Diaminds by Mihnea Moldoveanu and Roger Martin

Summary

  1. “How do successful thinkers think? And how is it that their ways of thinking make it more likely that they will succeed than fail in the cauldron of business and life…? In this book we set out to isolate a few of the key mechanisms in the minds of successful thinkers – mechanisms that seem to account for enormous differences in individual outcomes. We attempt to describe those mechanisms precisely enough that readers will see how they themselves can absorb and develop them.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Ask not “what” you / others think but rather “how” do they think
  2. Can’t directly observe thinking so have to look at what people say and do and then ask “how do you think and how does that lead to your actions, success?”
    1. How people speak and how they act a direct window into their thought process
  3. Successful thinking integrates several radically different models while preserving the thinker’s ability to act decisively. Able to quickly and effectively abstract the best qualities of radically different ways of seeing and representing; in doing so, that person develops ‘a better lens’ on the bewildering phenomenon we call the ‘world’
  4. Diamind = dialectical mind = a mind that beholds at least two often contradictory ways of seeing the world, gives each its full due, and instead of fearing and fleeing the resulting tension, lives it, embraces it, and comes up with a better way – one that does violence to neither but improves on both
  5. Like most behavior, thinking is tainable and habitual
    1. Mental habits are procedures that have been engineered for specific purposes; they are unconscious and natural. Understanding this is one key to mental habit detection, creation and procreation
  6. Making things explicit is a great learning tool
  7. Behavior does not have to be conscious to be intelligent – most diaminds don’t know how they think
  8. Thinking can be thought of as communication between present and future you
    1. External interactions, way we communicate with others influences internal communication (thinking)
      1. Can observe mental habits by people’s external patterns of communication
      2. Changing conversation patters is the lever for changing thought patterns. Changing self-talk changes mental habits
  9. Ask “what does my mind (not “I”) want to do with the world?” Give distance between self and mind is important
  10. Suppressing thoughts doesn’t work as you have to first think of what you are trying to suppress in order to suppress it
  11. Behavior becomes more intelligent, more adaptive, in proportion to the inclusiveness of the predictive model you have built from the situation at hand
    1. Integration requires an integrator – a powerful, versatile model of the situation that can explain, contain and comfortably accomodate the various impulses you feel. It also requires a will to weather the discomfort of this larger model in order to bring about the integration question. The integrator’s skill set can be traced back to a set of habitual ways of being, of habits of mind
  12. Small but frequent things (dense things) like thoughts and interactions will quickly compound with small changes
  13. Beware human’s inborn tendency to prefer simple explanations
  14. Brain as software – imagine you can program people’s actions through the inputs you feed it. What input (smile, smirk, praise, etc.) do you have to feed in order to elicit a desired response
  15. People suck at doubting but is what Taleb specializes in. Diamind realizes this and cultivates doubting skills as there are unknowns everywhere
  16. Truth does not equal certainty. Problems arise when one needs to be certain of a truth
  17. Diaminds live out their beliefs, act on and take responsibility for their predictions. Actually have skin in the game
  18. 3 central dogmas of today’s age – people are rational, cause and effect have a linear relationship and things fall into a normal (Gaussian) distribution
  19. Mind is like a fishnet and world an ocean – have to believe something in order to see it (what you catch)
  20. Inner diversity is key – many mental models, see same problem in many different ways
  21. Explanation much weaker than prediction
  22. Incorporating pre-set stopping rules (sell at 20% loss, etc.) key to dealing with unknowns and Black Swans
  23. True inner openness comes from a dogged pursuit of inner diversity (comfortable with unknowns, having many mental models)
  24. Must figure out distribution of events and estimate the parameters of these distributions
  25. Key to define as precisely as possible what a ‘non-white’ swan looks like
  26. Willingness to work and be open minded is vital
  27. Replace all explanations and justifications with predictions and commitmens – highly testable, known time fspan
    1. Prediction journal very, very helpful in keeping track of correct versus incorrect predictions. Review. Repeat. Review again
  28. Nothing is true independent of its context
  29. Replace as many statements of fact as you can with statements that highlight the dependence of the facts on the underlying theories and mechanisms that must be valid in order for the statement of fact to make sense
  30. Inverse thinking
    1. Look upon the present as if it were the past. Then look back and by eliminating all the paths you could not have taken, figure out how you must have travelled from the presnt to the future
  31. Diaminds have audacity – the ability to make the abductive leap that takes one to imagine a desired state of the world that is implausible or even inconceivable right now, to take seriously the notion that this implausible state of the world is real and then work to bring about the conditions that will supply the best explanation as to how it came about. Talk about the future as if it were the past
  32. The perception a fact is valid (a bluff) is often as powerful as the truth
  33. Writing promotes deep thinking; lists obscure it
    1. Effective self-talk is like storytelling, it is a narrative
  34. Diaminds able to successfully navigate complex world through good mental habits – think/see/do
  35. Recording yourself having a conversation can be helpful as speaking is a window to how you think
  36. “Mentalese” – language specific to thinking and problem solving
    1. Types of problems – simple vs. hard (initial and desired conditions clearly defined and there is a definite process as to how to achieve it; hard problems may be clear but you can’t see your way to the solution before actually solving the problem)
    2. Tame vs. Wicked – tame have been proven over time to be solvable in some way, wicked problems are problems whose initial and desired conditions are subject to change as a function of the very process by which you’re trying to solve them
    3. Solutions – local vs. general (specific (heuristics) vs. adaptable (algorithm)
      1. General being better as it is more widely applicable
  37. A problem is the difference between your current state and the ideal state
  38. Believing something always a matter of choice and diaminds are very choosy
  39. Diaminds awesome at flipping between simple and hard problems, determining if tame or wicked
  40. Turn goals into objectives to make real (time bounded, controllable and measurable)
  41. Diaminds think about thinking while thinking; and then act
  42. Deal with – Defer – Delete is a useful framework for problem solving
  43. Must take into account problem, own thinking other’s thinking / intelligence / background
  44. Diversity trumps ability – large group’s average guess often better than the expert’s
  45. Generality does not guaranteee truth
  46. Not all statements are meaningful
  47. Can never tell if a regularity is a law (black swan)
  48. Useful problem solving framework on page 212
What I got out of it
  1. Incredible read. I thought it did an amazing job of highlighting good thinking habits and reinforcing the fact that they can be trained and learned; speaking a window into how somebody thinks

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