Critical thinking

In a world where information overload is becoming a serious issue in terms of what we believe and how we choose to educate ourselves, one of the most important skills to ensure you are taking a balanced view is that of thinking critically.

In this article by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul, Learning the Art of Critical Thinking, the challenge set is to take an active role in analysing how you are thinking, and then suggests strategies as to how to improve the quality of how you think.

“Critical thinking is the disciplined art of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of in any set of circumstances. The general goal of thinking is to “figure out the lay of the land” in any situation we are in. We all have multiple choices to make. We need the best information to make the best choices.”

I’m planning to expand on that thought a little in another post in which I will discuss the iBrain study as it relates to how we process our way through the information overload we are all exposed to. For now – it’s enough to understand that given so many inputs of information and differing viewpoints, we must be cognisant of how robust our acceptance of ideas is to ensure that we continually challenge our norms and allow ourselves to grow in the understanding we have in the world around us.

The article makes the point that “To make significant gains in the quality of your thinking, you will have to engage in a kind of work that most humans find unpleasant, if not painful – intellectual work”. To this end, we are encouraged to practice special acts of thinking, moves with your mind analogous to what athletes learn to do with their bodies – through practice and feedback.

Clarify your Thinking

  • State one point at a time (“I think.. [state your main point])
  • Elaborate on what you mean (“in other words… [elaborate on the main point])
  • Give examples that connect your thoughts to life experiences (“for example… [give an example])
  • Use analogies and metaphors to help people connect your ideas to things they already understand. (“to give you an analogy… [illustrate your main point])

Of course thinking is a two way street and you will sometimes need to clarify what you are being asked to think about

  • “Can you restate your point in other words… I didn’t understand you…”
  • “Can you give an example?…”
  • “Let me tell you what I understand you are saying, did I understand you correctly?”

Now of course, you probably don’t speak like this, I know I don’t, so change it around without losing the meaning. – The key is not to appear patronising as you step yourself (and your audience) through your thought process, otherwise they will shut down and you will lose the opportunity to make your point or understand theirs.

Stick to the Point

Frequently ask “What is the central question? Is this relevant to it? How”

Now – personally, I don’t believe this is a good process if one is attempting to innovate or brainstorm an issue – but I have used this technique in a couple of problem solving meetings recently when conversation strayed from the point and onto more interesting matters.

Question Questions
The article goes on to ask us to be on the look out for both the questions we ask, and the questions we don’t ask. This allows us to improve our questioning skills, it may challenge accepted reasoning and it may also unearth some simple answers which had never been considered because the question had never been asked.

Be Reasonable

“Notice when you are unwilling to listen to the views of others, when you simply see yourself as right and others as wrong”

I think we’ve all been guilty of this at one stage or another, I also know that some of the best conversations I’ve had were started when I asked someone to convince me to accept their point of view – it opens the door to a huge array of new ways to resolve issues.

  • Are you unwilling to listen to someone’s reasons?
  • Are you irritated by the reasons people give you?
  • Do you become defensive during a discussion?

These are all fairly common, normal responses, but in training ourselves to think more critically, we can analyse why we had these responses. To help with this, the authors propose that we complete the following statements when we find ourselves being closed minded:

“I realise I was being close-minded in this situation because…”
“The thinking I was trying to hold onto is…”
“Thinking that is potentially better is…”
“This thinking is better because…”

Again, the language may not be right for you, but in understanding the intention you can discover what it is which is stopping you from allowing your thinking to open itself up to new ideas. It takes practice to change the way we are wired, but it can be done and all it needs is a little upfront discipline to stick to your ‘thinking training’ until it becomes automatic. When that happens you will find your conversations become more interesting and, if you’re anything like me, your thirst for more knowledge will become almost unquenchable.

I’ll leave this post with one last quote from the article…

“The extent to which any of us develops as a thinker is directly determined by the amount of time we dedicate to our development, the quality of the intellectual practice we engage in, and the depth, or lack thereof, of our commitment to becoming more reasonable, rational, successful persons.”

The Geek *will* inherit the earth…

Image of GeeksMy eye was caught this morning by an article referencing some research published mid-this month from UCLA. The article stated that “…this is an evolutionary change which will put the tech-savvy at the top of the new social order.” The geek will inherit the earth after all? This is tempered somewhat by the need to understand when technology or interpersonal skill should be employed in a given interaction.

“We’re seeing an evolutionary change. The people in the next generation who are really going to have the edge are the ones who master the technological skills and also face-to-face skills,” - Gary Small (via phone interview to Reuters)

There’s a few links to some UCLA publications here and here. Interestingly, the conclusions drawn by this article are somewhat different to the UCLA source, but maybe that just me not reading close enough just yet (I blame writing on the bus while listening to podcasts…)

Speaking at the UCB International ‘Online Media’ Forum

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked to present to a group of broadcasters at the UCB International On-line Media Forum. My topic was Digital Content, Communities and Conversations – specifically, I looked at the strategies and technology choices available to a new entrant into this space.

