First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: A book review by Bob Morris

Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less
Guy Claxton
Ecco Press (1999)

This book has created tremendous interest among those who want to gain a better understanding of human intelligence. According to John Cleese, author Guy Claxton provides “The essential guide to creative thinking!” (To see a 10-minute film clip during which Cleese shares his own thoughts about creativity, please click here.) Almost immediately Claxton notes that “Roughly speaking, the mind possesses three different processing speeds. The first is faster than thought….Below this, there is another mental register that proceeds more slowly still. It is often less purposeful and clear-cut, more playful, leisurely or dreamy….[the] third type of intelligence is associated with what we call creativity, or even ‘wisdom’.”

With delicious wit as well as probing insight, Claxton helps us to understand learning by osmosis; the potential value of intuition and creativity to decision-making and problem-solving; why reason and intuition are sometimes antagonists; the phenomenon of perception without consciousness; the “rudiments” of wisdom; and, how to recognize situations in which there is greater need for the tortoise’s “slower ways” than for those of the hare who, in many quests for understanding, either arrives later or not at all.

The book is extremely well researched and original. The author takes gutsy stands. For instance, he considers the “Left brain Right brain” issues as dated pop psychology. According to his thorough research, the mind’s skill set is a lot more fluid than that. Everything the left brain can do, the right brain can do also, and vice versa. His advocates balance of the thinking modes. He concentrates on the two main ones: intellect (d-mode) and  intuition (undermind). He believes that optimal cognition is reached through a balance between the two modes of thinking. That said, the key is to use the proper mode of thinking at the proper time. One is not better than the other, one is more appropriate than the other at a given moment. Also, thinking modes can be used in effective sequences.

Claxton suggests that many tough problem solving situations can be tackled through four stages of thinking: first, preparation in D-Mode; second, incubation in intuitive mode; third, illumination in intuitive mode; and fourth, verification in the D-mode. You could say that this book merely defines the three speeds of the brain: reflexive (lightning speed), intellectual (fast), and intuitive (slow). However, that would be the equivalent of summarizing a description of the “Mona Lisa” by describing this masterpiece as 4 feet high by 2.5 feet wide. Thus, there is a lot more to this book than three speeds. Each chapter is rich with information, perspectives, and new angles as well as intuitive ND counterintuitive concepts. If you liked How to Think like Leonardo DaVinci, by Michael Gelb, you will love this book. It is not as quick and easy a read, but it drills down much deeper.

This is a very informative, highly entertaining book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 - Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , ,

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