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.

Framing = To Lure into Deception

In this Thinkibility Boost we will explore the relation between thinking and framing.

In visual arts and particularly cinematography, framing is the presentation of the visual element in an image, especially the placement of the subject in relation to other objects.

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Framing can make an image more aesthetically pleasing and keep the viewer’s focus on the framed object(s).

Something similar happens with mass communication. In essence, framing theory suggests that how something is presented to the audience (called “the frame”) influences the choices people make about how to process that information. The basis of framing theory is that the media focuses attention on certain events and then places them within a field of meaning.  Framing involves social construction of a social phenomenon – by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, or other actors and organizations.

Framing is in many ways tied very closely to Agenda Setting theory. Both focus on how media draws the public’s eye to specific topics – in this way they set the agenda. But Framing takes this a step further in the way in which the news is presented creates a frame for that information.

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Political Framing

This is usually a conscious choice by journalists – in this case, a frame refers to the way media as gatekeepers organize and present the ideas, events, and topics they cover.

Most of the time framing is a technique used by politicians or their advisers to favor a wished representation of the facts, usually when things went wrong.

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Political Spinning

This is called spinning. The main objective is to lure the public into  believing propaganda. A standard approach used in “spinning” is to reframe, reposition, or otherwise modify the perception of an issue or event, to reduce any negative impact it might have on public opinion.

Spinning might be discovered by misleading or false

  • Metaphors: To give an idea or program a new meaning by comparing it to something else. See for an analysis of political metaphor here.
  • Stories (myths and legends): To frame a subject by an anecdote in a vivid and memorable way. For an introductory text, see story telling in politics.
  • Traditions (rites, rituals and ceremonies): To pattern and define an organization at regular time increments to confirm and reproduce organizational values.
  • Slogans, jargon and catchphrases: To frame a subject in a memorable and familiar fashion. Here a list of political sloganscatch phrases, buzzwords and jargon.
  • Artifacts: To illuminate corporate values through physical vestiges (sometimes in a way language cannot). Look here for 25 Amazing Political Artifacts From the New-York Historical Society
  • Contrasts: To describe a subject in terms of what it is not. For an introduction read Contrast in Presentations Creates Contour

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Cold Cases –

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What could we learn from solved cold cases? What has caused that the case is solved after years of investigations without results? What were the reasons that a solution was waiting for discovery, but never did? Solved cold cases are illustrative for how we think wrongly.

In September 1961, 25-year-old Lucy Johnson, mother of one, was at her home in Surrey, British Colombia. She was not seen the next day. Or the next. Or for the next 52 years.
For one reason or another, Lucy was not reported missing until four years later. Obviously, this raised questions, and suspicion fell on her husband Marvin. Police even dug up the husband’s backyard in search of a body, but they found nothing. Decades passed, Marvin died, and there seemed no hope of solving the case.

 

According to Wikipedia, a cold case is a crime or an accident that has not yet been fully solved and is not the subject of a recent criminal investigation, but for which new information could emerge from new witness testimony, re-examined archives, new or retained material evidence, as well as fresh activities of the suspect.

However, it is not always new and fresh information that helps to solve the case, but new perceptions. Even new information tends to be interpreted in old perceptions. Information is not perception.

Lucy’s daughter Linda, a small child at the time of her mother’s vanishing posted ads in newspapers and other media outlets in search of clues. Then in 2013, she received a phone call. The woman on the other end of the line claimed to be Linda’s stepsister, whom she’d never known existed. The woman said their mother Lucy was alive and well, living with a whole new family in the Yukon.

 

Sometimes a viable suspect has been overlooked or simply ignored due to then-flimsy circumstantial evidence, the presence of a likelier suspect (who is later proven to be innocent), or a tendency of investigators to zoom in on someone else to the exclusion of other possibilities (which goes back to the likelier suspect angle)—known as “tunnel vision”

However unbelievable the claim sounded, Linda followed up it. Sure enough, her mother was not the victim of foul play as suspected. She’d simply fled to another life. Marvin had abused her, claimed Lucy, and when she’d tried to leave with her daughter, he’d stopped her. So she just took off on her own.

 

In our view, solved cold cases are excellent vehicles to study thinking methods, as what students and scientists are supposed to do at the  Thinkibility University. At its East Wing they are excellent in Reverse Engineering of Thinking Strategies we wrote earlier about.

