Thinking About Thinking – A Rapid Review

by B.H.S. Thimmappa

Thinking Types

 Thinking is the internal process of using our mind to consider or reason something based on the present circumstances using the learning from past experiences. This activity involves the mental manipulation of information ultimately leading to a conclusion or solution to the problem. We live in a world shaped by science and technology and hence the organization and reorganization of ideas, images, and concepts help us to arrive at meaningful decisions. In general, the average adult human brain can store 2.5 million gigabytes of digital memory. This storage capacity of the human brain is sufficient to contain all the human knowledge from the beginning of the world to the present and room left over. Higher education is the most powerful weapon to transform society through knowledge, skill, and attitude input. It is the passport to the future to turn local raw materials into global finished products and the destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms. The classroom climate should be conducive to the teaching-learning process to inculcate thinking skills in students. We have to solve several educational problems of practice and develop a community of young lifelong learners with a truly scientific spirit and human values. The four core Cs of 21st-century skills involving critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, should be inculcated in the learners to prepare academically accomplished, professionally dedicated, emotionally balanced, morally upright, socially responsible, and ecologically sensitive citizens. Analyzing and solving problems by linking learning across disciplines, understanding and sharing ideas and solutions, working together to reach a common goal following new specific approaches to invention and innovation, and producing high-quality work are essential to shaping a better future for humankind. Innovation and excellence in higher education through high-impact teaching, basic and applied research activities, and consultancy services will act as a vehicle to create new scientific knowledge to change the mindset of people.  Academic freedom, diversity, and equality at the university/institution would provide conducive conditions for achieving long-term educational objectives and help develop thinking skills in learners. The vision of expanding our understanding of nature and applying scientific knowledge, methods, and tools for the benefit of humankind empowers us with design, process, engineering, manufacturing, application, and management know-how. It is an exciting time to be a part of that growth story beyond words and learn, unlearn, and relearn to stay updated in different fields of science, engineering, and technology. Intellectual outcomes involving concepts, principles, and theories and superb reportage capabilities can affect cognitive instructional domains like knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and creativity. Think before you speak, learn, grow, evolve, and face multiple challenges head-on through thinking strategy. The world can be changed by changing our thinking!

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts, generate and organize ideas, make comparisons, assess arguments and solve problems. It allows a person to place valuable information within a context and reason objectively about it to take a decision. The design thinking process involves a set of cognitive, strategic, and practical procedures based on perception, possibility, and practicality in creative problem-solving in a user-centric fashion. It includes empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing steps. The design thinking skills would foster creative thinking to solve issues related to learning various topics. Creative thinking is the ability to find out unique, original solutions to problems by considering things from a fresh perspective and different angles. In the parallel thinking technique, the focus is split in specific directions and all views are put down in parallel to generate a complete picture/map to arrive at a decision. Innovative thinking is the systematic thought process to come up with novel approaches and new ideas or solutions. Constructive thinking requires the mindset involving the right attitude, behavior, action, results, and performance. Conceptual thinking is the ability to analyze hypothetical situations, patterns, or abstract concepts to formulate connections and new insights. Inventive thinking is the art of devising new things or methods. Analytical thinking involves research, comparing and contrasting, qualitative and quantitative evidence, and examining the process of discovering solutions more closely. Abstract thinking is the ability to consider concepts, ideas, principles, and objects that are not physically present. Concrete thinking is reasoning characterized by the physical world and the absence of concepts or generalizations. Convergent thinking involves deductive reasoning that isolates the best possible solution after evaluating all available solutions. Divergent thinking is the process of creating multiple solutions related to a problem to search for original solutions. The act of thinking about and planning for the future is forward-thinking and it is the hallmark of thought leaders. Speculative thinking refers to purely theoretical or logical reasoning about past or future possibilities. A deep thinking mechanism involves the whole chain of effects, impacts, and outcomes while shallow thinking does not consider all sides of an issue. Innovative thinking is the ability to reveal new approaches and novel ideas to solve problems. Systems thinking is a way to look at complex systems as a whole and interrelationships rather than splitting them down into their constituent parts. Strategic thinking is a mental process in the context of achieving a goal or set of goals. Positive thinking, the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation, builds skills, boosts health, and improves work. Reflective thinking involves consideration of the larger context and understanding all consequences of an action. Fast thinking involves quick conclusions and rapid decisions based on emotions and intuitions whereas slow thinking is a mental process that leads to a conclusion based on careful evaluation of available information and rational decision. Seek inspiration from the different approaches to thinking, combine similar ideas, carry out careful analysis, evaluate ideas, and solve various problems (figure). The world is a comedy to those who think!

Figure: Different approaches to thinking to solve different kinds of problems.

