Pragmatic Thinking And Learning (Notes)

I'm just "dumping" the notes I took while reading the aforementioned book (which I highly recommend), so as to have a copy of these online.  Perhaps you'll enjoy the read, perhaps it's a waste of your time.  Feel free to skip this post.

1. Consider the context.

2. Use rules for novices, intuition for experts.

3. Know what you don't know.

Dreyfus Model (1970s research):

  1. Novices need recipes and rules, are detached observers, and erroneously consider everything as important in every situation (particularly when trouble-shooting).
  2. Advanced beginners do not want the big picture.
  3. Competents can trouble-shoot; are intuitive and resourceful; but are not capable of self-correction.
  4. Proficients need the big picture, correct poor performance through reflection, learn from others, apply maxims properly.  They self-correct.
  5. Experts work from intuition, are ruined by rules, focus on relevant information, and are part of the system (rather than outside it).  They show more self-doubt, know what they don't know.  They usually cannot teach their craft.  It takes roughly ten years of concerted effort to get to this level.
4. Learn by watching and imitating: imitate, assimilate, innovate.

5. Keep practicing to remain an expert.

6. Avoid formal methods when innovating / being creative.

8. Capture ideas constantly to get more of them.

Picasso: "computers are useless: they only give you answers"

9. Learn by synthesis ... and analysis.

10. Good designs (aesthetics) actually work better.  Make the interface nice.

We learn best with a well-defined task, challenging but doable, with informative feedback you can act on, with opportunity for repetition and correction of errors.

12. Engage more senses for better cognition.  (Note I skipped 11; it didn't strike me as worthwhile.  There may be more skipping later, too.)
  • Seeing is the crucial artistic skill.
  • Create an R-mode, L-mode flow for learning.
13. Lead with R-mode, follow with L-mode.
  • "Write drunk, revise sober." - Writer's adage. 
  • Get used to it first (get "a feel for it"), then learn the rules.
  • Dr. Galin, UCSF: Three responsibilities of the teacher to the student:
  1. Train both L-mode and R-model.
  2. Train to use the best mode suited to the task.
  3. Train to integrate both styles.
Anne Lamott: "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor."  ...Go ahead and write a really shitty first draft.  Trying to do better can keep you from writing anything at all.

14. Change your routine to exercise your mind.
  • Use functional shifts in words to excite the mind.  (changing parts of speech and adding unusual suffixes/prefixes)
  • Anchoring bias is when you get primed with a thought, a'la Derren Brown.
  • Need for closure is a bias.  Keep your options open!
  • Fundamental attribution error ascribes personality as the cause of action, rather than context.
  • Confirmation bias: choose facts that fit, ignore others.
  • Self-serving bias: win = my fault, loose = someone else's.
  • Exposure effect: prefer familiar things.
  • Hawthorne effect: we change behavior when studied.
  • False memory: suggestion.  "Every memory read is a write."
  • Symbolic reduction fallacy: bad analogies.
  • Nominal Fallacy: labeling something means you understand it.
19. Be comfortable with uncertainty; defer closure.

21. Hedge your bets with diversity.  Your way may be wrong!

22. Allow for different approaches/biases from different people.
  • Bumper stickers and customization of your car are alpha markings and correlate with road agression.
  • "Lizard Logic": 
  1. Flight, fight, or be paralyzed with fear
  2. Immediate gratification.
  3. Dominance. 
  4. Territoriality.
  5. Blame.
  6. Moral buckets (good vs evil, no greys) 
23. Be the evolved one. "Breathe, don't hiss."

24. Trust intuition. ...but verify.
  • How do you know?
  • Says who?
  • How, specifically?
  • How does what I'm doing cause this?
  • Can you measure it?
  • Compared to what/whom?
  • Always?  Any exceptions?
  • What would happen if you did/didn't?
  • What stops you from...?
  • Can you define it's opposite? 
You are primed by your expectations.  Most of perception is based on prediction!

  • Every decision is a tradeoff.
  • "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." - Mestrius Plutarchos (Plutarch), 45-125 BCE
  • Latin "educare" means "to draw out".
  • SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable (not overwhelming), Relevant, Time-boxed.
  • Have a concrete plan over several time horizons. It will change, but "the planning is more important than the plan."  (I think that was Churchill.)
  • Diversify your goals: "it minimizes risks... riskier projects have greater rewards, so you want both risky and non-.  At least all learning investments have value, though!
  • By investing time regularly in learning (meaning: schedule your learning time),  you average out the return on your investment: some time more valuable than others.  Create a ritual of investing time into your goals. Waiting for the muse invites procrastination.
  • Set reminders to re-evaluate your goals periodically. ...probably in line with your time horizons. Also schedule time each week for each goal/objective.  Probably 2 or 3 sessions per week.
  • Study groups are more effective than being self-taught, according to research.
  • The part of your brain that handles reading is very small.  The rest of your body doesn't really "do" language, so reading is the least effective way to learn.  Watching and mimicking is the most effective. When reading, read deliberately: recite important things, ask questions, use the information. Stimulate your brain.
  • Retrieval is key for learning.  Test yourself.  Best iteration is 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, then every 6 months.
  • "Chance favors only the prepared mind." -- Louis Pasteur.
  • Mental preparation which involves an inward focus of attention promotes insight.
31. Documenting is more important than documentation.
  • Put yourself in the problem. Anthropomorphism helps leverage experience.
37. Permission to fail is the path to success.  ...give yourself a "failure permitted" zone.

38. Imagine success repeatedly.  Put your mind in that groove of doing things right.
  • "Trying fails. Awareness cures."
  • Consultant's rule of three: if you don't have at least three possible solutions and at least three ways each could go wrong, you haven't understood the problem.
  • Study at U-Mich finds multitasking robs 3/8th of productivity.  One thing at a time!
...Apologies if this was of no use to you.  ...Go read the book!  :D

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