The hermeneutic circle: a key to critical reading

For a text to be interpreted, you need a text and an interpreter. This may seem obvious, but too often we forget that our interpretation of a text is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, knowledge, and expectations. Hermeneutics is the branch of research that deals with interpretation. When we interpret a text, it’s not a …

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Jumping to conclusions: the inference-observation confusion

Do you know someone who always seems to jump to conclusions? While this behaviour may be more obvious in some people than in others, we are all prone to it. In fact, doctors themselves often jump to conclusions: “Most incorrect diagnoses are due to physicians’ misconceptions of their patients, not technical mistakes like a faulty …

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Survivorship bias: when failure gets forgotten

We all know that one chain-smoker who lived an old, healthy life. We read everyday about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—college dropouts who started billion-dollar companies. And we tend to attribute our own success to dedication rather than luck. These are all typical examples of survivorship bias. Survivorship bias is a common bias …

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How to practice nuanced thinking

“This is just wrong.” How many times have you heard that phrase during a heated conversation? Such categorical statements never seem to help in coming to an agreement, or at least to create opportunities to learn. Whether at an interpersonal level or at a broader scale, a lack of nuanced thinking can have a significant …

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The collective brain: where does innovation come from?

Plato, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mary Shelley, Frida Kahlo… When we think about the most famous thinkers, inventors, and creators in history, we often picture one specific individual—a genius who uncovered something new where nobody was looking. However, this poetic vision of the innovator as a solo explorer doesn’t reflect the reality of humanity’s …

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Semantic traps: why vague words are risky

In politics and linguistics, semantic traps are words so vague that we cannot give them specific meaning, or words that are systematically misleading. Semantic traps are often used to stir a debate in a certain direction, or to influence people’s judgement. A famous example is when Republican strategist Frank Luntz wrote a memo to George …

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Networked thinking: a quiet cognitive revolution

Humanity has lived through several cognitive revolutions already. The development of various writing systems around the world; the invention of the printing press; the formulation of the heliocentric hypothesis by Copernicus; Darwin’s theory of evolution; Einstein’s theory of relativity—all of these discoveries have fundamentally reshaped the way we think. While nowadays the spotlight is on …

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How to think better

As Einstein wrote in 1936: “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.” Why is it that a skill as important as thinking is not a key focus in traditional schools? Why don’t we have classes on decision-making, cognitive biases, and mental models? Can we learn how to think better? It’s …

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The planning fallacy: why we underestimate how long a task will take

“I’ll be here in ten minutes,” you tell your friend on the phone while hurrying to put your shoes on. “We are aiming to launch at the end of year,” confidently tells the project manager to their boss. We have all been guilty of being overoptimistic when predicting how long a task will take. That’s …

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Systematic inventive thinking: the power of thinking inside the box

When talking about creativity, many people will tell you: “Think outside the box!” The catchphrase is so common in management consulting and business environments, it has become a bit of a cliché. What if innovation could be fostered by thinking inside the box instead? That’s what Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) aims to achieve. The history …

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