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Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Mind Map: Pragmatic Thinking and Learning
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Pragmatic Thinking and Learning

Author: Andy Hunt (About | Blog) ISBN: 978-1-93435-605-0 Available at, and The Pragmatic Bookshelf  



Software is created in your head, not in an editor or an IDE.


  You don’t get taught; you have to learn. We tend to look at the teacher/learner relationship the wrong way around: it’s not that the teacher teaches; it’s that the student learns. The learning is always up to you.  

Dead fish

Only dead fish go with the flow. Do it whichever way that works for you.


Always consider the context; everything is interconnected. Nothing exists in isolation; everything is part of the system and part of a larger context.  

Get in Your Right Mind


Add sensory experience to engage more of your brain: By using extra senses such as touch, smell or taste you are stimulating brain to think more in R-mode. Change your environment regularly, and feed your brain, any sort of extrasensory involvement is probably helpful.  

R-mode Leading

Lead with R-mode; follow with L-mode: Use the R-mode to keep ideas flowing then switch to L-mode to validate those ideas. But don't forget to go back to R-mode for more ideas.  


Use metaphor as the meeting place between L-mode and R-mode: it also helps explain your ideas. Cultivate humor to build stronger metaphors: What is more memorable than a funny metaphor, but don't go overboard with it.  

Step Away

Step away from the keyboard to solve hard problems: Go for a walk or something, just do something that can stimulate your R-mode. Don't think about the problem, just clear you mind, focus on something else. The answer will come to you. Sometimes the best ideas come when you first wakeup in the morning, so keep a notepad to dump all your thoughts in the morning, write at least three pages, even if you have nothing.  


Change your viewpoint to solve the problem: Look at ideas or problems from different angles. Stop thinking about it, walk away from it, and comeback to it later and start to look at them from a different viewpoint.  

Journey from Novice to Expert


"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

Dreyfus Model

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition was developed by the Dreyfus brothers. The Dreyfus model is applicable per skill, meaning, it’s a situational model and not a trait or talent model. The five stages on the journey from novice to expert: Novices - need  recipes. Advanced Beginners - don't want the big picture. Competent - can troubleshoot. Proficient - can self-correct. Expert - work from intuition. The journey from novice to expert requires: Moving away from reliance on rules to intuition. Moving away from considering everything to focusing on what is relevant and important. Moving away from being a detached observer to being part of the system.  

The Expert

It's hard to articulate expertise. Easily ruined by rules. Doesn't mean the best teacher, teaching is also a skill. Intuition and pattern matching replace explicit knowledge.  

False Confidence

Beware of the false confidence. The beginner is confident despite being unskilled and unaware, while the expert shows more self doubt as they gain more knowledge and experience of their skill.


Learn the skill of learning: How do you expect to learn, when you lack the skill of learning?   Learn by watching and imitating: That is by first imitating or copying the techniques/practice taught by the experts of that skill. Then understand and reflect upon the meanings and purpose of those techniques/practice. Finally you no longer are student and are free to develop and innovate the skill.    


Keep practising in order to remain expert: The worst thing you can do, is go through all the hard work to reaching the expert level, and forget about what you learnt because you haven't been practising. Memory is dynamic, it needs to be refreshed regularly, otherwise it fades away slowly.  

Tool Trap

Avoid formal methods if you need creativity, intuition, or inventiveness: Beware of the tool trap. The model is a tool, not a mirror. There is no substitute for thinking.

This is Your Brain

Dual Modes

L-mode: Verbal Analytic Symbolic Abstract Temporal Rational Digital Logical Linear R-mode: Non-Verbal Synthetic Concrete Non-Rational Analogic Spatial Intuitive Holistic Non-Rational Nov-Linear   You need both: R-mode is critical for intuition, problem solving, and creativity. L-mode gives you the power to work through the details and make it happen. Each mode contributes to your mental engine, and for the best performance, you need these two modes to work together.


Capture all ideas to get more of them: If you don't keep track of your ideas, you will stop noticing that you have any. Keep a pocket notebook and pen with you all the time, sometimes the best ideas come unexpectedly. Remember, everyone has good ideas, but fewer go through with it, so stay ahead.  


Learn by synthesis as well as by analysis: By using both modes of thinking (R-mode and L-mode), you are bring out more of your brain power.  


Strive for good design; it really works better: Aesthetics really does make a difference. How long can you handle looking at something ugly or unattractive?  


Rewire your brain with belief and constant practice: Thinking it really does make a whole lot of difference than not believing in your self.  

Debug Your Mind


Watch the outliers: “rarely” doesn’t mean “never.”: Never say never, anything could be possible.  


Be comfortable with uncertainty: Accept change and accept that there are different points of views, and do not dismiss them carelessly. You don't have to make a decision now, just settle it later when the ideas have sunk in.  


Trust ink over memory; every mental read is a write: Memory fades, write down what ever needs remembering.  


Hedge your bets with diversity: If everyone else around you thinks the same way as you do, how will you ever be able to get more ideas other than what you thought of already?  


Allow for different bugs in different people: Rarely a human is perfect, so over look those problems if you can. You are not so perfect yourself, remember.  


Act like you’ve evolved: breathe, don’t hiss: Don't be too hasty when responding to something you think is wrong or controversial, take your time, take a deep breather first.  


Trust intuition, but verify: You could be wrong, verify what your guts tells you.  

