Jumping Between Projects and Thinking

How can you best divide your attention?

Is it better to focus on one project?

Or is it better alternating your attention between two or more projects?

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Our brains are a wonderous box and once we fill it with ideas, we can explore new possibilities and sometimes the most amazing solutions and insights may appear. Consciously focusing the attention on certain aspects may lead to new insights but we do not always need to actively think about something.

Our brains can bake ideas without us consciously being aware it. We gather ingredients or knowledge, then we mix it up and allow it to bake in our brains. If we put the right ingredients in the oven and use the right temperature or thinking tools, allow it time to bake then we can provoke ideas out of our brains.

The brain is complex and we do not know exactly how it works. Yet, taking a break to work on something else can help us avoid falling into the trap of using existing solutions. A break may help us to break the pattern. We can also use thinking tools such as provocations to help us break away from existing solutions. But if the problem is tricky, it could be good to simply jump between projects instead of blindly focusing on finding a solution to one problem.

Incubation, as it is called in creative circles, is when we allow an idea to rest in our mind. Taking a break from the project to go for a walk, focusing on a hobby, or indeed jumping between projects prevents us from stressing out the parts of the brain that are dealing with finding a solution to the problem. The neurons are firing in the same parts of the brain and this may make it more difficult to fire neurons in other parts of the brain – making it difficult to explore new possibilities.

If you are working on a project or problem that requires mostly a logical approach to thinking mix it with a project or problem that requires a creative approach to thinking. This may result in a more creative solution. And if you are facing a creative challenge, switching to a problem that requires a logical approach to thinking may help you discover aspects that you are cognitively blind to.  If you plan your projects, jumping between them can require different modes of thinking. This approach may promote creative ideas and solutions as well as more solutions that are logical.

Looking for a creative project? Japanese art director Tatsuya Tanaka has a miniature photo project, where he uses office supplies, food, and other found objects that he utilizes as set pieces or backdrops for miniature inhabitants.  You can see new images from the Miniature Calendar project every single day on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Future non-jobs – Thinkibility Nibble

gettyimages-128810949According to Oxford University, 47% of jobs will disappear in the next 25 years. Could you think up which ones?

Take any profession (doctor, mechanic, teacher, nurse, etc) and/or any branch (consumer products, construction, finance, retail)  and confront it in a matrix, one for one, with

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Could you imagine what jobs will disappear as a result of (a combination) of new technologies?

If you take as working hypothesis that all intermediary jobs (bank employees, notaries, tax officers)  will disappear, what jobs will likely cease to exist by 2040?

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Why not check out the blog post The DIY of the Future for inspiration?

Imagine if

Imagine if. . .

Why not write down  “What if” questions that you would like to explore in 2017?

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The importance of asking questions for the innovative process as well as for the development of Thinkibility have been explored in several blog posts. In addition, the importance of teaching children to ask questions has been discussed at the blog Sparking Children’s Thinkibility.

Examples of fun as well as useful “What if” questions that can lead to new ideas and a new perspective of looking at the world. Think dive into a sea of questions instead of searching for ideas can lead to deeper analysis and a better understanding of that problem. The end result of this approach can result in smarter ideas on how to tackle it.

Creativity and innovation are about change. Change can be intimidating and scary,  but it can also be liberating and powerful to break away from patterns, habits and the way we normally think about a topic.

When we discuss creativity we typically talk about it in terms of having ideas that are unique and valuable. Questions provide a frame for not only the focus but also a frame into which the answers fall. Like ideas, questions can always be improved upon. There is no perfect question. . .

Some examples of exciting questions are:

  • What if guilt-free is the new status symbol?
  • What if experiences become the new currency instead of information?
  • What if I can the label of my product to raise awareness of an endangered species?

For inspiration check out these links.

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Board of Innovation

Interesting Reading Areas 2017

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Since we started the posts Interesting Reading Areas since 2013 we noticed that most end-of-the-year lists of books consist of books that have already been read by others and many of the lists consist of the same books.

Often the lists consist of books that have topped the sales lists during the year. The underlying message could be interpreted as “if you haven’t read these books, you must be a cultural savage, that you do not belong to the well-informed elite and not be able to go along in conversations”. Anyhow, this is a passive, following mainstream media approach.

Another, more active approach is to make your own list about Interesting Reading Areas (IRA), areas of your interest for development and knowledge acquisition. And then look for relevant writers, books and DVD’s belonging to that IRA.

