Make me think

It’s all too easy to switch the brain into receiver mode and simply absorb the world around us without question. Great when taking in the seafront view on a sunny day – while the brain idles, let the world wash over you and the sunshine lift your spirits! Not so great the rest of the time…

Yet we are all prone to allowing ourselves moments to drift into a passive state when we should be critically engaged. The mind is left to take information on board unfiltered and at face value – be it catching up on a few blog posts after a long day of work, lazy Sunday mornings spent reading the weekend’s papers, or when spending a few days out of the office to attend a conference.

This passive state results in missed opportunities. We fail to think critically about the information that our senses are absorbing. It isn’t being ignored – often it can be repeated back parrot-fashion. What is missing is the ability to reason with it and then build on, adapt or even (consciously) disregard.

Analysis helps us to form an opinion. Analysis helps us to make connections. Analysis is what makes us think creatively.

I encourage you to question what you are reading (or seeing, or hearing) – yes, including this post. How does an idea sit with your values, or the the way you work? Can you contribute to that idea, or offer an alternative?

Think about it.

Thought about it? Good, let’s continue…

Made me think

This has all come about through a couple of encounters over the last few months that have made me think about how I think. I am prone to bouts of unquestioning absorption of ideas, facts and opinion – it often leads to naive or crudely formed opinions, disconnected end-of-the-road thoughts, lacking depth to form a substantive argument.

The seeds of this post were sown at dConstruct. The idea formed when flicking through The Manual, sat outside on an unseasonably warm October day.

Neither dConstruct nor The Manual present ideas in a straightforward ‘cut and paste’ manner. They can be theoretical, strategic – often open-ended, asking more questions than they answer and ripe for individual interpretation. More ‘should we really think of the web in terms of pages’ than ‘the ultimate guide to choosing web fonts’.

This article reflects my interpretation.

I’ll admit to floundering a bit to begin with when sat at Brighton Dome for dConstruct, hastily scribbling as much as I could in my notebook, hoping that it might make more sense later… Perusing the Twitter feed I discovered that I wasn’t alone – the extreme of views were represented by newbie complaints about the lack of gift-wrapped solutions and dConstruct veterans haranguing them for not being prepared to be challenged. I simply vowed to listen more carefully in the next session. Later I would pore over my notes on the train home. Still not everything made sense. Some things probably never clicked.

Of three things I am sure:

  1. It was interesting and enjoyable
  2. It was hard work
  3. My own thoughts will be unique from the other attendees, and likewise theirs from mine and from each other.

Topics presented in a challenging way force you to think a bit harder about what they really mean. By making the connections, you are invested in the discovery of the idea. Some of these may have been foreseen, but others may only come to light in your own unique viewpoint, framing the idea in a context relevant to you. I’ll wager that this personalisation aids recall and subsequent creative advancements of that idea.

And so I pose a challenge to the content creators too: make us think.