When Linda visited the caller to check whether the woman in question was indeed her Laura, she recognized her mother immediately.

 

The people working there are not trained as criminal investigators but will use systematic and deliberate creative thinking techniques. Not only to improve forensic investigations but improving thinking methods in general. For scientific research as well for daily practical thinking.

As you might notice in the following mind map, little attention is given to the role of perception in this example of a  Crime Scene Investigator Job Description:

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The following books could be good starting points to be studied by the East Wing:

Solving cold cases happen when limiting thoughts and behaviors are challenged.

But how to challenge “limiting thoughts and behaviours”?

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More, More Information, Yes, Sure, But Relevant?

In this blog post, as you can see in the upper left hand corner, we will focus on the quality of information, an essentially white hat thinking activity. Quality of information as a distinctive focus area or Area of Improvement (API) could be vital for many information intensive enterprises, but also for any other thinking situation, such as drafting a plan, preparing a decision, exploring a situation.

We will take you along the mindmap below to explain this – clockwise. A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

Caught up in social ties

Look at the top and right hand corner of the mindmap: In most thinking situations there is a need for information from outside the standard pattern of logic and perception. We have to look for unexpected information. In order to do that, we should enlarge our perception of the situation, looking for more aspects in the situation, to diversify our thinking. CoRT-tools like the PMI, CAF or C&S are excellent tools to stretch our perception space around a situation in the mind map upper right hand corner. Especially helpful is to actively look for actors which could be involved or would affected.

Center right of the mind map: It makes a difference if information is needed or is given. Given information tends to be egocentric. Ego-centrism is characterised by preoccupation with one’s own internal world. Egocentrics regard themselves and their own opinions or interests as being the most important or valid. To them, self-relevant information is seen to be more important in shaping one’s judgments than are thoughts about others and other-relevant information. Nevertheless, given information can be very convincing and one can easily be lured in a narrow defined thought path. Also, information could be left out information, deliberately or by accident, Hence, it is very useful to do some perception widening thinking before  looking at the information available, before you get locked in the thinking pattern of the information given.

Right hand corner: Doing some preliminary perception thinking is even important when there is a need for information. Many people, when confronted with a problem, begin a broad search for information. They assume that enlarging the information space inevitable will lead to uncovering the information needed to solve the problem. By doing so, a lot of information waste is generated

At the bottom of the mind map: A far more better approach was suggested in our blog post Cassandra Information. There is a distinction between available information and relevant information.

  • Available information but not relevant could be left out. It is egocentric information from the sender of the information;
  • Unavailable information and also not relevant can be completely ignored;
  • Available information and relevant is Ebne: Excellent but not enough. This is information that belongs to standard thinking, unchallenged;
  • Relevant information but not available is Cassandra information. It is information that is left out by the information provider, but still relevant. The task is to design a strategy to obtain this hidden information.

It is a good habit to assume that any piece of  information that we have is biased. Especially, as we earlier showed in our post Press Patterns, information from the Main Stream Media: those media that disseminate information via the largest distribution channels, which therefore represent what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter. The term also denotes those media generally reflective of the prevailing currents of thought, influence, or activity.

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I Am a Depressive Character – You’re Absolutely Right

This post is about patterns or logical bubbles in psycho therapy. As we will see there are some parallels with lateral thinking.

lateral thinkingThere are several reasons why a person attends psychotherapy. Someone may attend psychotherapy because she is suffering because she thinks herself into a situation she doesn’t want to be in. She visits  a psychotherapist to get an alternative for her mental state. Or someone visits a therapist because he does something compulsively, and wants to get rid of that compulsory habit. We can represent this situation as someone being caught in a destructive thinking path, as show in the image as a road from A to B. The patient is looking for an escape to an alternative path to help them get into another thinking or behavioral habit. In the picture represented as side way C.

