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20 Powerful Books to Win You Friends and Influence More People

20 Powerful Books to Win You Friends and Influence More People

Everyone knows communication is key, but every so often, we fail to communicate well on a daily basis. It could be catastrophic if we can’t communicate with others. So how can you and I improve our communication skills to have a significant leg up in all aspects of our lives?

Here is a list of 20 books to turn you into an expert in communication, with books ranging from best-sellers to less popular, hidden gems.

1. The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

    People typically believe charisma is a trait you are born with. However, it is a skill you can learn. Cabane provides fantastic examples and practical advice anyone can use.

    Who should read this book?

    • Readers looking to improve their charisma.

    What will you learn?

    • The main components of charisma and techniques to improve them.

    “Whenever we use our brain, we fire certain neuronal connections, and the more these connections get used, the stronger they become.” – Olivia Fox Cabane

    2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

      In this powerful book, Simon Sinek helps readers identify an individual or organizations purpose… there Why.

      Who should read this book?

      • Readers seeking advice on how to become a great leader.

      What will you learn?

      • How to clearly identify the purpose of your organization.

      “Organizations know what they do, how they do it, but very few know why they do what they do.” – Simon Sinek

      3. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo

        Gallo uncovered 9 common elements to all TED talks and provides readers advice on how to adopt them. This book provides practical tips to improve your public-speaking skills.

        Who should read this book?

        • Readers who want to become a better public speaker.

        What will you learn?

        • How to improve the format of your speech or presentation, while telling a story that reaches the hearts and minds of your audience.

        “The first step to inspire others is to make sure you’re inspired yourself.” – Carmine Gallo

        4. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

          An amazing, yet short book. The story revolves around four characters: two mice and two little people living in a maze seeking the one thing that makes them happy… cheese! This book is a metaphor for the things we want most in life and the need for change.

          Who should read this book?

          • Readers seeking knowledge on how to deal with change in life or work.

          What will you learn?

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          • That change is the only thing which is constant and why we should look to the future instead of the past.

          “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” – Spencer Johnson

          5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

            Let’s start our list of well-known books with one of the all-time greats – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book is one of the most powerful books you can find in attempting to improve your communication skills. Warren Buffett discovered this book as a child and applied the techniques found in this book throughout his life.

            Who should read this book?

            • Readers interested in finding positive ways to influence other people.

            What will you learn?

            • Ways to win people to your mode of thinking.

            “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” – Dale Carnegie

            6. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

              The message in this book extends beyond business. Lencioni outlines the root causes (and of course dysfunction) of a team. He provides readers tips on how to effectively identify and beat dysfunction.

              Who should read this book?

              • Leaders seeking ways to identify and manage dysfunction in an organization.

              What will you learn?

              • How to mold a functional team.

              “Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” – Patrick Lencioni

              7. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton

                Getting to Yes is a powerful book on improving your negotiation skills. Ury advocates that we negotiate our entire life and we must learn to embrace and improve this skill. This book will show you how.

                Who should read this book?

                • Readers seeking ways to improve their negotiation skills.

                What will you learn?

                • Tips and techniques to become a highly effective negotiator.

                “Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.” – Roger Fisher

                8. Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done by David Allen

                  Productivity expert David Allen is best known for his book Getting Things Done, yet it is Ready for Anything that takes his advice on productivity to the next level. Learn how to make things happen and improve your life with less effort, less stress, and with more energy!

                  Who should read this book?

                  • Readers seeking tips on productivity.

                  What will you learn?

                  • How to reach new levels of productivity with practical tips and techniques.

                  “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” – David Allen

                  9. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

                    In this guide to success and salesmanship, Mandino tells a story of a poor camel boy who comes across ancient scrolls. Each scroll provides the reader a message. Actor Matthew McConaughey remarked that this book changed his life.

                    Who should read this book?

                    • Readers seeking breakthrough ways for success in their lives.

                    What will you learn?

                    • How to form good habits and take action in your life.

