Complex thinking is a set of mental skills that allow you to perform advanced actions, such as understanding concepts, generating original ideas, using logic and breaking problems down into their simplest parts. It’s a fundamental type of thinking for success in many different areas and is closely related to intelligence.
People with a great ability to develop complex thoughts tend to understand the basis of different ideas and concepts well. They are also able to find the relationship between information from different sources; and generally have a good imagination, they are good at creating and defending evidence-based arguments.
On the contrary, people who struggle in this area often have trouble understanding new ideas and concepts without help or a lot of effort. Also, it usually costs more to “read between the lines” and make inferences. Because of this, they tend to rely on their existing knowledge rather than trying to develop new ideas or ways of thinking.
However, as in many other areas, complex thinking is something that can be trained. On the other hand, factors such as each person’s knowledge of a particular area or their level of interest in it can greatly influence their ability to use that skill in that area.
Complex thinking by Edgar Morin
The concept of complex thinking was first described by philosopher and epistemologist Edgar Morin. For this thinker, the ability to think complexly has to do with the ability to connect different planes of reality with each other. Due to the increasing complexity of our environment, it is a fundamental ability to develop in it.
The concept of complex thinking opposes the traditional view of mind processes as linear and simple. Edgar Morin described it as an interdisciplinary skill, fundamental for all areas where it is necessary to relate apparently independent information or to understand and solve complex problems.
Morin was the first to postulate some of the main features of complex thinking. The most important were the diaphora (in which the consistency of a thought system appears when a paradox occurs), recursion (the possibility of changing the system through feedback ) and the hologram (the relationship between the parts with the whole).
Therefore, complex thinking is a thinking strategy that tries to understand a very broad phenomenon by studying its specific components. Depending on what was discovered from these components and external information, what was taken for granted about the phenomenon in general is changed.
According to Edgar Morin, the study of complex thought belongs to the field of epistemology; that is, the area that studies the methods used to make scientific discoveries.
Complex thinking skills
Using complex thinking correctly requires mastery of three fundamental skills: basic, critical, and creative thinking. Next, we will see what each of them consists of.
The basic reasoning is based on the set of knowledge and information that we acquire throughout our lives, through the experiences we live, the culture in which we are immersed, our beliefs, the social rules of our environment and the environment. models we look at.
From all this knowledge, basic reasoning is responsible for executing a series of simple functions that allow them to be manipulated. Among the most important are those of memorizing, remembering and applying in a linear way all the ideas that were previously acquired.
Furthermore, basic thinking also gives us the capacity for metacognition; that is, the ability to perceive what we know and what we do not know. This is very important to improve our thinking processes and acquire new information when we need it.
Although basic reasoning is the simplest of the three types, it underlies complex thinking; and mastering its components is essential to being able to use the other two types of thinking effectively.
The second skill that makes up complex thinking is critical thinking. It is a set of tools that, instead of serving to acquire new knowledge, such as the basics, are used to reorganize all the ideas already present in our memory.
Thus, with critical thinking, we can rethink what we already know and find new applications, so that it is more useful than simply manipulating it the way we memorized it the first time. It is, therefore, a more complex and difficult process to perform than basic reasoning.
But how does critical thinking work? Its main functions are to analyze the knowledge that we have previously acquired, finding patterns, discovering the main ideas and classifying the information; evaluate everything we learn; and making connections between the different data we have in mind, using logic, deduction and induction.
The last level of complex thinking encompasses all the skills used to create new knowledge from all previously acquired ones. It’s a very complicated set of tools to use, and it usually takes practice before you can fully master them.
Creative reasoning is based on pure knowledge acquired through basic thinking, or that we reorganize with the critic. From here, skills such as synthesis, elaboration, creativity or imagination are used to develop new ideas, ways of thinking and concepts.
All knowledge created from creative reasoning must be evaluated later by the critic. In addition, it was discovered that, in order to develop this third level, it is necessary to have a great mastery of the other two. Many experts agree that these skills are what complex thinking really is made of.
The concept of complexity as understood today was developed by Edgar Morin in his study of epistemology and rationality. According to this author, it is the idea that all elements in the world are interrelated and, therefore, are part of systems larger than themselves, instead of being isolated objects.
The complexity lies in the fact that no element of reality can be studied as an individual entity, but must be understood in terms of its relationships with the environment in which it is located and with the rest of the elements that make up a set.
For Morin, realizing the existence of these relationships and the complexity of our environment can be a major paradigm shift. Generally, we tend to focus on the concrete and immediately observables; But according to his theory of complexity, this really wouldn’t help us understand the world around us in its entirety.
This idea of the complexity of our environment led Morin to propose a new model of education, focused on teaching students to think, rather than simply providing a series of data to memorize. That is, rather than focusing on basic reasoning, his proposal was to try to teach students critical and creative thinking skills.
Later it turned out that being aware of the complexity of all the phenomena that surround us is very useful when performing certain actions, such as creating something new, thinking rationally or acquiring new skills.
Examples of complex thinking
– A person tries to understand the needs of a friend, who is behaving especially aggressively. Instead of getting angry and moving away from it, the individual tries to understand what could be behind it and what feelings lead him to act like that.
– The head of a company needs to resolve a conflict between two employees. To do this, you should listen to their point of view, try to find common ground, and decide if there is a solution that can satisfy both of you.
– A team of scientists is developing a joint project that will help advance one of the leading theories in the field of physics. For this, its components not only need to study all the available information, but they need to formulate new hypotheses and develop tests to verify them.
– A fiction writer needs to organize his ideas to create the plot of a story. To do this, you must take into account the personalities of your different characters, their motivations, and the way they are likely to act.