Some readers will recognize this as the way Edward de Bono explains main stream thinking and lateral or creative thinking. With main stream thinking we mean how  humans normally and routinely make sense of, interpret, represent or model the world they experience, and to make predictions about that world (A -> B). The thinking involved with discovering new inventions, coming up with new ideas and concepts and non-obvious alternatives need breaking away from standard thinking patterns (A -> C)

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An assumption in psychotherapy is that the therapist has to diagnose the patient before a treatment plan can be made. In order to do that the therapist will delve into patient’s past, his problems, how he solved them, and how he digests uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Psychotherapists must be  ood active listener: re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, encouraging the patient to express feelings, showing complete understanding and empathy.The therapist is responsible for a solution. That solution is per definition outside the standard thinking or behavioral patterns of the patient, so a big challenge is the acceptation of therapist’s solution by the patient. If he doesn’t do that, the therapist is not professional enough. This phenomenon is called psychological resistance  in which patients either directly or indirectly oppose changing their behavior or refuse to discuss, remember, or think about presumably clinically relevant experiences.

Everyone who ever ventilated a breakthrough idea – an idea outside accepted thinking – will recognize this mechanism. It is rejection and you will have to come up with a better idea, That is why much therapy processes takes years. The patient refuses to alter his thinking, so the therapist is forced to make a better diagnose. Both patient as therapist are caught in a perpetual pattern in which the patient does not want to leave his comfort zone, a behavioral state within he operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.

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Does this remind you of a situation in which you do want to come up with fresh ideas, and you are trying and trying, erring in circles with no results? You are still in main-stream thinking (A->B).

An alternative to classical psycho therapy is Provocative Therapy, invented by Frank Farrelly which advocates radical (and sometimes humorous therapeutic moves intended to jolt the client out of his current mindset.

That is exactly what lateral thinking also is about. To escape from taken for granted thinking to alternative perceptions by deliberately setting up Provocations.

Imagine, someone tells you that she is depressed. Normally you would comfort her, you would do your best to cheer her up, give her a fresh look on the situation or just show empathy. But what if you respond that she is absolutely right and perhaps still far too cheerful? What would happen?

Regarding Jeffrey Wijnberg there are some rules that form the basis of Provocative Psycho Therapy. As you will notice, these are radical different as what therapists usually do:

  1. The therapist gets an equal speaking time as the client;
  2. The therapy starts immediately as the patient enters the clinic;
  3. The therapist uses deliberately no structure during the talks;
  4. The therapist never use hands solutions;
  5. The therapist tries to get in the “laughing state”as soon and well as possible;
  6. The therapist don’t prepare the sessions, but transfers that task to the client;
  7. The therapist uses a (played) pessimistic attitude;
  8. The therapist understands little or nothing of the deeper meanings of what the client tells him;
  9. The therapist is paradoxical in his communication: non-verbal he is signalling warmth, passion, empathy) but verbally he is critical, provocative (doubt, challenging, incomprehension);
  10. The therapist says whatever comes to him.

Please note, it is vital to create a “safe container” when using Provocative Therapy. The work is carried out in an environment designed to be positive, there is a regard for the client and a belief in their capacity for change.

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Do You Need New Eyes? – Thinkibility Nibble

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The art of non-building!

Marco Canevacci is a member of Berlin-based architectural collective Plastique Fantastique. An architect who is not interested in building buildings, instead he focuses on structures that are impermanent. Soap bubbles, pneumatic machines and loupes (French for magnifying glasses).

The bubbles can be squeezed into any urban scenario and they transform our perception of time and space.

It takes 20 minutes to inflate a bubble and they are made from fireproof PVC. These bubbles have been erected tucked between trees, in public spaces, and wedged under a bridge. The aim with a number of bubbles that was installed in Copenhagen during the summer was to inspire people to explore social and urban issues in a playful setting.

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If you reflect on the videos you may become aware of spaces that you see every day on your way to work but suddenly they have a shape that you have not noticed. Finding solutions to problems is a bit like this – you have to reflect upon familiar procedures and ways of doing things, yet you need to see the situation  with “new” eyes.

“The pneumatic structure is a medium to experience the same physical setting in a temporary extraordinary situation,”  says Marco.

Go here to watch more videos.

AEROPOLIS – BODIES & TREES – 2013.08.18 from plastique fantastique on Vimeo.

Photo http://glamgrid.com/genuine-aeropolis-by-plastique-fantastique/

Learning to Innovate: An Abstract Art

Learning to innovate: an abstract art?

Many companies and organisations may not have noticed that innovation means something else than more research, more technology, more money, or taking more risks. All these factors comes after the conception of an idea for innovation. Inventing ideas is thinking. And a truly innovative idea does not exist – it is only in the mind.