                    “Never feel shame for trying and failing for he who has never failed is he who has never tried.” – Og Mandino

                    10. How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes

                      Leil Lowndes provides an incredibly practical book on how to communicate, improve posture, and become a winner… the book even provides advice on how to make someone fall in love with you!

                      Who should read this book?

                      • Readers seeking practical tips on how to improve in their day to day interactions with other people.

                      What will you learn?

                      • 92 tricks to improve your communication skills!

                      There are two kinds of people in this life: Those who walk into a room and say, “Well, here I am!” And those who walk in and say, “Ahh, there you are.” – Leil Lowndes

                      11. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

                        Let’s start of the list of well-known, yet different books that will improve your communication skills. Labeled by Bertrand Russell as the handbook for gangsters, The Prince focuses on effectiveness, not morality. Some key takeaways from this book are: 1) Pay close attention to the qualities of those who work for you; 2) Your appearance matters; 3) Keep your enemies close; 4) Avoid people who flatter you; and 5) Prepare for bad things to happen.

                        Who should read this book?

                        • Readers looking for ways to influence other people.

                        What will you learn?

                        • Historical lessons and tips for influencing people, regardless of morality.

                        “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

                        12. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

                          If you are a fan of the movie Office Space and are looking for a book to spark the “I just don’t give a f*ck” moment… look no further! Manson reminds us that we have a limited number of f*cks to give and we can’t go around giving them away to people that don’t matter.

                          Who should read this book?

                          • Readers seeking ways to stop caring so much what other people think of them.

                          What will you learn?

                          • That there are only a small group of people that truly deserve your time and effort.

                          “Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.” – Mark Manson

                          13. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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                            Confidence and composure are two extremely important skills in effective communication. Taleb provides readers a guide on how to become antifragile. This book will help readers find out where they are most exposed and identify where we can lose the most.

                            Who should read this book?

                            • Readers seeking knowledge on how to grow from disorder.

                            What will you learn?

                            • How we thrive from shock, volatility, and uncertainty.

                            “Trial and error is freedom.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

                            14. Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden

                              When it comes to winning in college basketball, there was no one better than legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. At UCLA, his teams won 10 national titles in 12 years! To be an effective communicator for an organization, you must also be an effective leader. Coach Wooden shows us how.

                              Who should read this book?

                              • Readers interested in developing a strong leadership philosophy.

                              What will you learn?

                              • How to lead and develop young men.

                              “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – Coach John Wooden

                              15. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

                                Inspired by The Prince, Robert Greene provides leaders historical lessons and practical ways to improve their communication skills through controlling anger and improving patience. His most important lesson is mastering your emotions.

                                Who should read this book?

                                • Readers seeking ways to influence other people, similar to The Prince.

                                What will you learn?

                                • 48 Laws to increase your power and influence over others.

                                “But the human tongue is a beast that few can master. It strains constantly to break out of its cage, and if it is not tamed, it will run wild and cause you grief. Power cannot accrue to those who squander their treasure of words.” – Robert Greene

                                16. Wink and Grow Rich by Roger Hamilton

                                  Finally, let’s take a look at those books you might not be familiar with. These are hidden gems. Wink and Grow Rich is one of my favorite books. It is a book with a hidden lesson behind the lesson! This is one of those books you will want to read over and over again. Each time you read, you will uncover something new.

                                  Who should read this book?

                                  • Readers seeking books with hidden meanings.

                                  What will you learn?

                                  • A true outside-the-box read on how to gain wealth and riches in multiple areas of your life.

                                  “To know and not to do is not yet to know.” – Roger Hamilton

                                  17. Quantum Memory Power: Learn to Improve Your Memory with the World Memory Champion by Dominic O’Brien

                                    Effective communicators must be good at remembering names and faces. The most effective way to improve your memory is to use techniques discussed in this book. Learn how to build memory palaces and improve your memory.

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                                    Who should read this book?

                                    • Readers seeking ways to improve their memory.

                                    What will you learn?

                                    • Shortcuts and techniques to improve your memory.

