Book Review - Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt
I tend to gravitate towards books that explore how the mind works, and how you might be able to manipulate it into better performance. Naturally, when I saw that Andy Hunt's Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware had been released, it went up on my to-be-reviewed list. Hunt does a great job in exploring your "wetware", and there were some chapters that squarely addressed certain issues I'm currently dealing with.
Journey from Novice to Expert: Novices vs. Experts; The Five Dreyfus Model Stages; Dreyfus at Work - Herding Racehorses and Racing Sheep; Using the Dreyfus Model Effectively; Beware the Tool Trap; Consider the Context, Again; Day-to-Day Dreyfus
This Is Your Brain: Your Dual-CPU Modes; Capture Insight 24x7; Linear and Rich Characteristics; Rise of the R-mode; R-mode Sees Forest, L-mode Sees Trees; DIY Brain Surgery and Neuroplasticity; How Do You Get There?
Get in Your Right Mind: Turn Up the Sensory Input; Draw on the Right Side; Engage an R-mode to L-mode Flow; Harvest R-mode Cues; Harvesting Patterns; Get It Right
Debug Your Mind: Meet Your Cognitive Biases; Recognize Your Generational Affinity; Codifying Your Personality Tendencies; Exposing Hardware Bugs; Now I Don't Know What to Think
Learn Deliberatively: What Learning Is... and Isn't; Target SMART Objectives; Create a Pragmatic Investment Plan; Use Your Primary Learning Mode; Work Together, Study Together; Used Enhanced Learning Techniques; Read Deliberately with SQ3R; Visualize Insight with Mind Maps; Harness the Real Power of Documenting; Learn by Teaching; Take It to the Streets
Gain Experience: Play in Order to Learn; Leverage Existing Knowledge; Embed Failing in Practice; Learn About the Inner Game; Pressure Kills Cognition; Imagination Overrides Senses; Learn It like an Expert
Manage Focus: Increase Focus and Attention; Defocus to Focus; Manage Your Knowledge; Optimize Your Current Context; Manage Interruptions Deliberately; Keep a Big Enough Context; How to Stay Sharp
Beyond Expertise: Effective Change; What to Do Tomorrow Morning; Beyond Expertise
Photo Credits; Bibliography; Index
Hunt starts with something called the Dreyfus model, which is a way to look at how people learn and acquire new skills. You start as a Novice, someone who has little to no experience. You can follow a "recipe" to get a result, but you don't know the reasons behind much of what is being done. You're just accomplishing a task. Next comes Advanced Beginner. You can break out of the step-by-step mode a bit, but troubleshooting is still a major obstacle. Think of it as having no "big picture" of the overall subject. Stage 3 is Competent. You can start to apply your knowledge to problems you haven't encountered before, and you can figure out the context behind what you're facing. This is where the largest group of people end up. Stage 4 is Proficient, which means you need the details AND the overall picture. You can learn from the mistakes of others, and anticipate what may go wrong down the road. At the final stage, you have the Expert. These people are the ones others seek out for answers. They can "feel" whether an answer or solution will work or not, although they might not be able to tell you how they got to that point. These are the people who write books like this...
This made a lot of sense to me, and helps as I start to learn a new set of technical skills at my place of employment. It's hard to go from being proficient in one area to stepping clear back to novice again. But it's ok, and everyone has to start there. That gives me a level of comfort knowing that my confusion is normal, and is to be expected...
Throughout the rest of the book, Hunt covers various areas of the mind, how it works (or doesn't), and how it can be manipulated to be more efficient. For instance, the R-mode/L-mode discussion covers how your right and left sides of the brain process information differently. It also explains how you can inadvertently "shut down" the right side by being too analytical about something. The simple act of walking away from the problem and thinking about nothing in particular can be enough to let the right side of the brain gain access to the forefront of your attention. And quite often, the answer appears almost immediately. These chapters are heavy on practical tips and "try the following" advice, so it's not merely an exercise in acquiring knowledge. Even a handful of these ideas, properly implemented, can boost your ability to learn and perform. In my case, they already have started paying off.
The "drawback" to books like this is that everyone has a different idea about how things actually happen in the brain. Others might read this and feel that their ideas and mental frameworks are more accurate. But for the vast majority of us, we don't even stop to consider if there even *is* a framework in action. Refactoring Your Wetware is an excellent read, and will motivate you to start "thinking about thinking".