Learn Deliberately


Create SMART objectives to reach your goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Boxed. An objective is something you do to get you closer to that goal. Again, take small bites. Give yourself frequent, small milestones. You’ll be more motivated when you meet them and encouraged to rise to meet the next one.  


Plan your investment in learning deliberately: There are several major points involved in maintaining your knowledge portfolio: Have a concrete plan Diversify Make an active, not passive, investment Make a regular investment


Discover how you learn best: Experiment with different learning modes. To help learn a new topic, try a couple of different approaches. If you don’t usually listen to podcasts or seminars, give that a shot, in addition to your usual reading or experimenting.  

Study Groups

Form study groups to learn and teach: The team that studies together learns together, teaches each other, and learns more effectively.  


Read deliberately: SQ3R: Survey: Scan the table of contents and chapter summaries for an overview. Question: Note any questions you have. Read: Read in its entirety. Recite: Summarize, take notes, and put in your own words. Review: Reread, expand notes, and discuss with colleagues.

Mind Map

Take notes with both R-mode and L-mode: Use mind maps as part of your notes.  


Write on: documenting is more important than documentation: You might want to take an hour to create a podcast or screencast. You may find that’s more productive for yourself and more engaging for the consumer of the information.  

See it. Do it. Teach it.

Gain Experience


Play more in order to learn more: Real life has no curriculum.


Learn from similarities; unlearn from differences


Explore, invent, and apply in your environment - safely

Don't Judge

See without judging and then act: Don’t focus on correcting individual details, but just be aware. Accept what is as a first step, and just be aware of it. Don’t judge, don’t try to get it right, but notice when it is wrong. Then act to correct it.


Give yourself permission to fail; it’s the path to success: You don’t actually need to make errors, as long as it’s OK if you did. It sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but once you play with the idea, it makes a lot of sense.  


Groove your mind for success: Getting used to what “success” feels like is important enough that it’s worthwhile to fake it first. That is, artificially create the conditions that you’d experience once you learn to perform at that level.  

Manage Focus


Learn to pay attention: If you want to more efficiently allocate your “attentional resources” throughout the day, you need to learn the basics of meditation. Here’s what you do: Find a quiet spot, free from distraction or interruption. This might be the hardest part. Sit in a comfortable, alert posture, with a straight back. Let your body hang off your spine like a rag doll. Take a moment to become aware of any tension that you might be holding in your body and let it go. Close your eyes, and focus your awareness on your breath—that small point where the air enters your body and where it exits. Be aware of the rhythm of your breath, the length and qualities of the inhale, the brief pause at the top of the cycle, the qualities of the exhale, and the brief pause at the bottom. Don’t try to change it; just be aware of it. Keep your mind focused on the breath. Do not use words. Do not verbalize the breath or any thoughts you have. Do not begin a conversation with yourself. This is the other hard part. You may find yourself thinking about some topic or carrying on a conversation with yourself. Whenever your attention wanders off, just let those thoughts go and gently bring your focus back to the breath. Even if your mind is wandering often, the exercise of noticing that you have wandered and bringing yourself back each time is helpful.

Thinking Time

Make thinking time: Have you heard of the consultant’s Rule of Three? In general, if you can’t think of three ways a plan can go wrong or think of three different solutions to a problem, then you haven’t thought it through enough. You can think of the multiple-drafts model in that light; let at least three alternative ideas ferment and come to consciousness. They are in there already; just let them grow and ripen. And, yes, that might just mean sitting around and doing nothing. Feet up on the desk. Humming. Eating a crunchy snack.  


Use a wiki to manage information and knowledge

Rules of Engagement

Establish rules of engagement to manage interruptions: Try making a no interruption time.


Send less email, and you’ll receive less email. Choose your own tempo for an email conversation: The faster you reply, the faster you are expected to reply in the future. Send fewer emails, less often, and you’ll take the frantic pace down to a more reasonable level.  


Mask interrupts to maintain focus.


Use multiple monitors to avoid context switching.


Optimize your personal workflow to maximize context: Have virtual desktops, it really can be handy. Separate work from communications and playtime.  

Beyond Expertise


Grab the wheel. You can’t steer on autopilot: Go ahead and grab the wheel. You have everything you need: the same brain as Einstein, Jefferson, Poincaré, or Shakespeare. You have more facts, fictions, and viewpoints at your fingertips than at any other time in history.  


Start taking responsibility; don’t be afraid to ask “why?” or “how do you know?” or “how do I know?” or to answer “I don’t know—yet.” Pick two things that will help you maintain context and avoid interruption, and start doing them right away. Create a Pragmatic Investment Plan, and set up SMART goals. Figure out where you are on the novice-to-expert spectrum in your chosen profession and what you might need to progress. Be honest. Do you need more recipes or more context? More rules or more intuition? Practice. Having trouble with a piece of code? Write it five different ways. Plan on making more mistakes—mistakes are good. Learn from them. Keep a notebook on you (unlined paper, preferably). Doodle. Mind map. Take notes. Keep your thoughts loose and flowing. Open up your mind to aesthetics and additional sensory input. Whether it’s your cubicle, your desktop, or your code, pay attention to how “pleasing” it is. Start your personal wiki on things you find interesting. Start blogging. Comment on the books you’ve read. Read more books, and you’ll have more to write about. Use SQ3R and mind maps. Make thoughtful walking a part of your day. Start a book-reading group. Get a second monitor, and start using a virtual desktop.