                                    “This is a great tool for students as the book gets right to the heart of learning how to learn and engaging your whole brain.” – Dominic O’Brien

                                    18. Go for No! Yes Is the Destination, No Is How You Get There by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz

                                      Using fiction to impart knowledge upon their readers, Fenton and Waltz provide powerful lessons for readers by simply hearing the word No!

                                      Who should read this book?

                                      • People seeking a short inspirational read on how to realize your potential.

                                      What will you learn?

                                      • Why hearing no is a good thing!

                                      “Learning to hear no over and over again and to never quit… now that builds character and self-esteem. That’s empowering!” – Richard Fenton

                                      19. I Am John Galt: Today’s Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It by Donald Luskin and Andrew Greta

                                        This book was inspired by two of my favorite novels: Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. John Galt is the fictional character from Atlas Shrugged and embodies the characteristics some of our top CEOs and leaders strive to attain. This book compares the character’s (and characteristics) from Rand’s books with real people.

                                        Who should read this book?

                                        • Readers seeking a non-fiction comparison of Ayn Rand’s novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and the real world.

                                        What will you learn?

                                        • Who is the real world version of John Galt.

                                        “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

                                        20. Bill Snyder: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done by Mark Janssen

                                          The final book I will discuss is the first book I ever read to my beautiful daughter. In fact, I read (and finished) this book to her while holding her in the hospital the day of her birth.

                                          Legendary Kansas State University Wildcat coach Bill Snyder is a phenomenal leader and coach. In the spirit of John Wooden, Bill Snyder continues to coach and is the oldest active college football coach. This book chronicles his first stint in coaching (he actually retired once, then came back from retirement to coach the same team!). To be able to come back from retirement and coach young college kids at his age takes phenomenal leadership skills and even better communication skills. Take heed of Coach Snyder’s advice and learn how to be a lifelong communicator. I encourage you to take a look at Coach Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success. [1]

                                          Who should read this book?

                                          • Readers seeking the story of the greatest coach in college football!

                                          What will you learn?

                                          • The leadership philosophy from one of the all-time great coaches.

                                          “If you do pay attention to detail and the little things are important to you, you make them important to people.” – Coach Bill Snyder

                                          Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

                                          Reference

                                          More by this author

                                          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                                          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

                                          How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

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                                          Last Updated on February 20, 2019

                                          How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices

                                          How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices

                                          As humans, we typically operate on cognitive autopilot. We rarely stop and reflect on how we interpret information and create mental models which replicate our perception of reality.

                                          But when our mental models fail to match reality, we simply ignore reality and operate throughout the day on implicit assumptions. These are not conscious choices. Our mental models allow us a simple way to cope with reality, yet we fail to confront reality when it is different than our mental model. Essentially, we have unknowingly created a ready-made default mechanism. [1]

                                          So, what can we do?

                                          We must first take time to reflect on our critical thinking skills. By simply understanding how you interpret and perceive information differently than everyone else is a great first step. To truly upgrade your critical thinking skills, you must examine how thoughts arise in your mind and how they got there.

                                          Critical thinking is about asking yourself how you make choices. We can choose to believe something we hear or see; however, why do we choose to believe something we hear or see?

                                          As a Red Team Member in the U.S. Army, I will explain how I upgrade my critical thinking skills using Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop as a framework for critical thinking. I will then demonstrate practical ways to upgrade your critical thinking skills for a sharper mind using tools and techniques from the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) Center for Applied Critical Thinking (also known as the Red Team school) and The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook (also known as The Red Team Handbook).[2]

                                          What Is Critical Thinking?

                                          Critical thinking can be explained in a number of ways. Let’s quickly examine a few definitions:

                                          • “Critical thinking is a process, the goal of which is to make reasonable decisions about what to believe and what to do.” – Robert Enis
                                          • “Critical thinking means developing an ever better worldview and using it well in all aspects of your life. The essence of critical thinking is questioning and arguing logically.” – Gary Jason
                                          • “Critical thinking is searching for hidden assumptions, noticing various facets, unraveling different strands, and evaluating what is most significant. It implies conscious, deliberate inquiry, and especially it implies adopting a skeptical state of mind.” – Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau

