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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Five Elements of Effective Thinking (Fail to Succeed)

We're looking at Burger and Starbird's The Five Elements of Effective Thinking, chapter 2: Fail to Succeed.

Summary: Mistakes are the pathway to success. Mistakes help us refine our understanding. They help us imagine new possibilities. They help us understand "why". Freeing ourselves to make mistakes also frees us from the fear and constraint of "being wrong", which often stops people from taking critical steps in developing their thinking.

Critical Quotes:

"If you're stuck, a mistake can be just the thing to unstick you." (p. 48)

"Mistakes, loss, and failure are all flashing lights clearly pointing the way to deeper understanding and creative solutions." (p. 49)

"Success is about persisting through the process of repeatedly failing and learning from failure." (p. 57)

"Failure is a sign of a creative mind, of original thought and strength." (p. 71)

Ben's Thoughts:

Implicit in this element is risk taking, which seems to be a problem for a lot of people. Personally, I have a high risk-tolerance, and, in fact, do not often perceive as "risks" things other people think of as "risks". But I encounter my students (and even adults) who have a visceral fear of anything they perceive as a "risk". Students won't answer a question in front of their peers for fear of "looking stupid". This is one of the hardest preconceived notions to break, because for every time I tell students that it's okay to be wrong, and that being wrong is the first step on the road to understanding, popular culture tells them that being wrong is bad and that it makes them stupid.

This element ties in very nicely with Dweck's research on growth vs. fixed mindsets. Growth mindset individuals see failure as an opportunity to try again. They see potential for growth and learning, and so aren't afraid to fail, because they don't see failure as the end, but rather as the path. Fixed mindset individuals are afraid to fail, because they believe that their abilities and intelligence is fixed, and so if they fail once, then they believe they'll fail every time.

Somehow, we have to break this fear of failure. We're all going to get it wrong sometimes; that's part of life. If we use that failure to grow and learn, then we're the better for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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