Ish – Thinking – Thinkibility Boost

As an introduction to a series of blogposts about conceptual thinking we will start by paying attention to “ISH-Thinking”. A concept is an abstract pattern in the brain that stands for some regular, recurrent aspect of the world, and to which  any number of different words can be attached. Sometimes ago we already pointed out the relation between thinking and language, as in our posts How Thinking Patterns are CreatedBanging the World into Sorting Boxes and Key Concepts as Optical Filters. As we see in the picture below a toddler is confronted with a an almost insoluble problem. He has to place a square block in a box, which, however, only has openings in the form of a circle and a triangle. ISH-thinking

Perhaps the toddler might solve the problem by redefining the block as two pyramids stuck together. The block is “pyramid-ish” and might fit the triangle opening.

In our daily lives, we often try to give meaning to a diffuse situation by drafting a metaphor that is more or less “like-ish”. Mostly the metaphor does not fit exactly, at least not literally.

  • by doing that he stuck a knife in my back
  • I feel butterflies in my belly
  • at this moment she is very instable
  • their relationship is stormy

Mostly we don’t have any problem at all in using these ill-defined concepts. It helps us to articulate confusing and in particular emotional situations to “get grip on them”. Less prevalent is “ish-thinking” to describe seemingly well-defined physical objects. You will rarely hear someone who discusses a concrete thing (a bridge, a museum, a coffee shop) as ” thing-ish” like bridge-ish, museum-ish, coffee shop-ish). Yet, Starbuck is coffee shop-ish. Also, a kind of museum which would work like a modern library could be called museum-ish or library-ish: Art-works will be transported from the basement to the museum room at the request of the museum visitor, like in libraries with books.

And this is surely “bridge-ish”:


In this instance it’s about inviting people to cross a body of water in an unconventional manner… by using an inflatable bridge equipped with giant trampolines.

Is it a bridge or is it a gigantic trampoline? Or both, or more or less?

We are sure that the moment you begin to think about an ish-bike, an ish-refrigerator, sunglasses-ish or a sweater-ish for the winter, you will get rid of existing preconception on how they should look. Instead, you may  start to think about alternative forms and functions. That is because by adding the suffix “ish” to the noun, you give yourself permission to think in alternative designs. We came across a similar idea (Ïsh-thinking- ish”) in Fuzzy Concepts:

A fuzzy concept is a concept of which the boundaries of application can vary considerably according to context or conditions, instead of being fixed once and for all. This means the concept is vague in some way, lacking a fixed, precise meaning, without however being unclear or meaningless altogether. It has a definite meaning, which can become more precise only through further elaboration and specification, including a closer definition of the context in which the concept is used.”

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. fuzzy conceptTo follow our future series on Conceptual Thinking, subscribe to the blog

Paradoxes as Provocative Operations – Thinkibility Boost

counter paradox

In an earlier blog post about contradictions we stated that:

“paradoxical messages can seriously paralyze human relations and even lead to schizophrenic behavior. However, at the same time paradoxical communication can also be used to jolt someone out of his current mindset.

lateraal denken

Above we have symbolized “main stream thinking” or “current mindset” with the trajectory A->B. An alternative way of thinking is symbolized by trajectory A->C. The Provocative counter paradox is imaged as PO, or as a stepping stone outside the standard way of viewing things.

Some more examples of the latter, so called counter-paradoxes are:

  • Idea manager to an inventor: “Your idea is wonderful and perfect and cannot be improved, now, let’s explore it”.
  • Employee to his boss: “You’re right, solutions are there for immediate success and long-term problems”.
  • Therapist to a patient: ” It is not your fault that you are now deeply in problems, how did you organized for that?”
  • Debater: “Is this fact yours or mine?”
  • Consultant: “Yes, indeed, it is very important that we centrally administer the process of decentralization “.
  • Boss to an employee: “Listen, in this company I give the orders, and you execute them. “Employee: “Ok,  who begins?”.
  • Consultant to an entrepreneur: ” You perseveres that there is no solution to your problem, however I do know the solution, but will not reveal it to you”.
  • Evaluation Quality of Universities committee: ” Professors who don’t lecture and don’t publicize must be brilliant”.
  • A Human Resource Consultant: “Let’s have a masked ball. Everyone will attend as him or herself.
  • Consultant: “The board hired me for help.  I have listened to all your discussions about the problem of the company. However, since you have the problem of not achieving a description of the problem, I can’t help you with your problem”
  • Psychologist to a woman who never was able to say “no”: “Please, say “no” to me”.
  • Teacher: “Can you here me in the back of the class?”. Pupil: ” Yes, but it is not disturbing”.
  • ” What you’re saying is so untrue that even the opposite must be false”.
  • ” If you confess you are wrong, I will agree with you”.
  • “Don’t be so difficult! I want to know any difficulties immediately”.
  • “I urge you not to follow-up my advise”.
  • Professor to his students: “Don’t believe me, I am an academic crook”.
  • Provide that it is brought by humor, counter-paradoxes could provoke suddenly magical shifts in behaviour and attitude.