                                          To me, critical thinking is as follows:

                                          “Critical thinking is observing the world with an open and skeptical mindset with the goal of exploring all alternatives objectively (as much as possible). It is our ability to orient our mental models to view reality through an emotionless lens seeking the truth by questioning our own assumptions and deconstructing arguments logically. It is our ability to identify gaps and uncover what is missing to improve our quality of decisions. Finally, it is our ability to unravel different strands of significant information through a continuous stream of feedback so that we continuously destroy and create new mental models allowing us to act closer to reality.” – Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                                          Critical Thinking Framework: OODA Loop

                                          I use John Boyd’s OODA Loop as a framework for critical thinking. It is similar to Swarm Intelligence, where we use simple rules to allow the collective intelligence to emerge. The simple rules are Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

                                            The OODA Loop is a high-speed decision making and feedback process in four stages: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.[3] The OODA Loop is a continuous feedback loop where the objective is to go through the loop faster than your opponent.

                                            I use simple rules provided within the OODA Loop to assist me in speeding up my critical and creative thinking abilities. However, do not confuse the word “simple” with “simplistic” as the OODA Loop uses simple rules within a complex system (which is exactly what the OODA Loop is).

                                            The key to the loop is feedback. The OODA Loop is similar to Double-Loop Learning, where the goal is to modify decision-making in light of new experience.

                                            Double-Loop Learning is the first loop uses goals or decision making rules, the second loop enables their modification… hence, double-loop.[4]

                                              Chris Argyris writes about Double-Loop Learning in Teaching Smart People How To Learn,

                                              “A thermostat that automatically turns on the heat whenever the temperature in a room drops below 68 degree is a good example of single-loop learning. A thermostat that could ask why am I set to 68 degree? and then explore whether or not some other temperature might more economically achieve the goal of heating the room would be engaged in double-loop learning.

                                              The overarching guide for my use of the OODA Loop is as follows:

                                              Scout Mindset

                                              I will talk about this more in the How-To Guide: Tools to Apply the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop section below.

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                                              Objectivity

                                              It’s about seeking truth. Here we should seek to follow a concept introduced by Immanuel Kant as a way of evaluating motivations for actions – called the Categorical Imperative. Kant defines a categorical imperative as an absolute or an unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself. For example, “Act only according to the maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” For more information, visit the Categorical Imperative.

                                              Avoid Emotion

                                              Imagine you can physically remove yourself from your body and objectively view how you make decisions. It’s like pulling your mind from your body.

                                              Reasoning Backwards

                                              This is essentially solving problems by working backwards. A simple example of this method is working backwards to solve a math problem.

                                              For example, solve the following problem: “I think of a number and add three to it, multiply the result by 2, subtract 4 and divide by 7. The number I end up with is 2. What was the number I first thought of?” To solve, read the problem backwards. You start with: 2 x 7 = 14. Then take 14 + 4 = 18. From there take 18 / 2 = 9. Then take 9 – 3 = 6. Finally, the number you first thought of was 6.

                                              Moreover, Reasoning Backwards can be viewed through the lens of deduction. I prefer deduction over induction and here is why:

                                              An example of Inductive Reasoning is: this raven is black, that raven is black, all ravens are black.

                                              Deductive Reasoning is: All ravens are black, that raven is black, therefore it is black.

                                              We make deductions from laws to see what should happen and then experiment to see if our prediction was right. Think about it this way… to test whether a burner is hot, we must touch the burner first using Inductive Reasoning; however, if we were to use Deductive Reasoning, we would first predict the burner to be hot and would realize there is not need to touch it.

                                              One last benefit of Reasoning Backwards is that it forces our linear and logical mind to catch things we wouldn’t normally catch. For example, read the following sentence:

                                              After reading this sentence, you will realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize a second ‘the’.

                                              Now read the sentence again, this time read it backwards. Did you notice that you missed the second ‘the’?

                                              Think-Write-Share

                                              The UFMCS uses this as the single most important idea to enable critical thinking. For example, prior to taking on an issue, we should first think independently and reflectively, then write down our thoughts (which assists us in shaping and refining them), then share them in a disciplined manner. This takes us from divergence to convergence.

                                              Dialectical Method

                                              Boyd described a thought experiment in a presentation called Strategic Game of ? and ?. Through the process of Destructive Deduction (analyze and pull apart mental concepts into discrete parts) and Creative Induction (using these elements to form new mental concepts) we can create a new mental model that more closely aligns with reality.

                                              Part 1 of his question:

                                              “Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers…that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat, maybe even towing water-skiers. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day. Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the toy tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads.”

                                              Part 2:

                                              “Now imagine that you pull the skis off but you are still on the ski slope. Imagine also that you remove the outboard motor from the motorboat, and you are no longer in Florida. And from the bicycle you remove the handle-bar and discard the rest of the bike. Finally, you take off the rubber treads from the toy tractor or tanks. This leaves only the following separate pieces: skis, outboard motor, handlebars and rubber treads.”

                                              What do you imagine could be created using the remaining parts? A Snowmobile

                                              Let’s now turn our attention to the four simple rules within the OODA Loop.

                                              The Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop: Simple Rules to Guide You

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                                                Observe

                                                Think of how we use sensors and gather information. In an ant colony, this is where ants shoot pheromones to signal others when they have found food.

                                                Here we are detecting events within our environment and identifying change (or lack thereof). This could also be identified as Locate or Perceive (think swarming tactics or artificial intelligence).

                                                Steps:

                                                • Find out what is really there.
                                                • Observe first and gather data.
                                                • Identify the uncommon and common things. As Sherlock Holmes famously said, “What is out of common is a guide.” A great video on this point is The most unlikely threat from the hit movie Men in Black – watch the following video:
                                                • Begin with a blank and open mind.
                                                • Remember that there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

                                                Key questions to ask:

                                                • What happened?
                                                • What are we being asked?
                                                • What do we know?

                                                Key tools to use:

                                                • 6 Words. This is simply writing a short and precise phrase summarizing your thinking into a set number of words.
                                                • Think-Write-Share (see above)
                                                • Outside-in thinking
                                                • Key assumptions check. We all start with assumptions and it is extremely important to be aware of our own. Understanding this will allow us to explain the logic of an argument and expose faulty logic. It will also help us simulate thinking about a problem and uncover hidden links between factors. Let’s examine some key questions to ask here: 1) How much confidence do you have with this assumption?; 2) What explains your confidence with this assumption?; 3) What must exist for this assumption to be valid?; and 4) If this assumption proves wrong, will this change your line of thinking about the issue?
                                                • Complex Grammatical Structures

                                                Orient

                                                Think of a construction site where destruction (analysis) and creation (synthesis) take place.

                                                John Boyd identified orientation as our way to survive and grow within a complex and ever changing world. This could also be identified as Converge or Understand.

                                                Steps:

                                                • Identify your biases and know how they impact decision making.
                                                • Be aware of your worldview and how it shapes the world you see.
                                                • Be aware of multiple perspectives and not just your own.
                                                • Place new observations in context with older observations.
                                                • Reason carefully. Find out what others cannot.
                                                • Determine what is vital (think of the Pareto Principle).
                                                • Seek out what’s NOT right in front of you (determine what’s missing).
                                                • Remember what Sherlock Holmes said, “Never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule.”
                                                • Think in terms of metaphors and analogies.

                                                Key questions to ask:

                                                • Where are the pattern of bullet holes NOT located?
                                                • Why?
                                                • What are we missing?
                                                • Where are the gaps?
                                                • What are the relationships?
                                                • What are the different perspectives?

                                                Key tools to use:

                                                • Argument Deconstruction (see below).
                                                • 4 Ways of Seeing. This is a powerful tool for looking at multiple perspectives.
                                                  • Dialectical Method (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)
                                                  • Analysis + Synthesis. By breaking a concept or problem apart (analysis) we develop knowledge; yet, it’s when we piece the parts back together (synthesis) and create something new that we develop understanding or wisdom.
                                                  • Onion Model. Hofstede’s Onion Model is a great tool to find values at the core. It is a great way to prompt better questions, look at something or someone or some group from multiple perspectives, and expose ignorance.
                                                    • neXt – Innovative Framework. Professor Ramesh Raskar, head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Research Group, created an easy-to-use framework for inventing the future – right now. Watch the following video:

                                                    Decide

                                                    Think of a hypothesis like you would when putting a puzzle together, where you are making predictions then testing those predictions.

