Why thinking harder is not the answer


February 4th, 2013

We’re all having to learn, and re-learn the ways of the world. The systems, processes and approaches that have served us well are breaking down – whether it’s democracy and capitalism, or how we communicate with our families – the technology that many of us now have access to, and the shifting sands of public and private structures, means we have to call on all of our abilities.

Thinking is a good thing, grappling with tough questions and dilemmas, wrestling with ethics and ideas. And good thinking is highly regarded. It’s rewarded educationally and in business, proof of a mind that is sharp and logical. And watching someone with a super-sharp mind grapple with a problem, and unearth inconsistencies in argument, and unproven assumptions, leaps of abstraction and whatnot is a joy to behold.

Yet even those with super-sharp minds would probably agree that thinking harder is not necessarily the way to get better performance from their minds. And those who use their minds differently, whose thinking is manifest in their art – whether that be song, dance, painting, sculpture, performance – understand too that thinking harder is not the answer.

What seems to work in all of these diverse situations is thinking differently.

This is so easy to achieve yet many of our institutions are set up in a way to reinforce the existing patterns rather than make it easy to break those patterns. So next time you’re called on to think harder, try something different, something we already know works – sleep on it, let it go for a day or two and see what emerges, do something physical, explore other people’s art.

 

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