Tag cognitive empathy

Friday Link Fest…*

 

READ

Playtime is elusive, but also essential ~ via Boston Globe, published June 8, 2013.

How Awe Can Help Students Develop Purpose ~ Research suggests that inducing awe in the classroom might inspire kids to find a sense of purpose in life. via Greater Good Science Center, published June 11, 2013.

5 Points for Your Empathy Arsenal ~ The arguments you need to explain why empathy is a key to life-long learning. via Start Empathy, published May 28, 2012.

No Learning Without Feeling ~ via New York Times, published June 8, 2013.

Happiness Should Be a Verb ~  “Well-doing” is more precise than “well-being”. via Scientific American, published June 7, 2013.

The Myth of ‘Just Do It’ — rethinking…* the idea that we perform best when not thinking about what we are doing. via New York Times, published June 9, 2013.

Place & public health: the impact of architecture on wellbeing ~ Architecture helps shape the quality of our environments and can contribute to health and happiness, writes Karl Johnsonvia The Guardian, published June 11, 2013.

Ideo’s 3 Steps To A More Open, Innovative Mind ~ via Fast Company, published June 12, 2013.

Einstein’s Problem-Solving Formula, And Why You’re Doing It All Wrong ~ via Fast Company, published March 26, 2013.

Innovation Is 1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration ~ It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. via Forbes, published June 13, 2013.

LOOK

Office Frontiers ~ NeoCon fair: rethinking…* workplace solutions to enhance collaboration & boost productivity. via Metropolis Magazine, published June 2013.

Who Made That? The New York Times Magazine 2013 Innovations Issue ~ via New York Times, published June 7, 2013.

The National Gallery Makes 25,000 Images of Artwork Freely Available Online ~ via Open Culture, published June 11, 2013.

Seeking Wisdom: 7 Dangers Of Human Virtue by Mahatma Gandhi ~ via Teach Thought, published June 11, 2013.

Ahhh, Music To My… Eyes? ~ Sonic Sculptures by Martin Klimas. via Scientific American, published June 3, 2013.

WATCH

Empathy 101: Parents: Start by sharing, not by asking ~ via Ashoka, published October 13, 2011.

A Look Inside Japan’s Suh-weet Underground Automated Bicycle Server ~ Eco Cycle Anti-Seismic Underground Bicycle Park. via Core77, published June 10, 2013.

Daniel Goleman on Different Kinds of Empathy ~ via bvo.com, published January 26, 2011.

The Enormous Opportunity In Educating And Empowering Girls ~ Girl Rising is a documentary featuring nine girls from nine countries as they seek out an education. via FastCo.Exist, published June 13, 2013.

Fruit snack Gogo squeeZ Addresses Playfulness Deficit with New Campaign ~ Wherever You Go, Go Playfully. via FastCoCreate, published June 11, 2013.

21st Century Masters Create Their Own Fields ~ via Big Think, published May 12, 2013.

HMI Create a Framework for Embodied Curiosity in my Everyday Life? {rethinked * annex | Integrative Thinking}

Those of you who kept up with my rethinked*annex project in the fall, in which I attempted to translate the tools, processes and frames of reference of design thinking to my everyday life, might have been wondering what happened to the next phase of the project: integrative thinking. I had originally intended to post each week of the challenge (December-March) about various thought experiments that I would do in an attempt to assimilate the cognitive discipline into my daily life. I soon found out however, that the nature of integrative thinking did not lend itself to quick reflection, so I rethought…* my original plan, and decided instead to steep in integrative thinking, think/work it out for myself and allow some time for ‘digestion’ before trying to organize my thoughts about the experience. This is the first article in a series of posts synthesizing my insights and observations from these past three months spent attempting to assimilate integrative thinking into my everyday life.