                                                    Here we are to decide among alternatives generated in the orientation phase. This could be identified as Attack or Predict.

                                                    Steps:

                                                    • Identify and select your next action based on orientation and local knowledge.
                                                    • Find the dog who isn’t barking (see below in the How-to guide: Tools to apply the critical thinker’s OODA Loop section).
                                                    • Determine what would have to exist for something to be true.
                                                    • Think like Sherlock Holmes – eliminate the impossible so that what remains (however improbable) is the truth.
                                                    • Think like a detective – piece out what is key evidence verses artifact (not important).
                                                    • Try to prove the opposite (Devil’s Advocacy Red Team tool).

                                                    Key questions to ask:

                                                    • What evidence is not being seen for the hypothesis to be true?
                                                    • Where are the pattern of bullet holes not located?
                                                    • What is vital evidence and what is simply an artifact (which will get you stuck in the wrong rabbit hole)?
                                                    • Where is the dog who isn’t barking?

                                                    Key tools to use:

                                                    • Algorithmic Thinking (IF – AND – THEN).
                                                    • Cynefin Framework
                                                    • Lean Six Sigma
                                                    • Devils Advocacy. Here you are trying to prove the opposite and disprove the hypothesis. Essentially, you are trying to prove the limitations.
                                                    • Alternative Futures Analysis
                                                    • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) (see below)
                                                    • The Value of Possible. Here is a logical system incorporating elements of language. In this method, we have three truth values: False, True, and Possible. Logical connective rules: True is p, Possible is q, and False has no value. This allows for something to be fuzzy (not clearly black or white… true or false) but could still be true.

                                                    Act

                                                    Think of testing and retesting a hypothesis.

                                                    According to Boyd, actions should be rapid, surprising, ambiguous, and ever changing. This could be identified as Disperse or Learn.

                                                    Steps:

                                                    • Carry out your decision (or selected action) while the opponent is still observing the last action.[5]
                                                    • Present your information in simple ways. For example, use SEE-I and What? – So What? – Now What? to describe your situation/problem/scenario.
                                                    • As Sherlock Holmes said, “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.”
                                                    • Develop quick “fly-like” reactions.
                                                    • Use simple rules to guide your actions or the actions of a group.
                                                    • Find the desired path. For example, watch how routes on a college campus naturally form. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we allowed these to naturally form then simply pave those locations. For more on this idea, watch the following video Find and Pave the Desired Path:

                                                    Key questions to ask:

                                                    • What did I learn?
                                                    • What type of feedback did I receive?
                                                    • What type of feedback am I still receiving (we are continuously receiving feedback)?
                                                    • What can I do with this new information as my OODA Loop begins again?

                                                    Key tools to use:

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                                                    How to Apply the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop

                                                    1. Argument Deconstruction

                                                    The UFMCS provides a powerful framework for deconstructing an argument.

                                                    The method:

                                                    • What is the argument? Here the argument = problem (or premise) + reasons + conclusion
                                                    • Check to make sure the right problem is identified and examine the point of view of the other person.
                                                    • Search for and ask for clarification of ambiguous words.
                                                    • Look for value conflicts and check key assumptions. More specifically, look for prescriptive assumptions (statement made on the way things should be) and descriptive assumptions (statement made on the way things are).
                                                    • Look for logical fallacies.
                                                    • Is the person using a heuristic or rule of thumb?
                                                    • Check the evidence provided. Does the person use personal experience, potentially deceptive statistics (use numbers without percentages – percentages without numbers), appeal to authorities, faulty analogies, intuition, etc.
                                                    • Is there another plausible hypotheses which might explain the situation?
                                                    • Are there any other conclusions you can draw from the argument?
                                                    • What implications does accepting the argument pose?