Kaleidoscopic Thinking – Thinkibility Nibble


Looking into a kaleidoscope is a dazzling  experience. The glass chips falling apart, and then when shaken, they come back together again. Only this time it is a new beautiful design. Somehow the chips  always land in the right place regardless of  how much you shake them.

The beginning of the word kaleidoscope comes from the Ancient Greek word kalos which means beautiful. A kaleidoscope is a cylinder which works by having several mirrors that creates multiple reflections. Yes a kaleidoscope is beautiful but what does this have to do with thinking?

Every time you shake a kaleidoscope it reveals something new and beautiful just like when something happens in life to shake things up. Or  in thinking when you deliberately try to shake things around to gain new insights and ideas.


The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson  is fascinated by telescopes and kaleidoscopes, and he creates pictures that have a surreal dream character. Recently he installed a Viewing Machine  at a botanical garden in southern Brazil,  which transforms acres of rainforest into a landscape of fractal geometries.

Olafur says that kaleidoscope reveal truths about reality that are too easily obscured. Playing with the fact that what we see can easily by reconfigured. Kaleidoscopes shake up what we think we see.

It is a common thinking tool to shake things around by introducing something random – a random word, picture, smell, sound or taste.  But a  kaleidoscope also frames what you are seeing or thinking about. Look at the picture below and you see that whenever the person changes frame the view of the world changes. Afterwards the viewer has a richer and more colourful perception of the world.


Attention is a key part of thinking clearly and productively, and framing your direction of thinking and method is a common concept in  de Bono’sapproach to thinking. This approach to thinking highlights the importance of directing the attention to different aspects in a conscious and meticulous manner.

Yet little attention is focused on how to put different aspects together. Much attention in research and thinking is devoted to getting the smaller aspects right. Yet seeing the big picture is vital. Integrating aspects and imagining  how pieces can be put together to form a new picture or story.

A story writer, uses frames to write a story – the hero embarks on an adventure to solve a problem, faces some challenges and then returns with new insights and solutions. Yet it is the way a story writer puts the ideas in each box together that determines if the story is going to capture our attention.

So now you have to practice to see reality with a kaleidoscopic vision without a kaleidoscope. You can imagine that you are flying over the kaleidoscopic image and  you try to rearrange the factors and images.

24/7 Patterns of Activity – Thinkibility Boost


Our daily work, social and private life is regulated by patterns. Patterns that dictate what you do, where your are and who you encounter. It seems that these are shifting from an industrial pattern wherein people are locked in a 5 or 6 days working routine from 8 am to 6 pm, mostly nailed down by law or by labor agreements. Yet even in a post-industrial era the industrial pattern is omnipresent.

Industrial patterns of activities

 However libraries are mostly accessible in the evening, most services as GP’s, dentists, therapeutics, plumbers, banks and hairdressers are not. School and industry hours are not synchronized. Museums are open at hours when nobody can visit.

Needless to say that the complete infrastructure (roads, bus lines, train schedules, offices) is based on the industrial working pattern. It means that public means are spend less efficient than when the load on the infrastructure is more evenly distributed.

Once I asked some employed women with school-going kids what their ultimate utopian business hours would be. They were not able to come up with the idea of working hours for parents with school-going kids between 10.00 am. and 3.00 pm. Impossible they said when the idea was put forward. Yet an employment agency did at the same moment profitable business by offering women precisely that kind of working hours. Alternative business hours were for them simply not conceivable.

