The Practice & Art of Thinking

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I normally would present the complete ‘picture’ – in this case, the ‘method’ for problem solving – and then explain what I mean by the individual components of the method. This assumes that the method consists of a combined set of components, which is the case here.

I am using this approach for the simple reason that I think the ‘journey’ (to use an over-used term) is important, allowing us to develop and visualise a personal version of the whole, which would be negated if presented with the conclusion upfront. I will add, many principles of the method have already been touched on throughout this blog.

The method consists of a mix of concepts and specific principles. In this post I will be looking briefly at aspects of the concept of ‘Reason’.

The notion ‘reason’ is important but we tend to park it in the ‘hard basket’ for the simple reason that it has connotations of ‘philosophy’ and such discussion can have the feeling of talking to someone who has forgotten to take their medication – it all seems a bit ‘random’ – as some New Zealanders would say.

Let us quickly look at why reason is important. A great example is that captured in one of Popper’s books (title at end of post), where he suggests that a healthy society is one that is open to ideas and reason. In contrast, non-open societies are (as Popper states) ‘barbaric’, with no capacity for sympathy or understanding for others and diversity of opinion (I could not agree more. We can currently see this happening in our world).

urlWithout the ability to reason, we cannot progress and understand the world around us. We reason to consciously make sense of things and to establish and verify facts. This is exactly what one needs to do to get to grips with any problem situation.

We tend to confuse the term ‘reason’ with logic and use them interchangeably but they are different. To explain, we can use the example of the difference between movement and locomotion. All locomotion is movement but not all movement is locomotion. A tree moves but it does not locomote because it is rooted in the ground. Likewise, all logic is reason but not all reason conforms to the standards of logic.

If logic is the map of what’s really “out there”, reason is the process of trying to read and follow the map. Using another example – reason is the application of logic to one’s perception of the real world, like engineering is the application of physics.

Simply put, reasoning is the actual process of evaluating information and applying logic to arrive at an appropriate (correct) conclusion.

It might now be clear to see why refining our skill of reasoning is essential to good problem solving. It should be considered as the overall concept of the method of problem solving – the balancing force.

I have used the metaphor of the spinning top before (see here in relation to design thinking). We could consider reason as the overall resultant force that keeps the spinning top performing at its optimum – in this case, good problem solving could be seen as a spinning top humming away, where reason is the element that feeds all the other forces and ensures they are performing at peak condition.

From this, it is not too difficult to see why it is vital that we are eloquent at reasoning and understand the importance of reason in relation to good problem solving practice. The cartoon below by Luiz Oswaldo Carneiro Rodrigues stresses the point that data should not be forced and distorted to do what you want it to do. One needs to use reason at all times.

Treat Your Data with Reason - Not With Force. Cartoon by LOR

Treat Your Data with Reason – Not With Force. Cartoon by LOR

I look briefly at reason and ‘listening to data’ shortly in the future.

Book: By Karl Popper – The Poverty of Historicism; The Open Society and Its Enemies. First published in London in 1945, Russia in 1992 and US 2013. This book was on the Modern Library Board’s 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century. It criticizes Marx, amongst others, for relying on historicism to underpin their political philosophies.


Brain Music by Masaki Batoh

Imagine creating music by simply using your brain. That is exactly what Masaki Batoh (formerly the frontman for the experimental rock group ‘Ghost’ formed in Tokyo in 1984) has done.

By using a science fiction-looking contraption strapped to his head, Masaki is able to generate eerie theremin-like sounds (see Youtube video to see what a Theremin is).

The musical instrument, referred to by Masaki as a BPM or brain pulse machine, consists of headgear and a motherboard. Brain waves are picked up from the parietal and frontal lobes and then sent by radio waves to the motherboard, which then converts the radio waves into a wave pulse that is outputted as sound.

Masaki Batoh - Brain Pulse Music Machine

Masaki Batoh – Brain Pulse Music Machine

The goggles that are part of the BPM have indicator lamps synchronized with the motherboard, allowing the musician to see her/his brain’s musical output. According to Masaki Batoh, it requires quite a bit of practice to learn how to control one’s mind in a way that produces a pleasing sound.

The music might not be to everyone’s liking but it remains fascinating and I think it is the beginning of many new technologies.

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The Visual Information about your Handwriting

I have my reservation on this, but then … I like the visuality of the infographic.

The National Pen Association completed a study (June 2013) – “What Does Your Handwriting Say About You.” It depicts how handwriting analysis provides insight into a person’s character, energy levels and even health conditions.

In the field of graphology (study of handwriting analysis), it is said that handwriting can signify more than 5,000 personality traits, and also detect if you tell little white lies – to put it gently. To my surprise, apparently handwriting analysis is now an accepted and increasingly used technique for assessment of people in organizations – really?! If it works, it is a great visual snapshot and certainly a quick way to make decisions about people.

As far as the validity of this study is concerned, I wonder how they approached the study? Wondering about the method, they would have had to approach many individuals and even then, how do they isolate the variables, because the combination would have to be literally endless? Apparently, no single handwriting feature proves anything specific or absolute by itself; a single feature alone can only identify a trend. It is the combination of features and the interaction between them that enable a full and clear interpretation of the individual.

Graphology is an old ‘science’ – the study of handwriting and its analysis was first developed by the Chinese 3,000 years ago. The Romans used graphology  and since then various civilizations and cultures have used graphology techniques  to analyze a person’s personality.

The modern approach to handwriting analysis was established by a group of French clerics who defined key aspects of the science in the 1870s. It took them  30 years of study to develop a coherent body of work. This work formed the basis of modern graphology and the ‘science’ is still being studied today.

Professional graphologists operate to a strict code of ethics, and these experts are constantly in demand; those who use it recognise its value in the workplace as an additional method of understanding character. It is therefore an extremely useful tool in identifying the quality and capacity of an individual’s talents and potential, particularly in career guidance and improving relationships. Like other powerful behavioural or intuitive models, it is not easy to explain how and why graphology works, nevertheless it continues to be used, respected and appreciated by many because it achieves a high level of results.” (Elaine Quigley).

Investigating a little deeper, it looks like the visual codes include things like: slant, size, pressure, upper zone (as in l,t,h etc.), lower zone (as in g,y,p, etc.), word spacing, line spacing, page margins, middle zone (as in a, c, e, etc.), arcade (middle zone is humped), garland (inverted arcade), thread, wavy line etc. This all sounds like there is some seriousness to the field of study and certainly a structure of visual signs.

All I can say – have some fun and and start writing instead of texting or typing – you might just discover a different set of little muscles you forgot about! 🙂