                                                    2. The 4 Agreements

                                                    Another great way the U.S. Army Red Team community upgrades their critical thinking ability is through the following four agreements:

                                                    1. Don’t make assumptions.
                                                    2. Don’t take anything personal.
                                                    3. Be impeccable with your words.
                                                    4. Always do your best.

                                                    Finally, I recommend using the following mnemonic. I created this tool to assist me as I move through the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop. Additionally, I recommend writing this down on a note-card and keeping a copy with you at all times.

                                                    3. SDWFAP

                                                    Scouting

                                                    Think like a Scout – the drive to see what’s really there.

                                                    In the following video Why you think you’re right-even if you’re wrong, Julia Galef examines the motivation between two mindsets (Scout mindset vs Soldier mindset) and how they shape the way we interpret information:

                                                    Galef explains that Scouts are curious and are more likely to feel pleasure when they learn new information. She says it’s like an itch to solve a puzzle. We should strive to develop a Scout Mindset. Let’s examine qualities Scout’s possess:

                                                    • The Scout’s job is not to attack or defend, but to understand – to go out, map the terrain and identify potential obstacles.
                                                    • Scout’s are intrigued when they encounter something that contradicts their expectations.
                                                    • More likely to think it’s virtuous to test your own beliefs.
                                                    • They do not say someone is weak for simply changing their mind.
                                                    • They are grounded; meaning their self-worth isn’t tied to how right or wrong they are about an argument.
                                                    • They are proud (and not ashamed) when they notice they might be wrong about something.
                                                    • They are intrigued (and not defensive) when they encounter information that contradicts their beliefs.
                                                    • They yearn not to defend their beliefs, but to see the world as clearly as they possibly can.
                                                    • Above all, the Scout seeks to know what’s really there.
                                                    Dog

                                                    Find the Dog who isn’t barking.

                                                    In Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze, we are presented with a mystery of the disappearance of a famous racehorse the night prior to a race and the murder of the horse’s trainer. Mike Skotnicki describes the story about The Dog that Didn’t Bark:

                                                    “The dog that didn’t bark. What we can learn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about using the absence of expected facts.” – Mike Skotnicki

                                                    Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery in part by recognizing that no one he spoke to in his investigation remarked that they had heard barking from the watchdog during the night.

                                                    Gregory (Scotland Yard detective), “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

                                                    Sherlock Holmes, “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

                                                    Gregory, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

                                                    Sherlock Holmes, “That was the curious incident.”

                                                    The fact that the dog did not bark when we would have expected it to while the horse was stolen led Holmes to the conclusion that the criminal was not a stranger to the dog, but someone the dog recognized; thus, would not cause the dog to bark.

                                                    Was

                                                    What would have to exist for something to be true?

                                                    Here we can use a UFMCS Red Team tool called What If? Analysis. This tool assumes an event has already happened with potential impact (positive or negative) and explains how it might play out. This is a powerful technique for challenging a closed mindset by shifting the focus from whether an event could occur to how it might happen.

                                                    The method:

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                                                    • Clearly state the conventional line assuming the event has happened, then step back and consider what alternative outcomes are too important to dismiss, even if unlikely.
                                                    • Select triggering events that allowed the event to happen.
                                                    • Develop a chain of argumentation.
                                                    • Reason backwards from the event in concrete ways (specify what must occur at each stage).
                                                    • Choose one or more plausible pathways.
                                                    • Develop and monitor a list of indicators or observables for each scenario that would assist in detecting the beginning of the event.

                                                    Another technique you can use here is The Reductio ad Absurdum. This is a simple yet powerful tool.

                                                    The method:

                                                    • Assume a statement to be true and see what conclusions you can discern from it. If you find you get a contradiction, you know the initial statement is false as contradictions are always false.
                                                    • It allows you to determine if a statement is false by showing the contradiction.

                                                    For more on this technique, I recommend reading Logic: A Graphic Guide.

                                                    Frightened

                                                    What’s not right in Front of us?