THE ONTOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS OF BEING HUMAN
The problem when one attempts to think about one’s own thinking, let alone try to change that thinking, is that one runs into myriad cognitive hurdles designed and implemented to keep us from questioning the equilibrium and understanding that we create for ourselves in our daily lives. I’m not talking about politics or culture but about the core ontological constraints of being human: our inability to process the constant influx of reality and our perceptual and cognitive need to parcel it into salient bits, which we craft into overarching frameworks and models through which to experience our subjectivity and every day encounters. Because of the infinite malleability of our appraisal of reality, we have the ability and the need to fashion our own understanding of it. The issue with this is that, as Roger Martin put it in his terrific book, The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking,

“this tendency makes it difficult to know what to do with opposing and seemingly incommensurable models. Our first impulse is to determine which one represents reality and which one is unreal and wrong, and then we campaign against the idea we reject. But in rejecting one model as unreal, we miss out on all the value that can be realized by holding in mind two opposing models at the same time.” (55)

INTEGRATIVE THINKING
Integrative thinking is an effective method for countering this human tendency to simplify and reduce our understanding of reality to opposing binaries. Martin offers the following working definition of integrative thinking: “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.” (15) Integrative thinking, according to Martin, stems from our inherent capacity to simultaneously hold two opposing ideas in mind, a concept he explores through the metaphor of the ‘opposable mind’, which:

“we can use to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension. We can use that tension to think our way through to a new and superior idea. Were we able to hold only one thought or idea in our heads at a time, we wouldn’t have access to the insights that the opposable mind can produce. And just as we can develop and refine the skills with which we employ our opposable thumbs to perform tasks that once seemed impossible, I’m convinced we can also, with patient practice, develop the ability to use our opposable minds to unlock solutions to problems that seem to resist every effort to solve them.” (7)

After rereading Martin’s book, which is filled with keen observations and insights on the mental patterns of effective integrative thinkers, I decided that the first step in my attempt to practice integrative thinking on a daily basis should be to take an honest and in-depth look at my personal knowledge.

PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE | STANCE, TOOLS & EXPERIENCES

Martin defines personal knowledge as a tripartite coalition of stance, which “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.” (93); tools, which, “range from formal theories to established processes to rules of thumb.” (97) And experiences that “form your most practical and tangible knowledge. The experiences you accumulate are the product of your stance and tools, which guide you toward some experiences and away from others.” (99) A thoughtful balance of the three elements of this cognitive coalition is key to effective integrative thinking.

“Operating at their best, the three elements of the personal knowledge system will reinforce each other to produce an ever-increasing capacity for integrative thinking. By the same token, though, stance, tools, and experience can conspire to trap perfectly intelligent and capable people in a world where problems seem too hard to solve and mere survival is the only goal.” (104)

Before I could start thinking about integrating components of conflicting models or ideas with my own, I had to gain a solid understanding of what my model was. But how to break past the blind spots and recognize my own assumptions to take an honest look at my stance, tools and experiences?

CREATING DISRUPTIONS

The first few weeks of December, I created all sorts of disruptive thought experiments for myself, which I hoped would allow me to experience the ordinary, common sensical and taken for granted dimensions of my life as unknown. I decided to write down 100 assumptions I had. I walked up and down my street taking pictures of each building from various angles. I went on a scavenger hunt around my apartment looking for ‘unexpected typographies.’ I tried to photograph and catalog every color and shade I could find in my home. I attempted to count how many different logos were scattered in my immediate surroundings. I was looking for a way to disrupt my perceptual routine.

Many of these little exercises proved to be fun and engaging, and the results were at times astonishing. Noticing the discrepancy between what I think I see and what I actually notice (and the vast amounts of things I don’t) was, forgive the dreadful pun, eye-opening. But at the end of the day, I found that all of these exercises provided little more than isolated disruptions and I was left frustrated, unable to understand how to take this to the next level.

