As the Project begins it seems important to outline some key bodies of work that have influenced the project. This is not exhaustive and in concentrating on bodies of work it omits individual and osmotic influences, but that's a longer tale for another article.
A large part of the my education has been in science and engineering. The definition and distinction between inductive and deductive thinking is only the beginning of "philosophy of science" but it is pretty much the beginning. Thinking about when you are at a step that requires deduction, or induction is the first time many people think about thinking. (Abduction comes later, on this page anyway.)
The roots of the Creative Problem Solving process are in the 1953 book Applied Imagination by Alex Osborn. (Osborn was the original "O" in the BBDO agency) The ideas have been steadily built on and refined since then, including a thriving academic community based at the University of Buffalo. The Creative Education Foundation carries the torch. Three powerful concepts from CPS particularly influenced me - first, thinking as a process, second, creativity can be learned and third, during the process we take on different modes of action. Finally, of course, so much of the thinking we are taught is about destruction, about reduction but also about finding reasons something won't work. That is very valuable, but we do need a balance.
Two branches in particular have influenced my perception of the world. First, I was looking for some way to make sense of my experiences living and working in different countries and I found the "Intercultural" (sometimes cross-cultural) field. The most famous but flawed name is probably Geert Hofstede - the work is flawed because it oversimplifies, but nevertheless it helped make sense of the question of "values." The second branch is that championed by Grant McCracken, which seeks to apply the techniques to the world we live in now, both for commercial insight but also just to understand ours lives more effectively.
Dave Snowden's work on Complex Adaptive Systems, most famously his Cynefin framework, is a real touchstone for me. Both just as a really great way of looking at complex (or not) situations, but also because it again highlights that different types of situation require different types of thinking (and action.)
Like so many people, when asked to begin to explain "Systems Thinking" I reach for "Thinking in Systems: A Primer" by Donella Meadows. There is of course much more to the now massive field than just her work, but the human touch she brings to explaining what "it's all connected" means for thought and action is hard to beat.
At my previous company, KILN, we used cultural anthropology as a lens to think about the future. But I couldn't do that without reference to a lot of thinking that had already been done. There are more names to mention than make sense to put in this short paragraph, so instead I will link a recent book by Scott Smith as a short introduction: How To Future. It's interesting to see how neuroscience and futures have converged around the possibility that all thinking is rooted in the brain's machinery for prediction. Certainly, time is a key issue in thinking about thinking.
Time To Think
This is the framework I use in a lot of my coaching and the philosophy has also affected my facilitation work. Nancy Kline's insight is that we often think more effectively when given attention, but with a promise of not being interrupted. The structure of Time To Think coaching also embodies some lessons discovered in parallel by a number of others (including CPS and systems thinkers) about the need to keep space open for discovery and emergence.
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