Thinking Tools

This section introduces some of the thinking tools I have found to be the most useful. Some are fairly basic, used for many tasks, like a screwdriver, a hammer, a saw and pliers. Others come in related collections for more specialized tasks. I try to give each one a memorable name, explain what it is useful for, some of its limitations and ways that people misuse them, and an example or two to explain it.

Since a lot of our thinking is performed and communicated using words, it should be no surprise that several of these tools are to help with understanding the use and misuse of words. Many of these are collected under the heading of Words and Meanings.

A more complex, but very important collection, is found in the Systems Thinking toolbox. It helps us understand inter-related objects that act in many ways as a single whole, although it also explains that systems boundaries are often arbitrary. There are many whole books on this, some quite mathematical, so I will only outline some of the less formal tools. Systems Thinking is related to the idea of Models which are simplified, artificial versions of things we want to understand but cannot grasp as a whole.

Analogies are powerful tools, if used with care, but we need tools to help us understand how good the analogy is, and where it might lead us astray.

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