Educación, Psicología & Ciencia

Poor thinkers surviving in the «Knowledge Era»

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“Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of the car is separate from the way the car is driven.” – Edward de Bono

“Dthinkingskills4SMear reader, I mean poor thinkers, not unintelligent or unable to be intelligent – I don´t believe in that.”

Currently, we live in the society of knowledge. Since the 60s, there have been changes in the industrial societies, affecting hugely our social and economic structure. The knowledge has been established as the main shaft, replacing labor, row materials and capital as the most important source of productivity and growth. The cost of the “society of knowledge” lies in the strong social inequality that has generated.

According to the OECD reports, Spanish students scored significantly below the average in math, science, reading and problem solving (comparing with other European countries). It seems that education in Spain is too much focused in the reproduction of content and not in the real application of learning contexts.

Taking in consideration that children have per se an extraordinary nature to show curiosity about how the world works, discover things they have around and even themselves, it appears that the educational system fails. As the years pass by we see how children gradually lose interest in learning and thus they start to focus their goals “on the avoidance of failure”. We are facing the famous phenomenon of school failure -sad to say.

Recent inquiries also suggest that the level of intellectual development has been decreasing along the last years. The new generations show serious difficulties using the “higher order thinking”. The lack of mastery of these skills triggers a range of consequences that extend themselves far beyond the academic contexts. So, the real problem is not the rate below the average.

How does this situation affect to the labor context? Have some significant impact in the personal lifestyle choice? Are we superficial learners? So, are we truly learning? Are we teaching properly at least?

Higher order thinking implies different domains as understanding the analogy, abstract thinking, inductive reasoning skills or the ability of problem solving. This type of lack triggers many other problems which affect in personal areas (family relationships, health habits…), social (civil and democratic behavior) and labor affairs (vocational decisions, career success).

In nowadays society, successful people is determined by their ability to think – critical thinking. Adults who are able to rationalize ideas, to implement true knowledge, analyze situations from “out of the box”, weigh and establish the acts undertaken in their routine.


I borrowed a puzzle from Microsoft HR team. It says:

– Three ants are sitting at the three corners of an equilateral triangle. Each ant starts randomly picks a direction and starts to move along the edge of the triangle. What is the probability that none of the ants collide?

Think about it. Take your time and be creative

This is the possible solution. P(No collision) = P(All ants go in a clockwise direction) + P( All ants go in an anti-clockwise direction) = 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 + 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.25

How do they come up with this idea?

I have answered this many times to different undergraduate students from various careers with certain knowledge of statistics. More than 95% of them showed true interest in working in a company as Microsoft, in creative design, HR management… but just around 10% of them have answered creatively to the puzzle. – But I know the main statistic formulas, they answered. Of course they know them, but they don´t know how to implement them to the «ants world». Fortunately, they still can learn how to do it – they can learn how to think.

Are we poor thinkers struggling in the knowledge era?

Think about it. Take your time and be creative in your answer


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Autor: Lorena Álvarez

Psicóloga, activista, trotamundos y una apasionada por la ciencia y las letras.

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