This question could keep a flock of philosophers happy for a hundred years. But in the School of Thinking we are not concerned with thinking as contemplation, philosophical discussion or academic description, we are concerned with thinking as an operating skill – the kind of thinking that gets things done. The definition we use is: Thinking is the skill of using intelligence to get things done.
Thinking vs Doing?
To many people THINKING is the opposite of DOING. They set these two activities up as mutually exclusive opposites in their mind. With practice, however, you can develop your ability to use thinking as a skill, just like you can develop cooking, golf, leadership, painting, acting or aikido. All human skills can be learned or developed.
Paul MacCready, inventor of the Gossamer Albatross and the father of man-powered flight once wrote to me from California: “When first watching a School of Thinking class in action, I was amazed that something so simple and so much fun could be so quick and effective in developing a person’s “thinking muscle”. We all, as individuals and as caretakers of our precious earth, need these thinking skills”.
Dr MacCready’s metaphor of thinking as a ‘muscle’ is a good one. It’s better than the old-fashioned idea of thinking as a ‘gift’. If thinking is only a gift, there’s not much you can do about it. But, if it’s more like a muscle then there’s a lot you can do to develop your thinking power.
That’s why we look at thinking as a skill. We want to help you enhance your skill and develop your intellectual capital. The goal is to reach an alternating balance between thought-based action and action-based thought.
Thought-Based Action: THINK-START-DO.
Thought-based action is the kind of action that’s based on thinking. For example, you are reading a magazine and you read about a story set in the Greek island of Patmos. You start to think about the Greek islands and decide you want to actually go there.
You figure out a plan, you find out about costs for fares etc, you set a date and you finally go and visit Patmos and the Greek islands. You thought something out, got started and then did it – thought-based action: THINK-START-DO. This is how I came to visit Patmos in the summer of ’84.
Action-Based Thought: DO-NOTICE-THINK.
Action-based thought is the kind of thinking that’s based on action. For example, a customer walks into a store and the salesperson says “Can I help you?”. The customer then says, “No thanks, just looking” then pirouettes and walks out of the store. Most salespeople keep making the same mistake day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year.
But the thinking salesperson might say to herself something like this “Whenever a customer walks into a store and I ask if I can help them I notice that usually drives them back out of the store. Maybe I can think of some other thing I could do that would not have that effect. What could I do instead?” Action-based thought: DO-NOTICE-THINK.
The SDNT Balance
The skilled thinker can alternate a balance between thought-based action and action-based thought, between THINK-START-DO and DO-NOTICE-THINK.
This is what SDNT is all about – action based on noticing feedback plus feedback based on noticing action – SDNT = START-DO-NOTICE-THINK continuing in a continuous series of loops or a kind of SDNT spiral on into the future, exploring the cognos, the vast universe of possible thoughts.
The SDNT Spiral
START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK spiralling on into the cognos.
Start Do Notice Think, or its trigger code SDNT, is a powerful search engine for your necktop that will enable you, the brainuser to approach any situation, any problem, any opportunity with confidence. To be doubly negative, there is no situation that can’t be managed by SDNT:
1. First you Start. This is like switching the necktop from OFF to ON
2. Then you Do … something … anything
3. Then you Notice the feedback from your actions, carefully and objectively
4. Then you Think. What happened? What were the consequences?What did I like about them? What didn’t I like about them?
5. Then repeat 1 – 5.
This is exploring, and off you go again SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT SDNT … on into the future, surfing the cognos.
What if …? Thinking
One of the most famous users of the “what if …?” type of thinking was a young thinker, a lad of sixteen, called Albert Einstein. At that age Albert wrote to his uncle wondering what he would see if he was sitting on a light beam.