Think Tomorrow

We need to move towards a quality and innovative culture by making changes in the way we think and work through a positive mind. The total quality program includes the change in the work processes and systems, behavior, attitude, and culture. Transformative higher education involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in thoughts, feelings, and actions in the cognitive (thinking), psychomotor (doing), and affective (feeling) domains. The six thinking hats of Edward de Bono include creative thinking, emotions and feelings, facts and figures, control of thinking, cautions, and speculative positive modes. The power of positive thinking of Norman Vincent Peele narrates stories to reinforce the positive thinking practice. Commit to real change in the way we think, speak, and act, set specific, manageable goals to build momentum, and practice rethinking situations after reviewing our thinking process until positive thinking is habitual. Some of the methods to improve our thinking skills include writing, studying, discussing, debating, visualization, and mind mapping. The purpose of higher education is to inculcate higher-order thinking skills in 21st -century learners through different levels of learning like remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating in the revised Bloom’s taxonomy. A think-tank is a group of experts joined together to develop ideas through brainstorming and solving various problems. The contemporary trend in the higher education system is the rise of mediocrity and normalized complacency, populism, mass immaturity, and imposed conformism. We have to ignite the Indian higher education reform movement through forward-thinking observations, convictions and commitments, constructive and creative attitude, and courage to swim against the tides. Then only the younger generation will get the courage to speak up for what is right. Change from a fixed to a growth mindset that encourages new learning and new challenges to get away from the old unscientific beliefs and thoughtlessness, passion, and commitment to work is the need of the hour. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Knowledge is the power to overcome the past, fight new obstacles, make better decisions, and change our situations. An in-depth knowledge will enable us to give our best to others and help to make a better world. There can be a tremendous improvement in the thinking patterns of the individuals in the country through some serious higher education reforms. We the Indians have to learn to distinguish between the following; history versus hearsay, fact vs. fiction, reason vs. emotion, looking vs. seeing, seeing vs. reading, reading vs. studying, listening vs. hearing, real life vs. reel life, instinct vs. intuition, black vs. slate, needs vs. wants, well-guarded secret vs. open secret, meaningful dialogue vs. meaningless exchange, sustainable development vs. growth. Don’t confuse with the following base pairs; ends with means, rules with outcomes, control with efficiency, promise with delivery, ‘in principle’ with ‘in practice’, need-based with greed-based, familiarity with truth, and decorated doll with natural beauty!

We need to realize the duality of technology which could be used for constructive or destructive applications. Technology can be useful in transforming human lives, with ease of living and ease of doing business while it could lead to social isolation and insensitivity. Mobile is an instrument of empowerment and can become a source of harassment also. Nuclear science is useful in nuclear medicine, nuclear power, and irradiation for the preservation of agricultural products. But nuclear weapons reflect an example of destructive applications. Chemical engineering developments allow fertilizers to increase crop yield while chemical weapons can destroy thousands of human lives. Aviation technology in passenger jets provides the capability for quickly reaching remote areas in times of disaster, whereas fighter and bomber aircraft can destroy people, plants, and animals on this planet. Rocket technology certainly helps in launching satellites for remote sensing and communication, but the development of missiles with specific defense needs could destroy part of a nation. Thinking robots work using artificial intelligence and machine learning that performs automated, repetitive, pre-defined tasks. We have to create a renewed vibrancy in modern scientific education to have an exciting learning experience for the younger generation. It is essential to raise the level of higher education quality and create positive development in society. The energetic and power-packed performance of youngsters by following global best practices in higher education and research sectors will enhance the world rankings of Indian universities. Entrepreneurship and innovation are the catalysts of growth and we need to develop indigenous technologies to become a self-reliant nation. Change from being dependent on imports to a country of exports is very much required. We have to attract the biggest manufacturers in the world to open their production units in India. The government must invest more to build up better quality human resources that can work for the sustainable development of the nation. All these changes are possible with the change in the collective thinking patterns of its citizens and working hard to achieve the goal of becoming a developed country in the world. In the larger interest of the future of India, think twice before you ink and consider the degrading quality of life, disappearance of public places, rampant corruption, rotting rubbish on the streets, breathing polluted air, eating contaminated food, awful traffic in megacities, and no timely justice in the courts. India can share a new way of thinking by combining higher philosophy with deep insights along with modern high technology leading to sustainable development solutions and higher quality of life. Thinking in the right direction matters the most and collective thinking in the proper pathways during elections helps establish the right government. While planning for a more exciting future without fear, don’t just think, ponder to transform. In short, it is important to understand that thinking of perspectives on milestones achieved in the last 75 years and an outline of future goals in the larger context of national interests. We need a thinking movement to change the social life of ordinary Indian and realize the dream of becoming a developed nation in the next 25 years. Thinking academy can start a certificate crash course in thinking aspects and impacts, considering the changing needs of current-generation learners and trending features in institutes. Thinking matters to us within the framework of reliable information and analysis and thinking ahead concerning the realities of the world even more!


1.      Vincent Peale, N. 1990. The Power of Positive Thinking. London, Cedar Books.

2.      De Bono, E. 1985. Six Thinking Hats. London: Penguin Books.

3.      Li-Fang Zhang, 2002. Thinking Styles and Modes of ThinkingImplications for Education and Research, The Journal of Psychology, 136:3, 245-261, DOI: 10.1080/00223980209604153

4.      Brase, G.l., 2014. The Nature of Thinking, Shallow and Deep, Front. Psychol. 5, 435, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00435

5.       Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

About the Author:

B.H.S. Thimmappa is a writer from Udupi, India

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