If I was to assimilate integrative thinking into my everyday, I needed to find a hypodermic way of creating ongoing disruptions in my noticing and thinking practices. Tools and exercises would not be enough, what I needed was a paradigm shift. To go beyond isolated disruptions to a sustainable, adaptive and iterative process of integrative thinking, I would have to approach this challenge as a design project and consider the wider landscape of interrelated terms and concepts within which integrative thinking is embedded.

NEED FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT

Any time we talk about a paradigm shift, what we are really talking about is a moment in time and thought, in which ideas and concepts open up, become tangibly more malleable, and beg for new connections and definitions. Before I could move forward, I had to formulate in my own terms a synthesis of the drives and assumptions underlying the discipline, to refine my understanding of what it was I was after when seeking to ‘do’ integrative thinking. I had identified the constraints, which could all be summed up as ‘being human’—need for order and meaning, inability to process reality as is, uncomfortable with ambiguity, etc. Now I needed to identify the frame through which I would explore integrative thinking and make it mine.

Integrative thinking is the ability to suspend your framework—the core model through which you make sense of the world and your place within it—and to willingly place yourself in a space of unknowing, ambiguity and uncertainty. It is the ability to separate yourself from your ideas and the organizing narrative of your life, the willingness to look at all the things you have explained to yourself and admit that perhaps none of them are true. Of course, this is not the goal of integrative thinking. In its ideal form, integrative thinking is not about subtraction or substitution, it’s about remix and enhancement. But being able to entertain the notion that your model of reality is ‘wrong’ (not in an absolute sense, but in terms of it not being optimized to your life and practice) is an essential prerequisite to integrative thinking. If your ideas are too precious to you, and if you are unwilling to “kill your darlings” you will never be able to practice integrative thinking effectively.

Integrative thinking stems from our capacity for cognitive empathy, the ability to place yourself in someone else’s mental framework and view the world from their perspective. In my understanding of it, empathy starts with curiosity. The goal of my integrative design challenge, therefore, was to move past creating isolated events to creating a process by which to induce, nurture and maintain a cognitive state of hyperawareness and receptivity or ‘beginner’s mind’ in myself.

SHOSHIN | BEGINNER’S MIND

Martin alludes to the powerful possibilities of beginner’s mind and the hyperawareness it creates:

“When we learn something new, we’re acutely aware of features that more experienced practitioners take for granted. Think of your self-consciousness when you learned a new sport or took your first driving lesson. This hyperawareness of yourself and the skills you’re learning does not last long. Over time, practice transforms conscious acts into automatic habits characteristic of mastery. Think of your anxiety at stoplights when you first learned to drive using a standard shift, and the unthinking ease with which you now put the car into first and drive off. The better we get, the faster we forget about what we are doing. Our awareness of what we are doing and how we are accomplishing it quickly becomes as intuitive and inaccessible as the knowledge we use to tie our shoes or ride a bike.” (100)

Famed Zen teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, summed this up beautifully with the remark, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” Shoshin is a Zen Buddhist term, which translates to beginner’s mind and is characterized by a very open attitude, free of preconceptions and fueled by genuine curiosity and eagerness. Shoshin does not describe a temporal event (the first time one does something) but rather an emotional and cognitive state of openness, optimism, creativity, curiosity and zeal. Shoshin can (and should) be achieved at all levels of practice.

EMBODIED CURIOSITY

It seemed that no matter how I went about trying to break down integrative thinking for myself, I kept zeroing in and coming back to this concept of ‘embodied curiosity.’ A term that, at this stage, was little more than a vague contour overflowing with possibility. I had finally found my entry point into integrative thinking. And so, the formulation of the challenge went from the general and unhelpful “how might I practice integrative thinking” to the more focused: How Might I create a framework for embodied curiosity in my everyday life?

 

Look for part II next Thursday.

