This article is courtesy of SRDS - Brought to you by Canvas.


A Toolbox of Thinking Skills
People are not usually taught how to think in school. It is assumed that the clever ones can think and that the thick ones cannot. This is rubbish. The clever ones are called clever because they can pass exams but this involves memory and being able to respond correctly to what is put in front of them. This involves fairly low levels of a limited number of very basic thinking skills. There are many different kinds of thinking skills and most of them are easy to master the problem is that few people have mastered them and even fewer bother to use them. As a trainer your toolbox of thinking skills should be jam packed and you should be giving them away and acquiring new ones all the time. The good thing about ideas and skills is that you can give them away but still hold on to them - it is like drinking from a cup that never runs dry. And your toolbox should be made of rubber - the more you put into it the bigger it gets! The list of thinking skills is endless - they can be used to create new ones! Three particularly useful ones are described here and this is followed by references to four other mental ironmongers.

Tell it to your Granny
Imagine an old granny on the far side of Lewis who speaks only the Gaelic and has not yet been introduced to electricity. She has heard about 'computers' and asks you to explain what they are. This exercise tests your understanding of a concept because you cannot use the jargon. You have to explain using 'plain English' (or Gaelic if you have it). In the process of trying to explain in a simple way you invariably come up with new ways of looking at the situation.

Write a script for two people discussing the topic
This is a variation on 'Tell it to your Granny'. The difference is that you are free to choose who the two people are (old/young, male/female, town/country, rich/ poor etc) and you have to imagine yourself inside the heads of both characters so that you can put words in their mouths. This exercise has the same advantages as the previous one with the addition that you have to be clear about at least two different perspectives on the topic being discussed. The process of trying to write the script can do wonders for your understanding of the topic.

State the History of the Topic
When was the very first OOSCC Club established and how has the idea progressed since then? This exercise might involve you in doing some research - either in books or through talking to people. Everything has a history which tells how it has changed through time. When did it change? Why did it change? By looking into these issues you come to see that the present is not like the past and you are thus more open to considering a different future.
These three techniques are from the list given in 'A Good Thinker's Toolbox' which is based on Margaret Boden's Book The Creative Mind.

Use Lateral Thinking
Sometimes you have to use creative thinking to come up with new ideas. Edward de Bono's technique called Lateral Thinking helps your mind to escape from its normal ruts and to see new possibilities and directions. There are four main strategies each of which has many techniques.

The Four Strategies
Recognise dominant ideas Search for different ways of looking at things Relax the rigid control of vertical thinking Make use of chance

An Example
Identify main ideas and write them down Decide in advance that you will look at the problem from six (?) different points of view - and then do it. Make a deliberate logical/factual mistake and see where it leads you (eg boys and girls must use the same toilets) Pick an object at random and see how it might be relevant to the topic under discussion (How is an OOSCC Club like a tin opener?)

The two appendices 'Lateral and Vertical Thinking' and 'Techniques of Lateral Thinking' give a more detailed explanation and also give the titles of some of De Bono's books.

Draw a Mindmap
A Mindmap is a drawing which represents what is going on in your mind while you make notes, gather ideas for reports and/or try to be creative. There will be units (for things, ideas or events) joined up by lines which show how the units interact. A mindmap is thus an interactive mind map but in Tony Buzan's version of the idea greater emphasis is put on keywords and on the use of images and colour to enhance understanding, creativity and memory.
Reference Tony Buzan (1989) Use both sides of your brain; Plume. This book includes an easy to read explanation of right and left brain thinking.

Check your Logic

Much confusion can arise through muddled thinking. Most often the muddle is unintentional but some smooth operators (like double-glazing salesmen?) use it intentionally. Consider the No True Scotsman Move. Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Press and Journal and seeing an article about how the 'Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again'. Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing". The next day he sits down to read his Press and Journal again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing". This example is taken from Anthony Flew's book Thinking about Thinking - or do I sincerely want to be right?. Mr Flew is a Professor of Philosophy so the book, although quite thin, can be a bit heavy at times. But it is now in its eighth edition - it is worth making the effort as it describes such lovely notions as: • • • • • • • • • • The but-they-will-never-agree diversion The but-you-can-understand-why evasion The fallacy of pseudo-refuting descriptions The logically-black-is-white slide The truth-is-always-in-the-middle damper The unAmerican fallacy Begging the question Persuasive definition Affirming the antecedent Affirming the consequent

Straighten the Crooked Thinking
Not all muddled thinking is due to faults of logic, some of it is just crooked whether by intention or mistake. Robert Thouless has written a practical book for anyone who has to discuss controversial topics. The jacket blurb notes that: He believes that psychological factors often dangerously distort correct thinking. He shows, for instance, how the use of emotional words can obscure facts, and how fallacies in argument can often mislead an unwary audience. He lists 38 dishonest tricks commonly used in argument, with methods of overcoming them, and ends with an imaginary discussion between a businessman, a clergyman and a professor which illustrates these pitfalls. He first wrote the book in 1930 and my copy is of the 11 th edition which came out in 1967. It is an all time classic! Here are the first 7 of his 38 dishonest tricks with their countermeasures. Dishonest Trick The use of emotionally toned words Method of overcoming it Repeat the statement using emotionally neutral words

Making a statement in which 'all' is implied Repeat the statement using 'all' and showing but 'some' is true. that it is therefore false Proof by selected instances Point to counter instances

Extension of an opponent's proposition by State again the more moderate position contradiction or by misrepresentation of it which is being defended Evasion of a sound refutation of an Analyse the formula to demonstrate its argument by the use of a sophisticated unsoundness formula Diversion to another question, to a side Refuse to be diverted and restate the real issue, or by irrelevant objection question Proof by inconsequent argument Ask for a clear explanation of the connection between the proposition and the alleged proof

Robert H Thouless (1953) Straight and Crooked Thinking; Pan

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful