Flavors of Thinking to Make Things Better

Wisdom from Collaboration


There are different types of thinking needed to understand and make things better, usually done by doing one then the next in order.

  • Different Ideas: As many ideas as possible, sometimes brain storming, other times playing the devil's advocate. It is a discipline that can save us from making huge mistakes when our emotions have already taken sides.
  • Finding How Things Relate: Among the many ideas, looking at potential relationships then choose which seem to be most fruitful: the few that matter.
  • Breaking down into smaller pieces to try and understand (aka Analysis)
  • Cutting what can't be, aka critical thinking.
  • Bringing together what remains into something whole, that seems makes sense, a theory to be tested. (aka as Synthesis)
  • AND, Two ways to try and understand. Hint: #2 is usually better. 

    • Starting with what we have seen, and using it to explain things in general. (The 25 dollar word is Inductive Thinking)
      • In its worst form, shooting from the hip. 
      • In its best form, we can use it to build an initial theory to test when there isn't a lot to go on... OR
    • Starting with a general principle, a theory, then testing it to observe results. Based on the results, and repeated testing, narrow down what is most likely to be true, until you prove or disprove your theory. (The 25 dollar word is Deductive Thinking.)
      • aka PDSA (To be featured later)

Elegantly simple visuals can help with each. For instance, a mind map, or a Fishbone Diagram for generating different ideas, or the concept map, or an affinity diagram for finding relationships. Matrix Diagram for finding and cutting what is least likely, a Pareto to help you decide. Flow charts and traffic diagrams to bring it all together into a theory that makes sense and can be tested.

We have no right to call anything knowledge except where our activity has actually produced certain physical changes in things, which agree with and confirm the conception entertained. Short of such specific changes, our beliefs are only hypotheses, theories, suggestions, guesses, and are to be entertained tentatively and to be utilized as indications of experiments to be tried

picture of john dewey from wikimedia John Dewey
Pragmatic Philosopher 1859-1952

Great Resource:

The Thinkers Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving. A most important book on Thinking Tools by a former SPY!!!  A must read if you want to stop hurting innocent bystanders as you shoot from the hip!

Thinkers Toolkit

About the Author

Dan Strongin works with medium to small companies, helping them master the art and science of managing.

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