Thoughts on (training) thoughts
So, how to overview training for better decision making, problem solving, creativity, mental acuity and sharper perception, neuroplasticity, situational and self-awareness, critical thinking, overcoming cognitive biases, accelerated learning, memory, confidence and self-reliance, communication skills,....(yes, the list could be a lot longer)? I am convinced that the scope for potent, rapid (i.e. consuming hours, weeks and maybe months, rather than years) and results-proven training in all these skills is HUGE. Put another way, my strong intuition is that top-quality training would have rapid and formidable, observable pay-back.
But such training needs to be integrative (i.e. all these skills probably have mutually-dependent and reinforcing aspects), and comprehensive (i.e. we don't want any yawning gaps in core thinking abilities). To the best of my knowledge, there is no integrative and comprehensive model of such cognitive-and-strategic skills. This, then, is one focus of my research effort over the coming months.
A few early-stage thoughts on how to develop a cutting-edge programme on thinking skills:
1. Address current shortcomings in our skills and their application e.g. cognitive biases, tendency to conformity, lack of fresh thinking, uncritical repose,...
2. Review research on the scope for improvement from training.
3. Devise "holistic" interventions e.g. a schematic to show what's trainable, how to train it, and the targeted outcomes e.g. trainers' performance outcomes on generating ideas, critiquing ideas, or simply performing on memory, rapid-learning or IQ-tests.
4. Plan the programme session and related activities.
5. Build-in regular reviews of learners' progress against goals.
6. Build-in feedback to the next iteration of the programme.
The big, open questions on how to fine-tune all this:
a. what are the "core skills" that feed into all others (assuming they exist at all). For example, would work on just working memory (to increase processing speed and quality), and creativity (to generate interesting ideas), and critical thinking (to generate robust ideas), and accelerated learning (to rapidly adapt to new demands) do it? Would these serve as "master skills" from which other, more tailored abilities might flow? My intuition is that real-world achievement plays heavily to virtues such as "social sensitivity" or "grit under adverse conditions", and hence the purer-cognitive interventions would offer partial training.
Suggested 3-stage model:
Level 1, "Core": self-awareness/awareness/focus/readiness.
Level 2, "Central Skills": cognitive processing, idea development and creativity, critical skills, goal-setting.
Level 3. "Peripheral Skills": happiness, opportunism, negotiation, persuasion, handling biases, confidence, memory, grit.
b. how long would it take to see material uplift in trainee's abilities e.g. to the point wherein they have a kind of "competitive advantage" in their chosen roles? And how much research has been done on the most effective and/or rapid training methods in each area? We know that fluid intelligence can shift 10-20 IQ points upwards within around 3 weeks, and my own experience tells that creativity and critical faculties can be improved within weeks or a few months, so you'd have to believe that Level 1 and 2, above, could be trained to show material improvments within 2-3 months and perhaps a lot less.
c. a final concern: how best to combine this with domain-specific training? For example, in universities and training companies, most training is offered in the context of either a traditional academic subject, such as philosophy or physics, or some applied skill, such as project management or computer programming. It is difficult to offer pure "brain training" as a module of study. But a blended approach can, perhaps, work.