. xiv)Alva Noë challenges the traditional way of separating scientific and humanistic styles of thinking. The common goal is understanding and by working together scientists and philosophers can advance our understanding.  Scientific research rests on assumptions and it is vital to have an open mind to the value and correctness of these assumptions.

Assumptions need to be true, but it is crucial not to regard them as “the truth”. When our understanding is changing, it is vital to re-examine underlying assumptions. Rethinking assumptions may be necessary but it is easy to suggest a similar idea. The only difference may be the introduction of new terms. Alva Noë argues that the suggestion that our joys and sorrows are nothing more than a vast assemble of nerve cells  shares similarities with René Descartes’ idea that each of us in a thinking thing.  Francis Crick’s idea that our mind is nothing more than the activity of nerve cells, glia cells  and  molecules may have been described as an astonishing hypothesis yet one mystery have only been replaced by another. The common assumption, shared by Descartes and Crick is that consciousness happens inside our head.

Brains do not have minds but people and animal do. The world is there for us and we can be open to it. Our body is not a robot where the brain is placed. Instead, our brain is part of what we are. Body, brain, and world play a role in making us. The brain does not alone hold the answer to the question of how the world shows up for us. The brain is necessary but it is part of a whole system. Consciousness does not simply happen to us.  It is something that we do and what we do depends on the environment and the context. Consciousness is not something that happens in the brain.  Taking a wider view of the whole organism interacting with its environment makes sense.

Many of us may argue that the weak point of this idea is “How can you imagine a mind anywhere else than in our head?”  Where would you suggest? And is this a valid question?

Photo: “Paragliding ” by graur razvan ionu

Creative Thinking – Left Brain/Rigth Brain Thinking

Many of us associate the search for new ideas with a brainstorming session where ideas are swirling around in the room. Another common picture of is seeing someone lying on the grass, walking on the beach, or watching the view from a mountain top while half-dreaming. In contrast, organising a meeting and deciding the agenda often conjures pictures of control.

On the surface, creative thinking and thinking involved in planning could not be more different. Creative thinking is an active search, while the planning and organising things has a calmer and a more pondering character. Yet appearances can be deceptive. Searching for ways to generate new ideas and alternatives benefit from a structured approach. Deciding the next step or approach to a problem or issues can be more fruitful if a creative approach is used.

Do creative people use their brain in a different way? The debate regarding about what goes on in our left and right brain hemispheres seems like a never-ending story. You will find support for the idea that creative people use the right hemisphere while people who are good at organising things are using their left hemisphere. But we can also find support for the idea that creative and non-creative thinking are not two different things.

The creative right brain myth gained support from Roger Sperry’s split-brain experiments in the 1960s. The problem is that the idea originated from a misinterpretation of his research. A recent study using fMRI suggests that even if a person is given a task that is specialised to the right hemisphere, we use the left hemisphere to help us look for creative solutions. So there is support for the idea that the so-called logical part of our brain plays a role in creative thinking. Well, at least if the creative task is visual or musical.

The idea about a left-brain and right brain thinking can be found in newspapers, films, and in school exercises. Even in ads like the one below.

Mercedes Benz Left Brain/ Right Brain Ads
 

Left brain text:

“I am the left brain. I am a scientist. A mathematician. I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear. Analytical. Strategic. I am practical. Always in control. A master of words and language. Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers. I am order. I am logic. I know exactly who I am.”

Right brain text:

“I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feat. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.”

You can also find the logo for the company in the ad.

Photo: “Colorful Brain” by smokedsalmon