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Transcending critical thinking: contributory thinking

I want to share this TEDx video of Patrick Finn (University of Calgary) as an invitation to this Digital Futures community to transcend critical thinking and move into contributory thinking.

Not surprisingly, this video was brought to my attention by a member of the global community of practitioners of the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter. Here in the European Commission, this practice is known as 'the Art of Participatory Leadership', and it is becoming increasingly widespread.

The Digital Futures team adopted the practice extremely fast, once one member was exposed to it. And those of you who attended the Core Foresight workshop on 29-30 April will have experienced it directly. We used it for the first time exclusively on-line with a pilot workshop on 29 May, where we were a group of 30-odd folks from inside and outside the Commission.

What the Digital Futures project is seeking to do (as best I understand it myself, as a relative newcomer) is tread a very fine line between the scientific paradigm (based predominantly - but by no means exclusively - on critical thinking) and the creative, inspired and free thought needed to breathe life into compelling visions of the future - well... visionary thinking, I suppose we could call it.

As Franco explained this to me the other day, this means, on the one hand, building on each other's ideas as we come together around irresistble questions like: "What visions of a better world for 2050 do we want to shape and leave for our children?"

  On the other hand, we also need to build on what else is out there - that means bringing in the ideas of others who are not part of this conversation, but who have already contributed to the general body of ideas out there in the world. That means references.

So yes, to openness and creativity - and love and happiness, of course! - and yes to bringing in the contributions of others and building on them.

And a personal request - which I trust will be endorsed by the core holders of the Digital Futures project: Please think twice before injecting criticism of other people's contributions. This exercise is about bringing our ideas forward, contributing them to the collective pool, and allowing the best ones to sift up through the process of natural selection.

As Patrick Flinn says: critical thinking has been drilled into us from an early age in Western society - all those of us who are university educated are especially prone to it. Wherever we turn: government, administration, business, commerce, education, the arts, even family life... critical thinking is rife. It is no longer enough.

So often the temptation is there to ridicule and demolish an idea without even every understanding what it is. Instead, let us ask: "What is this all about, and how can I offer something to this conversation?"


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