We thought it would be nice to make a list of subjects or interesting areas for ourselves because we believe we would gain from such a list to help us preparing for the next parts of Thinkiblity – Thinking about Thinking, Creativity, Innovation and Design. Perhaps you may enjoy the list and it will give you some directions for reading about Thinkibility. Just reading the titles would give you some new insides.

If you can help us to expand the list, please add a comment. Please note, we have not yet read the books! We invite you to make your own IRA’s and to find for each subject the interesting books and thinkers.

About Concepts

The study of concepts has advanced dramatically in recent years, with exciting new findings and theoretical developments. Core concepts have been investigated in greater depth and new lines of inquiry have blossomed, with researchers from an ever broader range of disciplines making important contributions. In this volume, leading philosophers and cognitive scientists offer original essays that present the state-of-the-art in the study of concepts. The Conceptual Mind: New Directions in the Study of Concepts 

What is Thinking? Human thinking is probably the most complex phenomenon that evolution has come up with until now. This book focuses on assembling building blocks for a conceptual framework that might – after several iterations – contribute to a future theory of thinking. It brings together an international group of leading scientists coming from the different fields upon which a theory of thinking must build: brain and cognitive sciences, experimental and developmental psychology, evolutionary anthropology and biology, linguistics, transcultural neuroimaging, modeling, and philosophy. Towards a Theory of Thinking – Building Blocks for a Conceptual Framework. Editors: Glatzeder, Britt, Goel, Vinod, von Müller, Albrecht

This book is the second volume of the Parmenides book series “On Thinking” dedicated to exploring current approaches and contributions towards a fuller understanding of human thought processes.

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In The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them the theoretical foundations and the origins of what we call concept maps are presented.While at first glance concept maps may appear to be just another graphic representation of information, understanding the foundations for this tool and its proper use will lead the user to see that this is truly a profound and powerful tool. Concept mapping has been shown to help learners learn, researchers create new knowledge, administrators to better structure and manage organizations, writers to write, and evaluators access learning.

About non-mainstream

It’s easy to find a good movie (well at least a movie for our general taste) between the big blockbusters, when wherever you look you see a giant poster or ad from it. But it’s a bit harder to get around a good, not so famous but nevertheless highly entertaining movie. Six upcoming non-mainstream films to watch out for!

Non-Mainstream Dimensions of Global Political Economy: Essays in Honour of Sunanda Sen is a collection of essays written by scholars of global repute in honour of Professor Sunanda Sen. Each paper is well-researched and offers some new dimension to the understanding of the current global crisis, finance, and labour including the epistemological viewpoints regarding the current global order. The uniqueness of the book is that in one place one can find different heterodox positions dealing with the present global order of finance and labour – post-Keynesian, Marxist etc.

About Criticism and  Critical Thinking

Working with his students at a risk analysis center, Wildavsky examined all the evidence behind the charges and countercharges in several controversial cases involving environmental health and public safety. Here he lays out these cases in terms an average citizen can understand, weighs the merits of the claims of various parties, and offers reasoned judgments on the government’s response. But Is It True? A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues by Aaron Wildavsky

“Critical Thinking: Proven Strategies To Improve Decision Making Skills, Increase Intuition And Think Smarter!” is a well-rounded introduction to the principles of critical thinking. The book provides tips and steps that are easy to follow, yet very effective in solving problems of all kinds.

For more resources, take a tour in the bookstore of the Critical Thinking Community

In our post,  Interesting Books? we stated that we can safely assume that the majority of the books published each year (approximately 2,200,000) belong to mainstream thinking. That is: non-critical. We were reassured when researching this post. We can’t find books that are classified by search engines as, for instance, “Criticism on…” or “Critical thinking on…”. Perhaps we should search for a list of critical thinkers instead….

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We found a great resource: Critical Thinking on the Web at the website of Rationale, about health, art, post-modernism, the media and lot’s more.

However, we did find interesting books when we combined the search term criticism with the term environment. The environment has moved from a marginal concern to a major political, personal, and philosophical issue that pervades everyday life. Ecocritics try to explore issues and questions such as: What are the ethics of human interaction with the environment? What do we mean when we use the word “nature”? What does our cultural output say about our perception of the world we live in?

Ecology without Nature investigates our ecological assumptions in a way that is provocative and engaging.  This book by Timothy Morton rethinks the way we use an idea of nature to try to heal what society has damaged and introduces a new radical form of ecological criticism – dark ecology.

