If you agree that learning how to think is more important than learning how to do, you can skip the following introductory story and go directly to the meat.
Being smarter means improving ways to think
Imagine Professor Winston advised Alex, Bob, and Charlie on how to give a talk.
He told Alex, "Here is what you should do when giving a talk. You should start by stating your Vision, followed by your list of Steps, highlighted by some News, and ended with your Contributions. "
He told Bob the same thing and something more, "Here is why you should follow the VSNC framework. The Vision tells your audience the problem you are trying to solve and your approach to it. The Steps convince them that you have done something towards the vision. The News excite them by making them feel they are witnessing fresh big things happening. The Contributions reminds them of what you have done. So follow the VSNC framework if you want to make the audience engaged and make them remember."
He told Charlie the same thing he told Bob and something more, "Here is how I come up with the framework. I have listened to thousands of talks in universities, companies, and government agencies. It always bothers me when I am halfway through the talk, and I am still not sure what problem the speaker wants to address, what his approach is to the problem, and what he has done about it. It bores me to hell if I can't hear any news in the talk; has the project died already? And worst of all, speakers always end their talk with a slide saying Thank You. Thanks to them, I remember nothing that they did! So I always tell my students to state clearly the Vision, Steps, and News, and to end with Contributions. And all this theory for communicators started with me being bothered by not getting the experience I wanted as an audience."
So Alex, Bob, and Charlie went on to give their talks. They received similar positive responses from the audience. They all got the job they wanted. But who would be a better communicator and who achieves more in life in the long run?
Bob will probably become a better communicator than Alex because Bob learned the knowledge to be adaptable. Bob knows the rationale behind each step, so he can adjust the framework to suit different purposes and audience. To be exact, he learned the goals he should better achieve as a speaker, and he learned the constraints of the audience whom he serves. So if he is reporting to his close supervisor, he can focus on steps and news. In the end, Bob can do more than communication; he can solve problems and achieve goals through communication.
Charlie will probably become an even better communicator than Bob and a better problem solver in general than the other two because Charlie learned the knowledge for generating frameworks. Charlie realizes that whenever he feels bothered in any experience, he is in the perfect position to design better ways to do things. The next time he finds himself cursing about how long it takes to get through the queue, he realizes a way to make the registration process more efficient and pleasant. In the end, Charlie can solve problems and achieve goals not merely in communication, he can better solve problems and achieves goals in any field by generating good frameworks.
Alex learned what to do, Bob learned why it should be done so, and Charlie learned how to come up with that procedure. Charlie benefited the most from Professor Winston by learning how he thinks, not just how to do.
Being close to Professor Winston enabled me to hear his thinking processes and to ask how he came up with certain ideas. By no means can I simulate his intelligence. But his ways to think has started chain reactions in my mind that had enabled me to learn more with less time. To honor his dedication to students and his passion for making people smarter, I share the 54 lessons on how to think I learned from him.
(to be continued...)