^z 5th August 2023 at 5:35pm

New information technologies open up new possibilities for "thinking tools" — such as better user interfaces, graphical ways to explore overwhelming data sets, or modeling techniques used to develop new scenarios. Thinking tools could also involve frameworks for sharing information among colleagues, systems for capturing the logic behind decisions, or structures to hold years of situational expertise from experts who are about to retire. Many thinking tools could be built upon foundations of mathematical logic, statistics, information retrieval systems, or webs of knowledge.

Individual thinking tools, however, are of limited value if each lives in its own isolated universe. The most productive and significant tools must exist together in thinking environments — societies within which many tools can work harmoniously, sharing information and multiplying each other's effectiveness. Another way to describe the ideal situation is that we want to have thinking toolkits — portfolios of techniques and systems that can be applied as needed during our work.

What are the common characteristics of the best thinking tools and environments? Doubtless there are many; some strong possibilities include:

  • extensibility — empowering the end user to build new tools by combining or modifying preexisting or predefined primitives;
  • responsiveness — encouraging flexible experimentation, rapid prototyping, and efficient learning (as well as the sheer joy of creative play!);
  • metaphorical richness — providing the user with concrete mental models for how to design, implement, and apply tools;
  • foundational power — building tools upon a solid conceptual substructure (frequently based on mathematics).

A winning environment for thinking tools will tend to be:

  • open — so that data can flow freely into and out of the environment, and among the tools therein;
  • transparent — so that using tools becomes subconscious (once learned), and the thinker feels in touch with the data directly, without having to fight through any barriers (in the spirit of "Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing that one sees.")
  • high-bandwidth — so that communication back and forth between user and system runs rapidly and without artificial delays;
  • unfettered — so that they can be transported to any platform, rather than being tied to specific operating systems or exotic hardware;
  • affordable — so that tools can be propagated throughout the organization and used, like air, without budgetary constraints.

Wednesday, April 07, 1999 at 06:12:19 (EDT) = 1999-04-07

TopicThinking - TopicProgramming

(correlates: SeeingAndForgetting, ThinkingToolsExamples, CraftsmanShip, ...)