Successful innovation is never a product in itself. Success always lies in the underlying concept. This includes the way we think about the usefulness, the use, and value of the product.

On the other hand, in an abstract artwork, the artist attempts tovisualise an abstract concept. Or the artist creates what had never been before to explore unexpected but conceivable possibilities. But this is exactly what the creation of effective innovations is all about.

A connection between abstract thinking and innovation

There is a connection between abstract thinking and innovation, but what does it look like in reality? And is it possible to teach innovation? Could abstract art play a role?

If everyone makes the same product, it is all about who delivers the best quality at the lowest cost. Everyone plays the same game and ultimately the profit margins approach zero. Especially in view of the emerging economies, it is wise to play another game, to be unique in the market. A search for something new that does not already exist. Instead of more-of-the same ideas, break-through ideas are required. Therefore, it is necessary to abstract from the concrete manifestations, properties, phenomena and behaviour of a product or problem.

There is a remarkable relationship between creative thinking and the historical developments in art, such as surrealism and abstract art. Broadly speaking there are three schools in creative thinking and they share some similarities with art movements.
Brainstorming and the works of Picasso and Dali

One of the most classical methods for creative thinking is brainstorming. This approach mainly  frees and releases inhibitions so that we can  associate. The troubleshooting technique was developed by Alex Osborn around  the Second World War. In essence, the technique dates back to Sigmund Freud’s ideas of psychoanalysis at the beginning of the twentieth century. The idea behind brainstorming, and numerous variations on it, is that if you free the child within yourself, ideas bubble up naturally. The technique of brainstorming reminiscent of Surrealism in the works of Picasso and Dali.

TRIZ and Mondriaan

A very different technique for generating ideas is the systematic approach used in TRIZ. In the 50s, Genrich Altshuller developed TRIZ, a Russian acronym for Theory of Structured Inventions. In the beginning of 2000, emigration of  professionally trained TRIZ innovators from Russia,  brought the theory  to the West. Altshuller examined inventions and divided them into classes of the underlying thoughts of the inventor. In TRIZ, a concrete problem is translated to a description that has no longer any specific association with the original problem. The problem is made abstract. Subsequently, from a collection of abstract solutions, the result of Altshuller’s study, an abstract, theoretical solution is chosen. From this a translation into a concrete solution is made.

This method, which is supported by a database of thousands of inventions, prevents the tendency to move to the obvious. The technique is extremely powerful but little used in the west; however, it is popular in many Asian companies.

TRIZ is the art form of geometric abstraction, where ideas are presented in pure geometric forms. An example is the work of Piet Mondriaan.

Lateral Thinking and Kandinsky

Another technique of deliberate creativity is based on the idea that our brain is a self-organising information processing system. We take information in our memory and organise it into patterns. Those patterns will behave as thinking avenues so that we only see where we are already prepared for. Edward de Bono developed the sixties a couple of thinking techniques that logically destabilise automatic thought patterns. He calls this lateral thinking – thinking laterally – as distinguished from the normal logical and rational thinking, what could be named as vertical thinking.

You could say that the lateral thinking has features of abstract expressionism.  We find vague, disturbed or magnified form and this invites us to new interpretations of the existing idea. The art of Kandinsky is an example.

Teaching thinking and perceiving by abstract art

The latter two methods, lateral thinking and TRIZ, are difficult to learn. In essence, it is about the way we perceive and think. How we escape from the compelling logic of thinking is explained in terms of abstract concepts. Concepts that refer in vague terms to thinking operations, to how to think, or what steps successively to take.

Abstract thinking therefore appears only to be taught by the use of abstract concepts. But is there a possibility to circumvent this paradox? As outlined above, the abstract art could provide an intuitive solution. It might be that innovative thinking can be taught in the most practical and verifiable way by abstract art and the making thereof. Directly and without theoretical detours, that would be a discovery!
Jan Verhoeven‘s ideas behind the Center for Abstract Art and Innovation can sometimes prove to be decisive for the further professionalisation of creative thinking and innovation. Of course, only afterwards, as is usual in real innovations.

Photo: Idea From Finger by tungphoto, By J. Crocker (J. Crocker) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons, By Wm M. Martin (http://masterpieceart.net/vasily-kandinsky/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons