Thinking elastically…survival skill of the future

This week’s thinking reading: ‘The Elastic Brain: The Most Important Thinking Habit Nobody Taught You. Elastic thinking (experts may call it cognitive flexibility) allows us to shift gears and think about something in more than one way. by Thomas Oppong,

‘Elastic thinking, in combination with rational or logical thought, and creative thinking will make you indispensable.

Elastic thinking endows us with the ability to solve novel problems and overcome the neural barriers that can impede us from looking beyond the status quo.’

As teachers and trainers, how do we contribute to expanding the way our students think? How do we provide learning opportunities for students to safely experiment with ‘elastic thinking’?

Conversation about jobs of the future and artificial intelligence (AI) all tell us that the mundane, repetitive jobs that are around now, will not be around in the future…and the future is as near as tomorrow. The jobs of the future will be those with lateral thinking, soft skills and problem solving that AI cannot achieve.

So, how do we prepare students for this future, especially those who are not inclined to creative and problem solving? Can these skills be learnt?

Over the years I have seen a lot of different theories around learning styles and the ‘elasticity’ of learning. I was mapped as being a particular style, but decided that I wanted to be better at other styles as well, so consciously made myself learn through using specific, overt questions to challenge my thinking. I ignored the advice to teach to student’s particular learning styles and actually chose to use all of them so the students would expand their ways of getting knowledge and not be limited to what one style might offer. Interestingly, the whole learning styles thing has not been largely debunked. (It's nice to know when you’re right 😊)

When I first started teaching 35 years ago, once you trained for a profession, that was pretty-much it. My how times change! There is no standing still or even thinking you know it all. We are now all lifelong learners and woe betide you if you think otherwise!

‘“Our new role as visionaries, decision makers, and strategic informants means we can’t rely on any rules. There are more stakeholders, more complicated products, and faster market cycles. In this environment, elasticity is more important than ever,” explains Stuart Karten…

To thrive now and in the future, you have to be willing to rise above conventional mindsets and wisdom.’

The article also talks about some great ideas on how to develop more elastic thinking, but I would like to add these ideas:

  • Play games… any games… board games, card games, skipping, running or drama games. Learn the strategies, thinking patterns, think on your feet, use your body to help you think
  • Run what if..?, scenarios… what if I do? What if I don’t?
  • Develop some ‘big, hairy audacious goals’
  • And don’t forget to enjoy life and do something regularly that makes you just happy to be alive. Some of the best ideas come when you relax and least expect them.




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