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

Trick your Mind and Challenge the Way you Perceive. . .

The Aromafork, by Molecule-R, is the fork for people just like me. I like to test new things in the kitchen but somehow never gets it right.I love the idea of cooking but is more interested in the idea of tasting different combinations rather than spending hours in the kitchen. Let us say you want to test if bubble gum flavour really works with strawberry and  potato. Are you going to buy a kg of strawberry to test this idea? Probably not.3027886-slide-aromafork-by-molecule-r-no-banner

The fork releases scents as you eat with it and it tricks your mind to detect flavours. Your taste buds recognize five tastes – sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami (a strong savory flavour such as parmesan). But your nose is fantastic and can distinguish up to a trillion smells. A rose, a cup of coffee, a lemon, the scent of dew. . .  The fork releases aromas and tricks your mind to perceive aromas on top of the tastes. You put a droplet of one of the 21 liquid aromas onto a blotting pater in the handle. When you bit into whatever is at the end of the fork you inhale the smell.

3027886-slide-aromaforkginger-tunaApart from letting you play around with lots of different flavour combinations and liberating your perceptions about what might and might not work, are there any other uses of the fork? In order for an innovation or idea to be successful it is vital to explore ways to morph the suggestions into multiple areas.  Understanding the impact your idea or innovation can have is a vital part of the innovative process. Working on this aspect will help others understand your vision. What possible areas of use can you find for this fork?

The fork can

  • be used in chef training
  • help children to develop their taste buds
  • help with detection of diseases
  • save money when developing new food products
  • help to understand the science underlying our food preferences
  • help us develop new food that are produced in more sustainable ways

Like to read about food, smell and taste? Check out Embrace Different Experiences, Tomorrow Machine, and  Mixing Art Science and Dreams.

Thin-slicing : the power of intuition – Thinkibility Boost


Building up Intuition is “thin-slicing”

In an earlier post,  we discussed the relation between Reasoning and Intuition on the basis of Kahneman’s two interrelated thinking systems. One is fast, intuitive reactive and emotional. The other is slow, deliberate, methodical and rational. Although he acknowledges that the mind functions thanks to a delicate, intricate and sometimes difficult balance between the two systems, his book Thinking, Fast and Slow is mainly about biases of intuition. And to prevent them, we ought to be less thinking-lazy. That is to say that we must mobilize more often System 2: the laborious process of analysis. We recommended this book in our post Reasoning versus Intuition.

Basically, from childhood on a mindset is stamped in the brain “Don’t trust your Intuition”. It is a result of the scientific revolution. The result is that intuition is highly undervalued. But there are many situations where there is no room for rational thinking, yet there have to be an action, a judgement  or a decision. In such a situation the use of intuition is a last resort and we had better to be trained for it.

  • there is too little information available
  • there is too much information
  • the situation is too complex to analyse methodically
  • a quick reaction is required
  • a situation wherein someone is overwhelmed by emotions

There are also many positives of using intuition:

  • it allows for a much broader and sensitive exploration of a subject or situation
  • it can grasp soft notions about a subject or intangible aspects
  • it is very useful in situation when something cannot be caught in words
  • it draws on valuable experience
  • non-verbal clues (smell, taste, bodily signals) are mostly not available in language
  • it is less likely to get caught up in red herrings or distractions
  • there is no need  for justification (that is per definition impossible and not to trust anyway if tried)

There are not merely advantages of intuitive thinking. Sometimes it even outperforms rational systematic thinking.

In an earlier blog post Inteligent Gossip by the Watercooler we mentioned already Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell. It is all about  mental processes that work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information. Although a substantial part of his book is addressing the pitfalls of intuitive thinking such as priming and stereotypes we recommend this book because it illustrates the powerful performance of what Gladwell calls “Thin-slicing“.

Thin-slicing or Rapid Cognition refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. It is the power of knowing in the first two seconds. It is a system in which our brain reaches conclusions without immediately telling us that it is reaching conclusions. Whenever we meet someone for the first time, we interview someone for a job, we react to a new idea or face with a decision quickly and under stress we use this “split second” system. When we leap to a decision or have a hunch, our unconsciousness is sifting through the situation in front of us, throwing all that is irrelevant while we zoom in on what really matters. However, it is buried somewhere in our unconscious, and we couldn’t dredge it up.

This skill is not  magically given to a couple of fortunate people. It is a skill that we can all cultivate by ourselves. Snap judgement and first impressions can be educated and controlled. It is possible to learn when to listen and when to be wary of it.

Below are some examples of Thin-slicing:

  • By a “Blink of an Eye” an art historian outperformed months of scientific analysis of a piece of art that turned out to be a forgery.
  • In an experiment with manipulated game cards sweat glands below the skin in the palms of hands of gamblers were measured.  It proved that they knew unconsciously forty cards before they were able to say that they the cards were manipulated. But moreover, they begun to behave accordingly to their unconscious stress reactions, long before they became consciously aware of what adjustments to make.
  • Marriages have a distinct pattern, a kind of DNA that surfaces in any case of meaningful interaction. After training it is possible to “read” or “decode” those patterns and predict divorce within 3 minutes, without  asking husbands and wives questions about the state of their marriage. In another experiment non-experts were given a list of emotions to look for. They predicted with better than 80 percent accuracy which marriages were going to make it.
  • It showed that in a hospital that more information did not lead to better diagnoses. Actually, the role of much in itself relevant factors was small in determining what was happening. An accurate diagnosis could be made without them. It showed also that many times doctors would do better if they knew less about their patients. The very desire for confidence by doing more tests and gathering more information from the patient was precisely what ended up undermining the accuracy of their diagnosis.
  • In an electronic war game one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five out of six amphibious ships were sent to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in the span of just one hour, resulting in the virtual death of over 20.000 US service personnel. It showed the failure of a doctrine which is called Information Dominance: databases and matrices and methodologies for systematically understanding the intentions and capabilities of the enemy. The conducting of a thoroughly rational and rigorous analysis that covered every conceivable contingency apparently destroyed the capabilities of rapid cognition.

First impressions are notorious difficult to put into words. Some people always make a note of the first word that goes through their heads. In others a visual image  imposes itself automatically. Some people  get it hot or cold. Others experience abdominal or stomach spasm.  Others experience a strong emotion or get dizzy. 

Sliced kiwi

The information is in a thin-slice

It is interesting to ponder about the consequences of living in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it. That it is much easier to listen to scientists and lawyers because they could provide pages and pages of documentation and conclusions than “reading your inner state”. 

Could we design “structures of spontaneity” where improvisation, without a script or a plot,  and reacting to the environment is less calculated and rationalized but instead promote picking up instinctively  a truth?

Could we develop intuition systematically?

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.

Do You Need New Eyes? – Thinkibility Nibble


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.



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.


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