Productive Thinking in Principle.
After completing Productive Thinking in Principle, you should be able to:

Define reproductive and productive thinking.

Course Introduction
To think effectively, it is necessary to view problems as a whole rather than as the sum of their component parts. Problem solving can be categorized as the result of either reproductive thinking, that is, solving problems based on what is already known, or productive thinking, that is, solving problems with new insights.

When you were a child, you may have had a thaumatrope. A thaumatrope is a toy first popularized in Victorian England. It consists of a disk about the size of a small paper plate with a picture on either side. The disk is usually mounted on a dowel that you spin by rubbing your palms back and forth. The images on each side of the disk are different but complementary. If you get the disk spinning fast enough, the two images merge.

A common Victorian-era thaumatrope showed a bird on one side and an empty birdcage on the other. When you twirled the disk, you saw the bird in the birdcage.

It's a simple but fascinating effect. Although there is no actual picture of a bird in a cage, you see it as clearly as can be. You see a picture of something that isn't there.

Although there is still debate among theorists about how it works, this basic visual phenomenon is the same neurophysical fluke that allows you to see movement in a progressive series of flip book drawings, interpret 24 still images per second as action in a movie, and perceive movement in electronic signs. This odd but useful phenomenon also stimulated the development of a school of psychology that changed the way we see the world.

In 1910, a young scientist recognized the basic premise of Gestalt psychology: in some way we act on the stimuli, just as they act on us.

Over the next several years, this young scientist and several other pioneers in the field of thinking would expand upon Gestalt theory, the principles of which would be applied to psychotherapy, philosophy, ethics, and even political theory. The essential argument is that to think effectively, it is necessary to view problems as a whole rather than as the sum of their component parts.

Think of the thaumatrope. Viewing the cage and the bird separately yield a completely different result than spinning them together.

The ideas in this course build on the work of these pioneers in the field of thinking. In this course, you will learn to view productive thinking as a straightforward, practical, and disciplined framework for perceiving and acting on the challenges of life, whether business or personal. You will learn concepts that help you think better, work better, and ultimately do better in every aspect of your life.

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