Multidextrous Thinking

The story is that most peoples’ thinking is stuck at the 10K level of Foresight. This is what our education schools us for. It is doubtless an important cognitive strategy, but it is not the only one, and in isolation it is a dangerous one.

One could argue that the big problems of industrial capitalism today are due at least in part to overspecialization in Foresight thinking. It turns out that this kind of thinking is particularly useful for rapidly growing societies having rapidly expanding economies – like Western Europe and North America over the past 150 years or China and India today. But as population growth and economic expansion rates (e.g.: GDP) level off systemic distortions within the model come to the fore.

The mono-dimensional thinking that got us here is not adequate to take us further. We find ourselves trying to understand and act on complex, ill-defined, multidimensional systems problems using tools perfected for accomplishing well defined project tasks. Trying to understand everything and get everything done from the Foresight vantage point doesn’t work for the common good and people can’t understand why. So they work still harder at perfecting things at that level. They do this by reductively narrowing focus and further concentrating action. And things just get worse.

We have been taught that for every difficult, complex problem, there is a simple, easy answer…and there is, but unfortunately it is wrong. Western culture today schools us to abhor complexity, subtlety and contingency. We are not taught multi-level thinking.

To address wicked problems (i.e.:  ill-defined complex systems problems) effectively, you need to cultivate the capacity to understand things and get things done by applying the protocols of multidextrous, multi-time-horizon design thinking at multiple levels simultaneously. To see things clearly at the 10K level of Foresight you have to also be looking from the 10K level of Outsight, the 30K level of Topsight and the ground level of Insight.

To watch a slide show on the various levels of multidextrous thinking, click the image below. Once the file has fully loaded, click the triangle on the lower left to start the slide show.

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