UK: What (and how) do we all think? (1 of 2)

UK: What (and how) do we all think? (1 of 2) - "Conceptual Toolmaking: Expert Systems of The Mind" by Jerry Rhodes (Blackwell, 206 pages, £18.95).

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

"Conceptual Toolmaking: Expert Systems of The Mind" by Jerry Rhodes (Blackwell, 206 pages, £18.95).

Review by Clare Lorenz.

Thinking about thinking is a somewhat daunting challenge. Nevertheless, Jerry Rhodes has an impressive 15 years behind him in the development of thinking skills. This ground-breaking work, with companies such as Philips, Shell and Barclays Bank, has not received the public recognition that it deserves.

When Rhodes writes - as here - about the ways in which people think, he does so in the firm belief that most managers do too little of it, and that effective decision making would be greatly improved if they consciously developed props, or tools, to help them. Besides taking the reader deeply into how the research was developed with Philips in The Netherlands, this book offers such a handy set of tools.

According to Rhodes, people bring a number of different ways of thinking to bear on any problem. These divide roughly into three: fact gathering - called "Describe" and given the colour red; creative thinking - called "Realise", denoted by green; and decision making - called "Judge", which is blue. The first two bear upon the third, but all three should by rights come together when taking action.

The author further subdivides thinking activities within the three main categories to produce a total of 25 "thunks" (or chunks of thought) which he believes cover all known aspects of thinking. Ten of these he describes as "soft" and 11 as "hard". "Your hard-headedness likes analysis, structure and organisation," says Rhodes, "it is happier when information is evident and countable. By contrast the soft side of your mind operates from a more inner strength. This part of you goes on feelings and impressions that are often elusive, even when exerting a strong influence."

The labelling system, of colours and signs together with strange names for the "thunks", is confusing at first, but it is well worth persevering. For one thing, Rhodes's treatment of those softer areas of the mind - intuition, emotion and values - is significantly different from that of others working in the field. Nor does he consider only the thinking processes of those whose jobs more obviously depend on brainpower. He also explains how the sportsman or sportswoman processes thought before embarking on movement.

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