By the time he was twenty-six, in 1905, he had solved that problem and changed forever the laws of physics and the way future generations would understand the world. This “what if …?” thinking he called a gedanken or ‘thought experiment’. One of the great thinker’s most quoted sayings is, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Science acknowledges Einstein’s thought experiments as among the greatest triumphs ever produced by a human brain. His thinking feats made him famous, not just in the scientific community, but amongst the public at large. He, in effect, became science’s first superstar! Until he died in 1955 he was always at the centre of much publicity and public interest.
At first he was the eccentric, the genius who never wore socks. Then he became a leading pacifist and opponent of rearmament whose traditional education left him with a lifelong suspicion of all forms of authority.
As the Nazis spread across Europe he advised President Roosevelt that it would be possible to make an atom bomb. However, when the bombs were actually used on Japan he immediately sought the establishment of a world authority that would control these weapons.
Today, posters of Albert Einstein are best sellers. It’s encouraging to know that these posters of the scientist, humanitarian, inventor, Nobel prize winner and thinker, are stuck on the walls of many a teenager’s bedroom along with their other heroes of rock, movies and sport.
Hardware and Software
Like Einstein, we all have some pretty awesome hardware in our twin-hemispheric, necktop, personal computer. Our problem, however, is that we are very short on software. We are still using 2500 year old Greco Roman binary logic. Useful but not enough.
The traditional western approach to thinking is simply reactive, logical judgement – the slapping on of the “right” and “wrong” labels.
This has always led to extravagant, destructive clashes throughout history and is hopelessly inadequate for designing a safe future in a rapidly changing world. In this SOT training you can go beyond your existing logic software with new SOT brain software called SDNT. There are a range of SOT brain apps that you can use to extend your thinking skills.
Logic and SDNT
If you would like to get a “feel” for the difference between logic and SDNT (both of which are software systems designed to handle information in the PFC of the brain) you can try the following simple excercise:
EXERCISE: There follows two sets of words which help describe the process involved in each brain software – logic or SDNT. Relax for a moment and take a nice deep breath, then repeat the words in capitals slowly and evenly over and over until you get the “feel” for the way each software handle its information.
Do it first for logic (repeat about 10 times):
RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG RIGHT … WRONG
Do it now for SDNT (repeat about 10 times):
START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK START … DO … NOTICE … THINK
You may have noticed that logic uses a kind of labelling or “mail-sorting” approach to dealing with information. Logic reacts to information using judgment based on historical experience.
It fits, it’s right; it doesn’t fit, it’s wrong etc.
This is, of course, very useful in a secondary way and for looking back at static, theoretical, situations. By itself, however, it’s totally inadequate for dealing with most fluid, forward-looking situations in real life.
With SDNT, you may have noticed a quite different, open-ended, spiralling effect as movement is created (START … DO) and then feedback is evaluated (NOTICE … THINK) and further movement, with adjustments based on the feedback is then continued.
Thinking is Movement
There is no “right”way to think. The key to thinking is movement. Movement through the cognos, movement through think-space, movement through the ideosphere, movement through the universe of possible thoughts.
Whether you move out or in or up or down, sideways, backwards or upside-down reverse pikes, it doesn’t matter. Whether you take great leaps, use stepping-stones, random provocations, lateral thinking, flip-a-coin, or fantastic images, it all works.
Whether you use intuition, revelation, algorithms, TM, tarot cards, I-Ching, runes, prayer, Kabbalah, auto-suggestion, SDNT, hypotheticals, scientific method, professional counselling, googling or “ask the oracle” – it all adds up to movement. As you would expect, some methods may be better than others.
The essential key in thinking is movement – escape from your CVS. Once you have movement, you get feedback and, as we have seen, it’s this noticing feedback which is the essential ingredient for further thinking, which is to say, surfing the cognos.
A Thought Experiment, what Einstein called a gedanken, is an experiment you carry out in your brain, using only thinking – your imagination. For example, you could imagine what would happen if cigarettes were square and not round. You think it through and imagine the consequences and possibilities and outcomes.
START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK START DO NOTICE THINK
Design your own Thought Experiment. Enjoy the exercise.
Explain at least three of the imagined outcomes here …