Boys thinking deep.
That’s Spiff’s best line when all the boys in The Johnsons (a very factual and amusing Nigerian comedy series) come up with one of their authentic plans that is bound to go awry anyway. It means they thought above the average person, they thought differently or they were just too smart. How does one get to really think deeper (or better)? Well, since everything can be learned or improved upon, we are sure to get answers to that from our book today.
THE 5 ELEMENTS OF EFFECTIVE THINKING| EDWARD B. BURGER & MICHAEL STARBIRD| PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS| 2012| 157 PAGES
It is a small book in which the authors concentrated their energies in keeping the reader focused on the message of the book without fluff. It was simply written to meet the understanding of just about anyone from students (Both authors are teachers) to politicians since the concept of effective thinking applies to everyone.
The 5 elements of effective thinking discussed were made memorable by the use of the popular astrological elements which are said form the universe: Earth, Fire, Air, Water and a bonus element. Some insights revealed on the different elements can be seen below;
- Earth (Understanding deeply): This involves comprehending the basics of anything to fully understand it. Every expert was once a beginner and they know that a thorough mastery of the core of their subject matter is what makes the difference.
- Fire (Fail to succeed): This involves understanding that failure has immense potential to be a great teacher if only we will embrace it as a necessary and important bus-stop on our journey to success.
- Air (Be your own Socrates): You can never ask enough questions. Creating questions to be asked is just as important as getting answers to questions because it forces you to focus on the right issues, ignore distractions that cover issues, avoid bias and reveal hidden assumptions and errors. It empowers you to challenge status quo and allow for creative problem solving.
The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away – Linus Pauling
- Water (Look back, Look forward): New ideas are never sudden; they are usually as a result of a flow. Understanding previous ideas and incremental evolution of such ideas lead to seemingly lightbulb moments. Shuttling between old ideas and futuristic ones creates effective thinking.
- Change (Transform yourself): Whilst the first four elements serve as a guide to what could really improve your thoughtfulness, this bonus element is all about actually following the instructions. As we know, knowledge is different from action. Like Nike says; Just do it. Put in all the knowledge to good use.
the difference between those who have great insights and those who don’t is that the first group actually take those baby steps.
Tosan’s take: An interestingly simple yet thought provoking read. My best take-away from it is that great ideas don’t come out in isolation. Yes, Edison failed 10,000 times before succeeding but that 10,001th time wasn’t isolated from the previous failures; the lessons from those failures, the improvements and consistency all added up to make the 10,010th idea to birth the light bulb. It reminds me of something I read about the Chinese bamboo. For the first 4 years of planting, it shows no sign of growth; suddenly in its 5th year, it grows 90 feet in 5 weeks! Astounding right, only that it is not at all sudden – it has been growing all along!
My most favorite element is one that has totally dealt me a great blow, broken me, taught me, made me stronger yet still instils fear in me. It is Fire. Failing (in order to succeed) productively and forward. Who isn’t a tad bit afraid of failing? The idea of failing already sends chills down your spine before you even start anything major – a business, project, and relationship- anything. Even our environment exacerbates it.
Adopting failure as a strategy for effective thinking involves a total mindset change – like expecting and preparing for failure even on your journey to success! This will surely help in mastering failure. The authors suggest you resolve to fail at least nine times before succeeding, that way your creative juices are not restricted when you fail, instead you pick the lessons and remain enthusiastic about moving on.
What is even more fascinating is the suggestion to fail by intent. This sounds totally irrational but could lead to the much needed breakthrough. If you don’t know how to do it right, you most likely will know how to do it wrong, why not try it wrong today, and learn from failing productively… weird right.
Great read. Lots and lots of thinking to do.