Thinking to Success in 2013 and Beyond: Critical, Creative, Intuitive Thinking
Right up front, let’s define this simple yet vital tool so its meaning is clear. Remember, to achieve one must define specifically whatever one is working with to move forward with precision and purpose.
Critical thinking is that which goes deeper than obvious surface meaning. For instance, in the movie Matrix, the main character Neo is attempting to escape the matrix for he knows something is amiss. He comes to realize that the reality he is living is a virtual one. Plugged into programs to replicate human existence put together by the machines that have taken over the earth, humans are being used like batteries to power the machine city . This is all mere fiction. However, lying under that basic story is a critical metaphor for life, for we all live in matrices that ensnare us physically, financially, intellectually, and emotionally. The brothers who wrote the Matrix had this intended underlying effect in mind when writing the script. This is critical thinking, but what is creativity, specifically? In achievement, we want to deal in specifics for greatest forward movement and accuracy in achieving our goals, thus we need to get definitions as accurate as possible.
Creativity is the ability to create solutions, to come up with an answer, invention, product, service, story, anything that begins with a need to produce an initially unknown outcome, creating a bridge from need to outcome. It is also the ability to diverge or to see a manifold of options. For example, it allegedly took Edison over 10,000 attempts to create a solution for the incandescent light bulb. Often, solution does not come easy or overnight, thus the need not only for divergent thinking but tenacity and patience.
Finally, there is intuition. Knowledge plus intuition often leads to creative solution. For Newton to discover the law of gravity, he had to study considerably, but it was only while at rest, allowing his mind to incubate solution was he able to understand or find solution to his quest. How important is intuition? According to Einstein, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.” Without intuition your chance of finding the best path to solution may never happen. Einstein relied on his intuition knowing that he was right “without knowing the reason.” Even though Einstein felt that the rational mind the “servant” the “intuitive mind the sacred gift. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
So why is all this of the utmost importance to you today?
How Critical, Creative, Intuitive Thinking will help you
First, let’s take a step back to see the whole picture. Remember, in order to move forward with focus and power, you must see or understand as thoroughly as possible not only where you’re going but where you are and where you’ve been.
First of all, regarding the workforce few understand the very water in which they swim. What are the economic conditions or what are you up against in not only trying to gain employment but maintain it. We live in a capitalist society, and America is one of the freest of societies. What does that mean to you?
It means not only more job creation but destruction than in any country. That means things are going to change and change often. According to Allen Greenspan, head of the U.S. Federal Reserve for nearly twenty years, we are in the age of turbulence where economic change is an assured thing. The creative destruction of capitalism ensures job loss and creation. Thus, if you believe in job security, even through obtaining a college degree, you believe in a myth. On top of that, because of such change, if you believe that a sole source of income is your best bet, you need to think again. More and more are becoming aware of the need to diversify their monetary portfolio, putting some money in stocks, some in real-estate, gold and / or silver, and other investments. Relying on one source of income in such a changing economic environment is like living in earthquake country and putting your house on stilts. Yes, I’m talking about those people who live in Hollywood Hills. Not me. But that’s another issue, back to the one at hand.
Capitalism is about entrepreneurship. It’s about millions coming forth time and again attempting to come up with the latest, greatest service and product. If this weren’t true, we’d still use outhouses, water wells, and horse and buggies. Even in your own time I’m sure you’ve seen Blockbusters come and go as Netflix took flight, B. Dalton’s go away as Amazon took hold, and record companies lose money and power as the Internet, MP3s and self-recording / marketing artist took over. Because of all this change, if you are just starting out, over your working lifetime you will have, according to experts, some three to five and as many as ten career changes. So ultimately, the skill sets will change but not the need to learn, learn quickly and adapt in the same way. Thus, you must learn how to learn. How do you do that best? Through critical, creative, intuitive thinking, of course.
So what is this tool? Let’s get into the details.
So you have a problem. You’re trying to get something done. Say you are trying to determine how best to engage students in class, how to twist the plot of your new book just right, streamline production at a place of business, even study material for a class, and so on. All of these require critical, creative, intuitive thinking.
So where do you start?
First you need to do your homework. This often entails research, reading, conversation, viewing of materials, and so forth. How do you do this best? Know what you’re looking for before you begin and then find the key points. Let’s look at an example. Here’s a passage from Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity. I came across this book as I used critical thinking to determine what my new education / career program would entail. After some researching and brainstorming, I came to the conclusion that I needed to look at what most people needed most of the time in most situations. What is the most common denominator in general human need? Well, one of them is to understand how our economy works, not only for the benefit of the individual concerned, but for all concerned, all Americans. So here’s a passage from a very important book (I suggest you read it).
