The world, as we knew it is changing fast, and our competence needs a boost. The social, technological, and cultural developments affected by the pandemic are steaming ahead, and our survivor is much dependent on our emotional radar and our flexibility to adapt. We are trained to solve our problems with rational analysis and logical devices; however, the swirl of change is extraordinary, and the analytical thought process has its limitations. As, Leonard Mlodinow explains in his book – Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World:
“Analytical thought is the form of reflection that has been most prized in modern society. Best suited to analyzing life’s more straightforward issues, it is the kind of thinking we focus on in our schools. We quantify our ability in it through IQ tests and college entrance examinations, and we seek it in our employees. But although analytical thinking is powerful, like scripted processing, it proceeds in a linear fashion…and often fails to meet the challenges of novelty and change.”
He further indicates that by embracing elastic thinking, we can effectively respond to new challenges.
The good news is that elastic thinking is an innate capacity that can be honed to reframe the problems and questions which open doors to new ideas.
Mlodinow writes that we solve problems through interactions of different systems in our brains. And as we are trained to dispense from inappropriate urges and unconventional ideas in favor of reason, those structures in our brain that generate new ideas must compete with other structures that censor them. To solve problems, our mental interactions and censors evaluate the most favorable solutions and eliminates the rest. This wiring is well suited to a stable environment as it considered ideas through the lens of what has worked in the past. However, in changing circumstances, we need a new approach to solving a problem.
He writes that as humans, we are attracted to novelty, and the reason is that dopamine is released when we face something new and non-threatening. Hence, we are inclined to explore, learn, and be rewarded with the feel-good dopamine that contributes to feelings of pleasure.
Here are his suggestions to develop elastic thinking:
- Pick an idea that you don’t believe in and try to convince yourself of it. The idea is genuinely challenging your existing beliefs.
- Dwell on an incident when you were wrong. Think about it hard for you to realize that you are not always right.
- Try different food. Research has shown that by ordering the least popular food or a new dish, your creativity and imagination will increase.
- Talk to strangers, people who are different from you, and think differently from you.
- Go and see art—all genres of art, not necessarily the most famous paintings but diverse representations of arts.
Remember to cultivate an elastic mind, Mlodinow explains that we should adopt an unstructured approach and not force a logical process to all situations:
“The challenge of insight is the analogous issue of freeing yourself from narrow, conventional thinking.”
Featured Image by Morysetta