Alternatives To Critical Thinking Part 2
In the first part of alternatives to critical thinking I touched on lateral thinking a tiny bit by mentioning humor. This is a type of thinking that allows us to change our perception of something. I also argued a little on how critical thinking is misplaced in our society, how most of us couldn’t tell you what it is, or how to do it, or how it applies to X situation, and I also think it can take too much time and is inferior when you lack for time.
Lateral thinking is a huge part of Edward de Bono’s book Thinking Course and all of my ideas stem from this book. Today we’ll be looking at three more alternatives to critical thinking that are considered lateral thinking (the first was humor).
Stepping Stone Method
This method treats an idea for its movement value, or, seeing where an idea will lead, instead of its judgment value, or, condemning or praising the idea and not moving forward, or ending there. This is a very logical method that is designed to help you cross the pond of uncertainty without getting stuck.
Let’s say I have an idea for a website where people share their resumes. I had this idea when I wanted to see examples of what real people with real resumes are doing with them and what kind of jobs they are getting. It’s a bit different than seeing someone’s LinkedIn profile, where you can see a type of resume, but not the thing Human Resources sees. I could stop here and make a judgement of this idea and start tackling the details, but let’s see where this idea can lead.
Is there anywhere this site could lead to? Maybe, if it becomes popular enough, someone can create a study analyzing the resumes to look for patterns. Using real data for statistical analysis we could come to several conclusions that would be outside the normal realm of a large corporation that sifts through huge piles of resumes. Perhaps also we could capture information that would be valuable to software that large companies use to evaluate resumes en masse. The data could also be used for sociology types as they can directly collate the kinds of jobs people have been working to make conclusions on some of the economic and political policies that are in place. This information may already be available in various forms, but with a successful website, built with a simple navigable interface, could be structured so web crawlers can collect data efficiently.
All I had was a basic idea where I wanted to see real people’s resumes. By taking a few moments to peer into where that might lead, I can already start anticipating some other things the website could be useful for.
With the escape method we focus on things we take for granted and wonder if they are the only or best ways of doing things. So, what is something I currently take for granted? Answer: Google.
It’s easy for me to Google things I don’t know. Is Google the only way for me to find things out? Sure, there are other search engines, do any of them offer something different? I know that I use Yandex on occasion because it’s like an older Google, and I use it when I don’t want any messy politics involved in my search results. Therefore, are my searches inherently lacking because I am always at the mercy of Google’s algorithm? Maybe it would be good if I could start making categories and tables of how I search for things, depending on how deep the research needs to go. For instance, I could include JSTOR, Yandex, and a few other search engines to sift through results, but maybe I need to learn how to build my own web crawler instead.
Is there a way I can make my own web crawler that would be better for my specific needs, in order to find sites that I would otherwise never find? Is there someone or something that generates web crawlers for you? Maybe what I want to do is have a bot scrape enough information that I can start to analyze data, not read essay after essay of information, trying to pick them apart to find gems. I need a bot to do that for me. Maybe Google and other search engines already have these tools and I don’t know about them or how to use them. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.
So, to conclude, using the escape method on Google, I already deepened my thoughts on looking for information. If I understand how web crawlers are programmed that could help me in how I search for sites and information. Now I wonder if there’s a way to find good sites that are bad at making themselves seen through meta data and keywords.
Random Stimulation Method
One way to open yourself to influences other than those you directly look for is to take a random word and a random situation and see what connections you make. For example:
Situation: Wrapping Presents
Pretty random, right? What do these things open me up to? Penguin decorated wrapping paper? Okay, what else? A penguin toy. A penguin-shaped present. Maybe a color scheme based on the empire penguin’s coloring, this could be used for a website, a T-shirt, anything else that uses basic colors like furniture, appliances, vehicles and so on. Maybe a children’s Christmas book of penguins delivering presents. It could be a plot based on how the mother penguin leaves for a season while the father watches over the egg and waits on the mother to return, but she returns with presents instead of food or whatever else it is they return with (I can’t remember the details from the Planet Earth series).
Now I’m pretty burnt out trying to think of connections between these things and whatever else they open me up to, but I’m starting to open up to other random things based on the penguin, which is the sleekness of their outline, particularly the head, and the shininess of their coat and how that relates to the shininess of some wrapping paper. You know what sucks about wrapping presents? When the present isn’t in a basic box. Sure, you can buy boxes to put things in and then wrap the box, but are there other ways we can wrap stuff? A lot of the newest generation of toys are taking wrapping to the next level by making the unboxing/unwrapping process a part of the excitement (I’m thinking here of LoL dolls). Is there a way I can start to wrap gifts that simulates this experience without me having to buy something premade like it?
I thought to Google (yes, yes, I know) “cool facts about Penguins” and I came across countershading, or Thayer’s law. This is when an animal is camouflaged when their coloration is darker on the upper side and lighter on the underside of the body. Now, I don’t know how to utilize this fact for anything, but I’m thinking about how it might be an easy way to find basic color schemes for things like icons, shapes, or anything in life that needs something more than a basic single-shade color.
To conclude with this method, you can jump down an infinite number of rabbit holes (there’s another random thing to associate) for extended periods of time with this type of creative stimulation. It’s also a lot more fun than critical thinking, where you are only attempting to dismantle something.
I hope that this post provides you with some insights on how there are other ways to think about things, ways you can apply to work, to hobbies, and to life in general. One thing we tend to get wrong about thinking is that it is hard work. Initially, yes, it is hard work, but as you improve how you think and how you approach a variety of things, thinking starts to become a pleasure and you notice yourself unlocking massive sections of creativity in your mind. At the end of writing this post, I don’t feel worn out, instead my mind feels alive and rearing to go to plunge deep into the depths of learning and changing my perception. You can even take these things and journal out your thoughts as you are having them if you lack for journaling material from which to pull insight from down the road. Everyone should have a Thought Material Journal we can go to to stimulate our minds. It’s a lot more fun and rewarding than scrolling through memes and opinions.