Apparently the industrial pattern of working hours, social and private life are firmly rooted in the mind despite the fact that many women – and their partners – suffer from it while basically it is in many occupations not necessary to use these patterns.

24/7 patterns are increasingly changing

Only gradually evening and night shops have appeared. In many countries the ban on Sunday opening hours of shops has been partially lifted. Some “innovations” emerged, such as the business lunch and the working breakfast. Most car repairs have extended opening hours to give their clients the opportunity to bring their cars before their offices are open.

However, under pressure of the development of the Internet shops become increasingly, at least virtually, 24 hours a day open during seven days a week. Teams in different time zones speed up development projects. Doctors in LA let people working in India analyze x-ray photos in the night after the photo is taken (see also The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman).

Working at home for at least one day a week is encouraged by some companies.

Most hotels rent rooms from 1.00 pm till the next morning 11 am. Nowadays at some airports you can rent rooms for two hours to take a nap between flights. But what if hotels would offer not only a sleeping place from 1.00 pm. to 11 am the next morning, but from 7 pm to 7 am the next morning and from 8 am till 5 pm that afternoon?

Universities has begun giving lectures during evening hours, something that was not even thinkable a couple of decades ago.

The first 24/7 Fitness Club started already some 15 years ago but are still not wide-spread. It is interesting to speculate who might be the visitors of such a fitness club during the dark hours. The short movie 24/7 Fitness Club sketches a picture.

Future patterns – from static to dynamic?

Most criminals are lockup 24/7, but some criminals have regular weekend leave or are only locked up after working hours. But what if criminals could be punished by being locking up 1 day a week or for 1 hour per day during thirty years?

Dancing schools and ball rooms are mostly open in the evening. One of our subscribers got the idea to combine a lunchroom with dancing lessons or as a “ lunch dansant”. I am sure it would be a viable enterprise especially if it is located near some boring offices.

What if offices were open 24/7 a week? One partner could work from 8 am till 15.30 and the other partner could work 9.30 pm. till 5 am the next morning. What if it is possible to sleep in the office?

 What if hospitals were organized as industrial 24/7 production lines?

 In the past financial statements were made once a year, but nowadays most companies make them four times a year or even every month. As it is known that some control systems could become unstable when the rate of the feedback mechanism is increased, it is conceivable that companies in future will present their financial results once every ten years?

 Is it imaginable that because of the health effects of a siesta – a short nap in the afternoon, mostly after the midday meal – a siesta becomes obligatory in Western countries?

 In most countries a child is obliged to go to school for 12 to 18 years, a patterns that originated in the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays there are some weak appeals to “Lifelong Learning” or Adult Education. Would in future obligatory education for adults  be introduced for citizens over 40 years?

Thinking nothing? Impossible! Or maybe not

“What are you thinking?”



It is said that not thinking is impossible. But is it really so?

Many people believe that holidays are for not-thinking in order to recharge batteries for the next year’s  rat race. Or for seeing old things in new ways. Perhaps non-thinking is significant for the concept of Thinkibility itself?

 With non-thinking we don’t mean a lack of clear or rational thinking, daydreaming or musing. Nor do we mean subconsciousness. We mean the absence of thinking at all. Can we deliberately switch off thinking?

Actually, the objective of meditation in Zen is not to think. The goal is called Zazen, a sitting meditation, where the mind is calmed down by attentive counting the breath. Students are encouraged to “let thoughts go and escape from the body, like air-bubbles in the water” or “solely watching your thinking, by accepting them that they exist as such”. It is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. When you are  meditating you  strive to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.


In my opinion, the ability to focus and to describe the thinking involved are closely linked to the ability to meditate.

Sometimes a scholar is given an unsolvable problem to block intellectual thinking, a so called koan. One well-known koan is “what is the sound of one clapping hand?” Other ways to block thinking is to give the mind an impossible focus. A monk was given the instruction to walk for 30 days and to contemplate on how wonderful it is not to fall from the earth. In Zen, meditation sessions are interspersed with slow walking, not only to stretch the legs but also for exercising concentration by focusing on every muscle that is used. During this Kinhin each step is taken after each full breath.

 Work as cleaning, washing dishes and cooking are in the monasteries supposed to be performed with “mindfulness”, bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis. Mindfulness is a concept that fairly recent appeared in psychology and therapy programs.

 Many times I have wondered whether marathon runners, swimmers, cyclists and lovers of trekking and mountain climbing are experiencing Kinhin, just by the endurance and focused attention needed.


But there are also sports where during a very short time maximum attention is needed: judokas, boxers, pole vaulters. In both kind of sports participants speak of “just doing”, “not- thinking-at-all” or “being in the flow”. Or sometimes a “being in the zone”, “ in tune”, “centered” or “ singularly focused”.


The psychological state where a person is fully immersed and focused on an activity or task is called flow. As Wikipedia states: “When one is in the flow state, he or she is completely engrossed with the one task at hand and, without making the conscious decision to do so, loses awareness of all other things: time, people, distractions, and even basic bodily needs. This occurs because all of the attention of the person in the flow state is on the task at hand; there is no more attention to be allocated.”

It seems that non-thinking exists.

Photos by Sira AnamwongChatchai Somwat and Tom Curtis (

Daily Thinking – Discovering Patterns


Daily Thinking – the thinking you do quiet effortless during the day – do have some features. In this blog we will point out some of the characteristics of Daily Thinking that differs from scientific or deliberate thinking. However, that does not mean in our opinion that Daily Thinking habits does not affect or have affected academic thinking, as for instance in economics, psychology, biology and medicine

 Daily Thinking takes place, as deliberate thinking does, in a logic bubble

The most dominant feature of Daily Thinking is that it happens in a logic bubble, and that no conscious effort is made to escape from that. The logic bubble – or the standard thinking pattern – is the thinking space that defines the width and depth of the thinking, its time frame, what is Left Out and what biases color the construction of reality. Daily Thinking is fierce controlled by social influences and the Main Stream Media.

logic bubble

Neglect of the importance of focus

 In Daily Thinking thinking happens automatically without any reflection on what exactly the subject is and what to obtain with the thinking. There is an absence of meta thinking. As a result Daily Thinking is reactive.


There is also a tendency to focus on immediate problems, neglecting long-term challenges. Also, we habitually prefer solutions that focus on fighting results (“putting out the fire”) instead of preventing and detecting the cause (fire detectors and prevention plans). Mostly, rules follow from crises, instead of the other way around. If thinking about risks we tend to think that the worst thing that can happen has already been in the past, not in the future.

If there is an effect, then it has a cause

 In Daily Thinking we suppose  – without further thinking – that an effect has a cause, which is not always so. Or the effect could be merely coincidental with the cause, or the effect could be produced by a complete other cause or it could happen that two causes produce together an effect.


There is a linear relation between a cause and an effect

We are inclined to assume that the relation between a cause and an effect is a linear one, but it could be exponential, or a flattening relation (the influence of the cause decreases in the course of time..

linear non linear

The relation between a cause and an effect could also been shaped by a bell curve, also called a life cycle curve.


 In close relation with this phenomenon is that when thinking about effects, mostly only the nearby-in-time effect is taken into account. Effects on a longer time scale are neglected.

We tend to see only purposeful effects, and not unintended side effects of causes. Also, we assume that circumstances will not change during an effect is evolving under influence of a cause.

Logic is logic, isn’t it?

Then it is assumed that the logic any person uses is the same for all humans. In other words: Chinese, Arabs, Jewish and Americans take the same thinking paths to get to a conclusion. It is supposed to be hard wired in the brain.

However, we know that thinking is narrowly related to language. And regarding the fact that Chinese, Arabs, Jewish and Americans differ in language, in the construction of sentences, in fonts and in the direction of reading/writing we might challenge that.


 We suppose that those properties of language involve other brain areas and as such influences the “logic” of the thinking, although the same conclusion has been reached.

logic different

Mechanistic reasoning

 However, the most remarkable feature of Daily Thinking is it mechanic nature. In Daily Thinking seldom is taken into account that there might be a feedback effect. Or in other words: a cause produces an effect, what will in turn effect the cause.


Our Daily Thinking habits are far remote from thinking in system dynamics, complex networks or system theory. However these thinking strategies originates back to 1950-1960, we still continue thinking “Newtonian” in our daily practice.

Photo “Student Thinking With Textbook” by imagerymajestic

Left Out


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