Open to Think: A book review by Bob Morris

Open to Think: Slow Down, Think Creatively and Make Better Decisions
Dan Pontefract
Figure.1 Publishing (September 2018)

“Keep your minds open — but not so open that your brains fall out.” Walter Kotschnig

Dan Pontefract’s third book focuses on thinking. “Throughout the following chapters I argue that both individuals and organizations need a more reflective and responsive thinking mindset. Our thinking ought to be shaped by constantly changing inputs and  information. We should recognize that our thinking is only as good as our ability to continually challenge and question. Better thinking is dependent on how open we are to new ideas, how evidence-based our decision-making can be, how capable we remain to get things done.”

This is precisely what Alvin Toffler had in mind in Future Shock (1984) when suggesting, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

About the same time, Howard Gardner outlined an important theory in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. He convinced me and countless others that human beings have multiple intelligences available when attempting to solve problems, answer questions, and make decisions as well as create or appreciate works of art, explore one or more of the natural sciences, and explain human behavior.

The key point is that, as Walt Whitman once suggested in Song of Myself, human beings can be “large” and “contain multitudes” if — HUGE if — they are both willing and able to accept, indeed eager to embrace the scope and depth of their complexity and its potential for growth.

That is one of Pontefract’s key points, as suggested in this book’s subtitle: “Slow down, think creatively, and make better decisions.” I cannot recall a prior time when the business world seemed more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than it does today. I share Pontrefact’s high regard for a Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. The poem “offers a metaphor for life. Indeed, it is an introductory metaphor to this book about thinking. Our actions have always been impacted by our levels of reflection, our decision-making abilities, and our actions. The poem provides insight into our penchant for shortcut thinking, obstructed thinking.” Also, I presume to add, many of us are hostage to what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology if comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Open thinking is far more difficult — and requires far more courage — than does closed thinking. For many people, their mind is a mausoleum.

He offers “Ten Essential Guidelines for Open Thinking” to serve as a thematic framework within which to present and organize an abundance of invaluable information, insights, and counsel.  (To facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later, he lists them on Pages 232-233.) All of the guidelines can help to open the “doors” and “windows” in almost anyone’s mind.

As Pontefract points out in the book: “Individuals and organizations need a more reflective and responsive thinking mindset. Our thinking ought to be shaped by constantly changing inputs and information. We should recognize that our thinking is only as good as our ability to continually challenge and question. Better thinking is dependent on how open we are to new ideas, how evidence-based our decision-making can be, how capable we remain to get things done.”

“Dream, decide, do, and repeat,” is at the heart of his Open Thinking Model. This book demands you to constantly ask yourself, “How open am I to thinK?” That is to say, how open are you to thinking about how you think?

The progression of Dan Pontefract’s thinking over time fascinates me: Form an army, agree on the obligations of a shared purpose, and then free as many people as possible from minds that have become mausoleums.

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If you share my high regard for this book, I urge you to check out Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less and Danny Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow as well as Dan Pontefract’s two previously published books, Flat Army and The Purpose Effect.

 

 

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