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Provocations and alternatives

When using the search term “Provocative Books” we were much more successful: Popular Provocative Books although we are not sure the authors themselves are non-mainstream; the prefix “popular” makes us fear the worst.

Abandon parenting, and just be a parent – is a provocation and a step away from the idea that parenting is helpful. Today, thousands of books on parenting are published every year. But what is parenting? In the book, The Gardener and the Carpenter the author Alison Gopnik explores how the concept of parenting has transformed child care into obsessive,  and goal-oriented labour. The aim with this type of parenting is to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult.

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The Huffington’s Post 21 Provocative Books By Women Every Bookshelf Needs might be more remote from mainstream and less “popular”.

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Thinking outside the Sea Map

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In 17th and 18th centuries England, France, and Spain contested the Dutch domination of world trade and the control over the seas and trade routes. After initial English successes, the war ended in a decisive Dutch victory.

In 1667 Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter sailed up to the river Thames and attacked the British Royal navy in her home base and towed away the Royal Charles, pride and flagship of the English fleet to display it as a tourist attraction in Hellevoetsluis in the Netherlands. It was one of the worst defeats in the Royal Navy’s history, comparable with that of the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Till then, both navies had tried to fight each other at the open seas. Numbers of war ships, range and caliber of the guns and coordinated maneuvering skills were key success factors. However, de Ruyter did something totally different, he sailed up to Chatham and surprised the resting British fleet there.  That way he outperformed the British navy by changing the rules of the game.

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This kind of thinking is the same you should apply when you want to reach dramatic cost reductions, come up with a radical new concept for an existing product or creating a breakthrough innovation. In those cases more-of-the-same thinking will not provide for a game change in the market. Patterns of standard thinking should be broken in order to get competitive advantage.

Edward de Bono, de inventor of lateral thinking, called it Sur/petition: creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competiting.

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However, it is not simple to come up with disruptive ideas. And also, to convince your board and your crew.

When the secret instructions were opened on June 7 there was a lot of protest. It was noted that most officers do did their best to find objections, but not to come up with solutions.

See also: Creative Execution: What Great Leaders Do to Unleash Bold Thinking and Innovation or watch this video 2′ 23”

Absurdity as Inspiration

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Love this short film about absurdity!

Apart from making me smile, this is also a great visual thinking exercise.  Challenging yourself to explore possibilities and new scenarios can lead to not only new insights but also be a starting point for an innovation. Absurd ideas and visual images can help us to practice the skill of not taking ourselves too seriously. Work fast and let your visualizations run away with you.

Absurdities also teach us about ourselves.

“I dislike absurdities.”
“I love absurdities.”
“I disliked them at first but like them now.”

In a beautiful little book, Variations of Normal, the British designer  Dominic Wilcox, has drawn absurd, yet perfectly logical innovations. Taking ideas to the extreme can lead to not only wonderfully funny ideas but also to breakthrough ideas.

“Dominic Wilcox’s drawings aren’t just witty and beautifully drawn, they are serious challenges to the real world to keep looking at itself with innocent eyes, wondering what else is possible.” Thomas Heatherwick

Not all crazy and wild ideas are good ideas but they are fun! And after all, we got printing and books when Gutenberg put a coin punch and a wine-press together.

Inflowsibly News and Rebuttlenessed

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“Today I read the most inflowsibly news. I felt absolutely rebuttlenessed after that.”

Gibberish but believable gibberish.  Two or the words, inflowsible and reuttlenessed, are nonsense words that are based on frequency lists of phonemes in the English language.

The term nonsense is used to describe something that lacks any coherent meaning. But perhaps it is not a fruitful approach to quickly dismiss nonsense as something negative and something that is useless. Nonsense is a way to destroy prevalent views or opinions.

Out of nonsense  grows the  imagination and new ideas may develop. Some nonsense may be more believable than other nonsense and some nonsense may be rather trivial in character and as a result, they do not offer a stepping stone for further exploration. But keep an eye open for the believable nonsense and write them down. Ponder over the underlying assumptions and ideas that dismissed in the nonsensical suggestion.  Listen to children they are often little experts at saying nonsense with a deeper meaning if you take the time to explore the suggestions.

Several scientific discoveries have been made based upon nonsensical  suggestions, for example,  Rutherford suggested that they should see if any alpha particles had been reflected back , which was nonsense since “the plum pudding model” that was used suggested that the particles should go through.

You can generate tricky words based on frequency list of phonemes as they occur in legitimate English words. Mostly gibberish. Go here.

 

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