Having time to think, and out of the box

I think one of the best words of advice given to me lately was from my current boss : "I need you to have time to think."

How true. Too often, we race along trying to get the basic things done and the new fires put out, but time is needed to think and get ahead of the game.

It does help to get more sleep, one’s mind thinks faster, but sleep can be a luxury for some of us. But getting time to think is really imperative, because time is needed also to piece together various elements of thought to form new ideas.

I mean, how does one think out of the box? This confounds local educators and students to death, but my formula is really pretty simple.

1. Getting into the zone…alone.

Some people think that it’s a great idea to study together. I think that’s absolute BS. My belief is that one’s mind efficiency is greatly lowered when you have someone to distract you all the time. The pros of having a person to get quick answers from is negated by his very presence. The mind does need a certain level of concentration to figure out deep answers or memorise certain stuff.

That’s also why team discussions are often disrupted by groupthink, and that it may be better to have a very strong leader with visionary abilities, rather than five indian chiefs, each with little ability to dominate the conversation. A balance needs to be struck between personal meditation and getting feedback from others, but all parties need to think in isolation beforehand.

2. Thinking within the box first.

What’s wrong with the SG education system? Nothing actually, until they started revising it in the late 1980s and early 1990s to provoke more competition between schools and gasp, to "instil creativity" in children. I believe that there’s nothing wrong with a rote-based or restrictive education for the masses. When one understands what boredom means, he’s better able to appreciate excitement and realise what makes a new thing creative or not.

3. Putting things together.

Another line someone told me a long time ago was "All the photos in the world have been taken." That also applies to ideas. There really isn’t any original idea left, whatever is new builds upon the old. To get "new" ideas, one has to simply know as much "old" ideas as possible, slap them together in different combinations, and voila, you’ll get something "out of the box". So the fastest way to think out of the box is to learn as much historical information as possible, and not necessarily think in fanciful ways.

So I’m not sure what’s happening in the schools these days, but I can tell you for sure, they’re probably not thinking much out of the "real" box. The root problem is that many young teachers are fresh grads out of school, with nary a year in the real working world. Yet they are supposed to teach kids how to grow up and deal with the real world. It just doesn’t work out.

That’s also why we need more mid-career people to join the teaching profession, but they’re probably finding out that the teacher’s room has a politics of its own and that they’re pretty far behind in the teacher rat race to the principal’s office.

What do you think?

One Reply to “Having time to think, and out of the box”

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