METACOGNITION [ Updated]
Intelligence analysts, strategists and educators all require clarity of thought for their respective domains. Frequently, they rely upon - or too often assume they are using - formal logic for organizing and sequencing concepts or deconstructing patterns of information into component, isolated, parts. Generally, we can also assume that our respective thinkers all represent persons of with considerable vertical expertise, masters of a particular field or subfield of knowledge and, consequently, frame new information according to the received intellectual culture and rule-sets of their professional discipline as well as logical reasoning.
On average, this primarily analytical approach to engaging the world is very efficient and productive. Time is saved by recourse to preexisting and commonly accepted conceptual categories when integrating new data and the accumulation and verification of new knowledge is orderly and most of the time a valid and reliable process. Problems arise with this process however when new data
a) Seemingly represents familiar old data because our habitual use of our conceptual categories, our received intellectual culture from professional training, our entire worldview and the underlying genetic predispositions in terms of cognitive behavior
render us blind to the implications of the new which lay hidden in plain sight.
b) If the new data contradicts all that we have been led to believe to be true.
The cognitive distortions that can arise then have various manifestations, among them:Educated IncapacityDenialMagical thinkingSelf-referential logical errorsNon sequitorsMistaking correlation for causationParalysis by analysis
How to avoid this mental fog of distortion ? One possibility is the deliberate practice of metacognition
during the analytical process to help prserve the integrity of the "Observation" and "Orientation" stages of John Boyd's OODA loop
. Metacognition is a term coined by pyschologist and cognitive theorist John Flavell
to describe the processes involved in " thinking about thinking". Metacognition has rationally methodical as well as intuitive aspects, both of which are useful in accomplishing the task of mental self-regulation, monitoring and evaluation:Rational:Asessment:
Identification of state of knowledge, attention and task at handExecutive control of behavior:
Selection of mnemonic strategies appropriate for the taskSchema Training:
Generation of new conceptual-categorical structuresEvaluation:
Of changes in knowledgeIntuitive:Fingerspitzengefuhl
or " fingertip feeling"Tip of the tongue feeling
or memory retrieval
Rechecking your analytical premises against your " hunch"when the data seems to be contradictory as well as systematic self-assessment of your reasoning process helps identify errors, blind spots and weakly supported assertions that represent more ideology than empiricism. In short, metacognition preps the brain for a burst of insight
by bringing into simultaneous or sequential focus:New dataYour premisesThe operative rule-setsYour logical reasoningYour intuitive expectationsPast knowledgeYour evaluation of the validity and reliability of the above
You are now poised to look at the big picture, discern the interconnections and look further afield for analogies and parallel patterns.LINKS FOR READERS:
This post has stirred some considerable traffic today so I thought I might highlight a few
"gurus" on my blogroll who also feature systemic, strategic, analysis on a regular basis:Thomas P. M. BarnettArt Hutchinson's Mapping StrategyJohn RobbNicholas Carr 's Rough TypeDave Chesbrough's net-centric dialogChris Anderson's The Long Tail