Some very good discussion came out of the session and, despite a few interruptions due to the arrival and departure of the Prime Minister, we covered off my initial slide pack and then delved deep into what these guys wanted to know about. The session actually went 90 minutes overtime as the attendees started investigating the options now available to them and postulating on what issues they may run into going forward.
This was a pro-bono presentation for me as I believe in the work the group does (and the initial approach was made to me via a family friend). Nonetheless, I got a lot of value out of the session through exposure to thinking that was markedly different to that I’d previously encountered when discussing this subject. Mostly this was because of the completely clean slate approach they were taking to creating and engaging with communities online.
One issue which received a lot of focus was how, given the need to maintain some absolute truths, a community can steer itself while remaining consistent with what was believed to be the ‘right’ message. While on the surface this may go against the freedom of communities, there is a place for such control when discussing some subjects – especially those of a belief-based nature. My feeling is that, while initially a fair amount of control may be exerted on the conversations in the communities these people create, over time this control will be passed to the group who will self moderate, or take more ‘edgy’ discussion to another corner of the web.
This is something which I believe will play out as the group starts experimenting in the space and I trust that the recommendations I was able to make will be considered and acted upon, rather than blindly rushing into the whole Web 2.0 trend without understanding what the issue is they are trying to address. I’ve seen a whole lot of companies that the ‘Ready, Shoot, Aim’ approach to the long term detriment of their ability to integrate with the 2.0 space.

Guys, I wish you all the best as you venture into the new frontier for your business – share the love

Rob v2.1 (Tobias John Inskeep)

For those of you waiting for news of my sons arrival, here it is…

Hi all,

We are delighted to share our news that Tobias John Inskeep arrived  safely into this world at 14:07 today (16/10/2008) weighing in at 3.590 Kg at North Shore Hospital.   (convert here if you’re still rejecting the metric system introduced to New Zealand almost 32 years ago)

Amanda and Toby are doing well,  Rob  is seeking recommendations for a good vasman, and Hadley, Max and William will be introduced to their new brother later today .  Amanda will most likely be in the hospital until Monday if you feel like a visit (hours 2-8pm).

It took us most of the pregnancy to decide on name we both liked and that had the family connections and significant meanings that were important to us, but we are stoked with Tobias  (after Amanda’s great uncle Toby, meaning God is good) and John (after Rob’s Dad, meaning God is gracious ) and we all feel truly blessed to have our newest addition.

We have already been asked about gift ideas….. but given Toby is our 4th beautiful son we really do not need any gifts (boys clothes and toys coming out our ears). However for those of you who really insist, a meal or baking for the freezer, would be an awesome help in the weeks to come.

Hope you enjoy the photos attached. For some more photos over the coming days, Rob will undoubtedly pop something up on his blog, (he’s probably already Tweeted the arrival) and those of you on facebook can link to Amanda’s photo album for #4 here, or to our Flickr account set here (registration and ‘friending’ required – please send your name so we can accept the friend/family request).

That’s us for now ,

Rob, Amanda, Hadley, Max, William and of course Toby!

Tobias John Inskeep

So – no real need to publish photos here (is there? I’ll ceed to the will of the commenters). Mum and bub are fine and short of discussing how and what technology was untilised in creating and distributing this announcement, I guess there’s little more of relevance to this blog 🙂

NZ Copyright Act Section 92a

Changes to the copyright act may see people removed from the internet on the basis of 3 ACCUSATIONS of infringement. This clause was reinserted by the government AFTER industry feedback explained how unworkable this would be.

Okay, I’ve been sitting on this for awhile but, while I’m still to angry about the changes to post objectively just yet, I thought I’d link in some other commentaries.

I encourage you all to follow the links, read up on what this could mean to internet users in New Zealand, and to make some noise! (it is election year after all)

Are you Listening?

Are you listening?I’ve just come back from a great weekend away at TelecomONE where I facilitated a number of sessions throughout the weekend, one of which was entitled “Listen to MEEEE – Engaging the customer; Capturing the conversations”. This session resulted in a challenge by a couple of the attendees to finish (and publish) this article to capture my thinking.

Continue reading “Are you Listening?”

TelecomONE – Warkworth, October 3-5, 2008

Telecom One InnovationThe last three days were invigorating, exhausting and challenging all at the same time. After 8 months of organisation, seeking permission (or forgiveness) and juggling schedules, a group of motivated individuals converged on Mahurangi College in Warkworth about an hour out of Auckland, New Zealand.
The attendees were from across the spectrum of Telecoms business units – along with some incredibly smart external folk, all ready to take part in the inaugural, corporate equivalent of the Kiwi Foo camp which has taken place at the same venues for the past two years. TelecomONE is an an ‘unconference’ hosted by Telecom to get people from within (and without) the business into one space and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for the business, and what we could do about them.

After attending the second Auckland Barcamp, and being enthused by the open thinking on display there, I was very much looking forward to seeing how people from inside our business would react in a similar environment. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, the sessions were filled within the first 7 minutes of the board being opened and within 15 minutes the shuffling and merging of similar sessions was complete.

Over the course of the weekend I was fortunate to facilitate three or four sessions (one of which will result in me completing a post that I’ve been sitting on for about 4 months). Largely, these unconferences are bound by a FrieNDA to protect the discussions and create an environment of openness so I’m not planning to go into any details short of commenting that it was a brilliant event, it has restored my faith in the desire of our people to make a difference, and has given some non-Telecom folk a real shock that behind the faceless giant beats the hearts of a number of motivated, smart people who want to get things done.

Edit: A number of other attendees have also written about the event and you can see their impressions here, here, here, here, and here. Follow the Tweets here and checkout the photos here.