1. Incentives Matter
“All of economics rests on one simple principle: that incentives matter. Altering incentive, the costs and benefits of making specific decisions, alters people’s behavior
Understanding incentives is an extremely powerful tool for understanding why people do the things they do because the impact of incentives can be seen on almost every level, from simple family decision making to securities and international trade.”
Before reading, we’ve come to an understanding of how important economics is. We understand that it will enable us to know more accurately how best to deal with economic outcomes in regards to our career and our personal financial health. But we also understand that this is not just about us that it’s about everyone not only in the United States but countries around the world. We will gain a greater national and political understanding to make better choices in voting decision-makers into office.
Now that’s a LOT!
So before reading, we are not only ready to read—we have great cause—but we are motivated. Motivation is essential in not only getting things done, but it enables us to have the energy and concentration needed to learn rapidly and thoroughly for greatest knowledge retention. It is all about motivation and enthusiasm when it comes to learning and problem solving.
Getting to the work above, we need to look for key words and phrases that tell us to stop skimming and pay close attention. While reading critically, you should have a five-speed gear box. Most of the time you will be skimming working for general comprehension, then you will slow down or stop for key words and phrases, downshifting to first or second even parking it. It is this material that you will most likely commit to memory. Einstein said that if you don’t need to memorize, leave it in the book, look it up later. Important information must be committed to memory.
We know we have to slow down even stop and take note when we read such words and phrases as “All of economics rests on one simple principle,” “understanding incentives is an extremely powerful tool,” and “the impact of incentives can be seen on almost every level.” Especially the words “all,” “extremely,” and “every level” speak to importance. We have motivation, we have key words and phrases, but there’s more. We need to know about the limitations of our brain.
What about learning how to learn?
This is critical. Most students never learn how to learn, yet are expected to go off to school and college and do an outstanding job. Few have the first inkling as to how to study, look at, dissect, process, and retain critical knowledge. That is what you are getting here.
Our brains are limited in their intake. At most we can take in knowledge in strings of threes and fours. For example, take a few minutes and commit a phone number to memory before you go out of the house for awhile. See if you can recall the number without writing it down an hour or two later. Most will get distracted and forget it, for several reasons. First, our short-term memory is limited—as mentioned above—and we have not transferred it to long-term memory. There are other things that can disrupt memory—lack of sleep, poor diet, anger, drugs and alcohol—but we will not be exploring this aspect of memory.
In order to commit that number to memory, you have to use a technique to overcome the brain’s shortcomings. You must read the first three numbers, or put them in your verbal memory, and visualize the last four. Keep repeating the number this way for a few minutes. In all likelihood, you will remember it longer. I have found in using this technique that I have gone from remembering the number a few minutes up to a few days without ever writing it down.
Why does this work? We need to see what we are learning more than merely verbalize it. Pausing to draw out, write down, or simply look away and visualize material enhances memory. This is why teachers have you write. When you write, you are seeing the material more clearly, plus you are putting it into your words, processing it trough your mind in differing combinations of words. The more angles that you can address the material from using a greater array of senses, the better you learn. As you write you are including the physicality of writing using pen or pencil or keyboard enabling another sense increasing your ability to learn the material.
Rarely does education stick; only when it does are you truly educated.
In reality, education or the stickiness of knowledge rarely happens. First, most students are working to external or extrinsic motivators, such as grades, income, desire to satisfy parents, peers, or society, or to satisfy pride, such as in earning prestigious degrees merely for the prestige. Without a passion for the material, taking it in, researching it from many angles, writing about it, and rolling it all around again and again in the mind, one rarely owns or really knows the material. THIS is education.
Here’s another tip. In order to transfer knowledge from short- to long-term memory, you need to be exposed to the material some five to ten times from varying angles before it is owned. Yes, to learn something you must own it. It must become a part of your being. That’s why when you’re learning something it’s best to put it in your own words.
Also, you must learn to chunk it down. Take information and put it into chunks of threes, fours, or fives preferably. We can handle six, maybe, but after that it gets a bit much for us—for most of us. For example, in putting across the concept of critical thinking to my classes, I take the first two chapters on critical thinking (reading and writing) and chunk the knowledge down to four or five groups of knowledge containing only three to five elements, so the brain’s ability to remember is not taxed. You can’t always do this, but for greatest retention, this is what you should be shooting for any time you study. I will show you what I mean by how I teach the very thing we are talking about: critical thinking.
