Thinking About Thinking


Two articles in the latest issue of The Economist got me thinking about thinking. Mostly I think we do not do enough thinking. I mean complex, creative, two or three steps ahead kind of thinking.

Far too often people do little more with their thoughts than react. If an idea has some logic, any logic, we are willing to stop and accept the concept. However, most of the time, like chess, one thought/move is not the end in itself but it sets off a chain reaction. Deep thinking includes assessments of the potential implications of the first move. It may require the creativity to read between the lines when there is nothing there to guide your thought.

An example. The Economist wrote about the debate regarding whether companies should be social responsible. Simple thought would say YES of course they should. But have you thought through the implications of that statement.

Like too many good ideas, corporate social responsibility has become a “thing” with an acronym (CSR) as opposed to just something that is done. Former labor secretary Robert Reich has recently denounced CSR as a “dangerous diversion”. His point is that by focusing on CSR companies can polish their images by doing things they would have done anyway to increase profits. The CSR movement diverts attention from the need for governments to solve social problems by making changes to regulations that allow for corporate misbehavior in the first place.

I don’t know if Bob Reich is right. For now I don’t care. I am too busy applauding the fact that he raised the level of debate by not assuming the simple logic that having corporations demonstrating some social responsibility must be good—end of story. In other words, he thought.

The second article that got me thinking about thinking was the obituary of Paul MacCready. Not a household name. Mr. MacCready was a genius in the area of human powered flight. He studied birds to help understand lift and energy conservation. Most of his inventions have no commercial use–yet. The description of Mr. MacCready that got to me was:

“Mr MacCready knew that most of his inventions were impractical. In his mind his company, AeroVironment, which he ran for more than 30 years, was dealing mostly in ideas. People were not going to pedal their planes themselves. Nor were they going to want solar-powered cars, even though Mr MacCready’s version, the Sunraycer, won a race of almost 2,000 miles across the Australian desert. The point was to set people thinking about energy efficiency, to inspire the young to take up science, and to experiment for the joy of it.

Thinking. Without it how can we choose postions on the important issues of the day such as what to do in Iraq, how to address global warming, how to combat violence or how to improve the education system. Thoughts can also be small and personal such as how we can be better citizens of the world, better parents, better us.

Think about it.


About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

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