A wicked problem is one which cannot be solved using human logic, our current and dominant way of thinking.
The rapid acceleration of global climate change, the unprecedented scale of the nuclear threat and the rising hegemony of artificial intelligence are all examples of wicked problems that cannot be solved with logic.
At the level of human2human relationships, many causes of daily conflict are not solved but even exacerbated by binary I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong logic-style thinking.
Logic is natural to the human brain’s limbic system because it is driven by the emotion of fear. In particular, the fear of ‘mistakes’.
In contrast, lateral thinking is not natural to the human brain. It is counter-intuitive. It requires re-wiring. Rather like driving a car, It must be acquired as a skill with deliberate practise and repetition over time.
Lateral thinking is a skill that we should be teaching our children … because they are going to need it!
In this recent DEAKIN University Talk Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson draws attention to “the greatest problem on Earth”.
Without any doubt whatsoever, cvs2bvs combined with x10 is just about the most powerful concept I have ever come across. When I first read about this brain app, it was like a very bright light switching on in my mind. I intend to make this idea a permanent part of my everyday life.
- Secondary Teacher
For instructional purposes, the human brain is often called the triune brain because it has three layers that evolved over many thousands of generations.
The reptile brain runs the automatic body systems.
The mammal brain is the emotional brain.
The human brain is the thinking brain.
(The ‘triune model’ is not literal but is metaphorically useful)
Your inner-most, smallest and most ancient reptilian brain may well be your most treasured possession. It controls everything you value most, your life systems. It runs your body temperature, blood sugar levels, heart rate and blood pressure, your respiration, releasing hormones for all the daily house-keeping and maintaining homeostasis or balance. Your reptile brain regulates deep evolutionary maintenance and self-healing. It’s hard-earned digital wisdom has been curated over the course of a million successful generations. It’s IP value in dollarized terms is simply priceless.
Your life systems reptilian brain is in constant conversation 24/7/365 with your emotional mammalian brain. Your wide repertoire of emotions ranging from fear, anxiety and anger to sexual longing to surprise, joy, sadness, trust and disgust. These are all triggered and/or switched in the mammalian brain. These mood changes and emotional switches are in sync with high speed parallel processing in the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain can stimulate the mammalian brain … and, of course, vice versa.
Enter your BIG human brain! This newest brain, the neocortex, is also in conversation 24/7/365 with both the older brains. As you would expect, their conversations can stimulate responses in the human cortical brain … and, again, vice versa. All three evolutionary brains are in constant digital engagement up and down the neuronal layers of the triune brain (reminder that this is not literally accurate but is practically so, metaphorically).
So what does this mean to you on a daily basis? It means that real fear and imagined fear both work the same way in stimulating stress responses in the triune brain.
When you are walking alone through Hyde Park at night and you suddenly hear a sinister sound behind you, your heart will suddenly pump faster, you will be flooded with adrenalin and other stress hormones, your blood pressure will spike and your skin will crawl. You will have a stress response whether Jack the serial killer is actually there … or not.
The Human Stress Response
The problem on a daily basis is this: what if you are turning on the stress response too often and too long for imagined or psychological reasons and doing this on a daily basis?
In other words, chronic stress.
The answer is: Imagining Jack every day will kill you just as surely as the real Jack will, only it will take a little longer.
The stress response doesn’t have to be fear of Jack, of course. It can be other stress inducing causes like fear of mistakes or failure in career, business or job-related situations, fear of family crises, relationship conflicts, social media, fear of political or global issues etc etc etc.
The take away is that the reptile brain’s stress response is there to save your life from the real, but rare, life-threatening crisis like a sudden ambush from a Jack or a charging elephant. But, continuous imagined or psychological crises in the mammal brain, on a daily basis, will cause cascading stress responses that can give you depression, alcohol dependence, ulcers and heart disease.
Lateral thinking avoids stress
The greatest opportunity on Earth, for cognitive fitness, is lateral thinking. The numerical synonym for lateral thinking is x10 thinking. Although it is not natural for humans it can be taught and learned.
Lateral thinking (x10 thinking) is our best tool for creating value, our best hope for solving wicked problems, our best defense against imagined fears, fear of mistakes, fear of failure in career, business or job-related situations, fear of family crises, relationship conflicts, social media, fear of political or global issues etc etc etc.