- First, we need to define critical thinking. It is the process of going beyond surface meaning to that which is deeper or of greater merit, use, and purpose.
- Second, we need to understand its components as a tool. What are its main useable elements? They entail analyzing, synthesizing, and judging. First we must analyze the problem at hand. What is it? What is the problem? Just as we must look at all the components of a car to determine what is wrong, the same goes for other problems. As we analyze, we bring “us” into the analysis. This is what we know, who we are, our background, biases, experience, conversations, acquaintances, family, and friends, what we watch, read, and understand. We see through these elements to understand or interpret what we are reading or the problem at hand. Unfortunately, because of limited understanding, biases, and weaknesses it is critical to keep as open and objective a mind as possible, ready to make changes to our understanding as more knowledge and greater perception comes forth. Finally, we make a judgment. What is the value, worth, import of what we have discovered. And move forward from there.
- Next, how best to use this tool critical thinking. It is best used via writing. Many a writer has said, “I don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down.” The writing process enables greatest focus and concentration. There are many tasks that can be done in conjunction with others, multi-tasking, but because writing requires the greatest of concentration to perform well, it is also the greatest learning, discovering and analyzing tool. So what are the main components of writing, as we go about writing about our problem. Some things to consider are the following:
Who are you writing to? Some of the time it may just be you. Why are you writing? What is your main point? Support that main point with evidence, so it’s not just mere conjecture. Then make sure that what you have makes sense, coherent, and is not lacking in logic and reason all the while keeping it unified or sticking to the main point, thesis. This all aids in getting to solution in the best way possible. However, there is a catch. Let’s go to the Don for more insight.
Intuition to take it to the next level.
Yes, Donald Trump states that in order to solve a problem one must do the work, do one’s due diligence. However, you will never know it all, so at some point you must just move forward using your gut instinct or intuition. At the same time, even though you have done your homework, allow it to sit for awhile and go play. Yes, greatest solution comes when the mind is at play. Many eurekas have come while walking, sitting, relaxing, playing, experimenting when just not focusing on the work at all. Let your mind go in as many possible directions to solution as you can think of. Get as divergent as you can. Be as a child.
According to research, 98% of young children, five or six years-of-age, have genius level divergent thinking. Their imagination is not only at play it is thriving. The greatest thinkers throughout time have been noted for their childlike nature. It is certainly a part of you that you need to hold onto, not only to solve problems but to maintain mental health and happiness. Even if something comes to you that seems odd, farfetched, impossible, even useless, don’t throw it away. It could be just what you’re looking for.
Let’s get back to the three points above. If you look at the material we need to commit to memory, you’ll see that it fits our three to four or five elements-in-length requirement. The critical thinking definition can be broken into two parts: 1) going deep 2) greater merit, use, purpose. 2) the tool: analyze, synthesize, judge 3) writing components: audience, purpose, thesis, evidence, coherence, unity.
We must become a better self-educating society for the future. As stated above, the skill sets will change three, four, five times or more over our working lifetimes. Thus we must learn how best to learn. We must be able to ask ourselves the right questions to get at the information we need for our careers and jobs. For example, even in teaching something as simple as comma placement, I don’t have students memorize all seven or eight rules. Most of the rules are known (such as commas in dates and addresses) or little used. What do most students need most of the time in most cases? Since 98.8% of the time I’m not teaching English majors or grammar scholars, I give them what they need to write well. I break the rules down to four, even combining those that overlap or are not put into any logical, useful order in regards to application or purpose. What are they? In most academic writing they are:
- Commas come before, around, and after words phrases and clauses that appear before, within, and after the sentence.
- Place a comma and coordinating conjunction between two sentences in a compound sentence.
- Place commas after words in a list of three or more words, phrases, and clauses.
- Places commas after adjectives when there are two or more in a row.
There are other punctuation rules, but the above are applicable the majority of time. Note that there are only four, so they fit our three to six element limitation rule. Plus I have combined those that overlap, and would take up excessive room in your head, into a rule or two.
In today’s quick paced world, you must learn how to learn and do so quickly. What I have given you in this essay will help you considerably to not only learn, but to discern quickly between what is necessary and unwanted, trivial and of merit. And remember that all the techniques in the world will only help so much. If you really want to maximize your abilities across the board (creativity, comprehension, accountability, knowledge acquisition and retention), have a love and passion for what you are doing. Don’t do something because parents, peers, society, your pride, or simply a desire for money is your priority. As Einstein said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.”
Here’s to your success in the rapidly changing future and to your success using this great tool. Here’s to your success, however you may define it.