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18 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter5: Mapping the mind: How thought circulates.

This post is chapter 5 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of the book. 

The chapter starts off with the quote from Confucius, 'By three methods we may learn wisdom. First by reflection which is the noblest, Second by imitation and third by experience which is the bitterest.

The question is how do you build your integrative thinking capacity. In this chapter, the author builds a framework for building the integrative thinking. The framework for building your personal knowledge system consists of three parts, Stance, Tools and Experiences.

Stance is your most broad-based knowledge domain in which you define who you are in your world and what you are trying to accomplish in it. Stance is how you see the world around you, but it is also how you see yourself in the world. Stance has both individual unique elements and shared cultural and community aspects. Many a time, we tend to take our stance for granted. It is 'who we are'. The problem is that our view of who we are governs our assumptions about 'way things are'. In other words we tend to mistake the model of reality as reality itself. Stance guides us in making sense of world around us and taking action based on that sense making.

You use tools to organize your thinking and understand your world. Stance guides the tools that you choose to accumulate. Tools range from formal theories to established processes to rules of thumb. They help to recognize and categorize problems.

Experiences for your most practical and useful knowledge. the experience that you acquire are the product of your stance and tools, which guide you to some experience and not to others.

Experience enables us to hone our sensitivities and skills. Sensitivity is the capacity to make distinction between conditions that are similar but not exactly the same. Skill is the capacity to carry out an activity so as to consistently produce the same result. Skills and sensitivities tend to grow and deepen in concert.

Personal knowledge works as a system. Stance guide tools acquisition, which in turn guides experience accumulation. There is a circular relationship between these three. Experience may inform you to acquire new tools. Through the use of these new tools, we add depth and clarity to our stance.

The diagram below shows the interrelationship between stance, tools and experience.

Interrelationship between Stance, Tools and Experience
Beneficial or detrimental spirals

Personal knowledge systems are highly path dependent. When a person starts in a given direction, that direction is likely to be reinforced and amplified, not diminished or altered. This can either beneficial or detrimental.. at their best ,the three elements of personal knowledge system will reinforce each other to produce an ever increasing capacity for integrative thinking.

One the flip side, they can trap an intelligent person to a world where problems seem insurmountable. A narrow or limited stance will lead to acquisition of limited tools and limiting experiences. These then feeds back into the acquisition of even more limiting experiences and even narrower stance.

The spirals work powerfully in either direction. The good news? Neither spiral is pre-ordained. Your personal knowledge system is under your control. when you change your stance, you can change the tools and experiences and thereby broaden your integrative thinking capacity.

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