Rethinking…* what it Means to “Know Thyself” ~ Cognitive Empathy as the Great Art Form of the Age of Outrospection

“I think we need to think about bringing empathy into our every day lives in a very sort of habitual way. Socrates said that the way we live a wise and good life was to know thyself. And we’ve generally thought of that as being about being self-reflective, looking in at ourselves. It’s been about introspection. But I think, in the 21st century, we need to recognize that to know thyself is something that can also be achieved by stepping outside yourself, by discovering other people’s lives. And I think empathy is the way to revolutionize our own philosophies of life, to become more outrospective and to create the revolution of human relationships that I think we so desperately need.”

In this RSA Animate video, philosopher Roman Krznaric urges us to rethink…* our definition of “knowing thyself” by shifting our frame of reference from the 20th century notion of introspection to one of outrospection: “the idea of discovering who you are and what do to with your life by stepping outside yourself, discovering the lives of other people, other civilizations.” Krznaric identifies cognitive empathy–perspective taking, which is about understanding somebody else’s worldview, their beliefs, their fears, the experiences that shape how they look at the world and how they look at themselves–as the great art form of outrospection and the catalyst for revolutions of human relationships. The video walks you through the concept of outrospection while providing ideas on how to develop your own empathic capacity (hint: nurture your curiosity!) and how to live one’s life as a great empathic adventurer. The video is a mere ten minutes long and worth every second, but in case you don’t have time to view it just yet, I’ve transcribed my favorite quotes from it, which should give you a good general idea of what outrsopection is and how it can help us rethink…* and enhace our lives and relationships.

 theRSAorg on YouTube, published December 3, 2012

Instead of the age of introspection, we need to shift to the age of outrospection. And by outrospection I mean the idea of discovering who you are and what do to with your life by stepping outside yourself, discovering the lives of other people, other civilizations. And the ultimate art form for the age of outrospection is empathy.

[…] empathy can be part of the art of living; a philosophy of life. Empathy isn’t just something that expands your moral universe, empathy is something that can make you a more creative thinker, improve your relationships, can create the human bonds that make life worth living. But more than that, empathy is also about social change, radical social change.

A lot of people think of empathy as a sort of nice, soft, fluffy concept. I think it’s anything but that. I think it’s actually quite dangerous because empathy can create revolution. Not one of those old-fashioned revolutions of new states, policy, governments, laws, but something much more viral and dangerous, which is a revolution of human relationships.

Cognitive empathy, which is about perspective taking, about stepping into somebody else’s world—almost like an actor looking through the eyes of their character. It’s about understanding somebody else’s worldview, their beliefs, their fears, the experiences that shape how they look at the world and how they look at themselves.

We make assumptions about people; we have prejudices about people, which block us from seeing their uniqueness, their individuality. We use labels and highly empathic people get beyond that, or get beyond those labels, by nurturing their curiosity about others.

Highly empathic people tend to be very sensitive listeners; they’re very good at understanding what somebody else’s need are. They tend to also be people who, in conversation, share parts of their own lives, make conversations two-way dialogues, make themselves vulnerable.

Now, we normally think of empathy as something that happens between individuals. But I also believe it can be a collective force, it can happen on a mass scale. When I think of history, I think not of the rise and fall of civilizations and religions or political systems; I think of the rise and fall of empathy: moments of mass empathic flowering and also, of course, of empathic collapse.

I think we need new social institutions, we need, for example, empathy museums—a place, which is not about dusty exhibits, not like and old Victorian museum, but an experiential and conversational public space where you might walk in and in the first room there is a human library, where you can borrow people for conversations. You walk into the next room and there are twenty sewing machines and there are former Vietnamese sweatshop workers there who will teach you how to make a T-shirt, like the one you’re probably wearing, under sweatshop labor conditions and you’ll be paid five pence at the end of it so you understand the labor behind the label. You may well go into the café and scan in your food and discover the working conditions of those who picked the coffee beans in the drink that you’re drinking. You may see a video of them talking about their lives, trying to make a connection across time and space into realms that you don’t know about.

%d bloggers like this: