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Posted on Feb 10, 2012

“Smart Thinking”–It’s What You Know

It’s exciting to start the new year with a book that features new thinking, and so I recently picked up a book released on the third day of 2012: Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done. I’m an easy target for a product that promises to increase my creativity and efficiency!

Written by Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and long-time editor of the journal Cognitive Science, the book promises to show readers “how memory works, how to learn effectively, and how to use knowledge to get things done.” While some of the insights are mundane (get enough sleep, pay attention when you meet someone new), we all can learn from the author’s three main points:

Habits of the mind can be changed and harnessed to your advantage,
“High-quality knowledge” is an important requisite for Smart Thinking, and
High-quality knowledge from one field or discipline can be applied to related (and even unrelated) problems to great effect.
I’m especially interested in that second point. In a world that’s shrinking before our eyes (interconnected economies, truly international students who study and then apply their knowledge across multiple continents), it’s refreshing to realize that deeply knowing the technical aspects of a few disciplines can lead to the breakthrough application of ideas to solve tenacious problems.

For example, might someone with a deep understanding of the human cardiovascular system be just the person to consider how best to untangle the traffic-filled arteries of San Diego’s highways? Because one can’t apply deep learning to the multifaceted challenges of modern life unless “high-quality knowledge” is there in the first place, I began wondering:

What varied and rich sets of knowledge are individual Gillispie students already developing for themselves? (I’m thinking of those students who are trying to learn everything they can about: dolphins, robots, bridges, baking, etc.)
How can we help them expand the breadth and deepen the sophistication of what they know?
What captivating and important problems will they solve once they grow up and apply their incredible knowledge as “Smart Thinking?”
Steve Bunyak
Assistant Head of School

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