                                                    Here we can use a combination of tools and techniques.

                                                    For example, if you have a team or group of people, you could use what’s called a Premortem and/or Postmortem Analysis. This is an application of mental stimulation and is a great tool for Group Think Mitigation. We could use the 5-Why technique after we have asked what happened. We could also use Algorithmic Thinking where we perform an If-And-Then series of questions.

                                                    Let’s combine the three and see how this can be used:

                                                    • Assume an event has happened or after an event has happened – use 5-Why to identify causes as to why this event happened.
                                                    • Generate a list of reasons for the event with the following simple rules: 1) The more ideas the better; 2) Build on other peoples ideas using them as prompts for your own; 3) Wacky ideas are fine (and sometimes preferred).
                                                    • Ask a series of If-And-Then questions:
                                                    • IF an Active Shooter is spotted AND appropriate signals are in place THEN we should be able to act/respond quicker.
                                                    • This can also be used with Propositional Calculus. For example, “If you are a bird, then you have wings,” could be rephrased as, “You cannot be a bird and not have wings.” It is a proposition using one connective such as: IF-Then. It can then be transformed into an expression using the other connectives “and” and “not” without changing the validity of the statement.
                                                    At

                                                    Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for a hypothesis to be true.

                                                      Conduct an Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH). The objective is to identify alternative explanations (hypotheses) and evaluate the evidence that will disconfirm rather than confirm the hypotheses. This is how I reason backwards.

                                                      The method:

                                                      • Brainstorm and list all possible hypotheses (no matter how improbable they may seem). List the hypotheses first then the evidence (think deductive reasoning). You can list the evidence first, then the hypotheses if you prefer (think inductive reasoning).
                                                      • List all significant evidence and arguments relevant to each hypotheses.
                                                      • Reason backwards by creating a divergent systems diagram with each hypotheses from right to left (to mimic backwards reasoning)
                                                      • Start to converge by preparing a matrix listing the hypotheses across the top with each piece of evidence down the side.
                                                      • Determine if each piece of evidence is consistent, inconsistent, or non applicable.
                                                      • Refine the matrix by reconsidering each hypotheses. Here you can even add new information if applicable.
                                                      • Focus on disproving each hypotheses rather than proving one. Tally your evidence that are inconsistent and consistent to see which hypotheses are the weakest and strongest (you can also identify this using your systems diagram… +/- for strong and weak connections).
                                                      • Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for a given hypotheses to be true. Ask if denial and/or deception is a possibility.
                                                      • Identify and monitor indicators that would be consistent and inconsistent with each hypotheses.

                                                      A good example of ACH can be found at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

                                                      Patterns

                                                      Where are the Pattern (or location) of bullet holes NOT located?

                                                        Statistician Abraham Wald was tasked with helping the Allies decide where to add armor to bombers during World War II.[6] The Allies hoped extra protection would help minimize bomber losses due to enemy anti-aircraft fire. They thought the answer was obvious and the bombers returning from missions showed them where to put the extra armor. However, Wald disagreed. He explained the damage actually revealed the locations that needed the least additional armor. In essence, it’s where the bombers could be hit and still survive the flight home.

                                                        This is an example of selection or survivorship bias, where we typically only consider information that’s presented to us and ignore information that is absent, yet might just be significantly relevant. For example, the locations on the bombers without bullet holes might just be the location to reinforce.

                                                        Finally, we should be extremely carefully of what we remove from a system or process. We have to be aware of the second and third order effects.

                                                        I will leave you with one final video: How Wolves Change Rivers:

                                                        More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

                                                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                                        Reference

                                                        [1] University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies: The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook
                                                        [2] USA Army: The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook
                                                        [3] Frans P.B. Osinga: Science, Strategy and War
                                                        [4] Wikipedia: Double-loop learning
                                                        [5] Ahmad Shehabat and Teodor Mitew: Distributed Swarming and Stigmergic Effects on ISIS Networks OODA Loop Model
                                                        [6] Seeking Alpha: How Survivorship Bias Distorts Reality

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