Sunday 18 March 2018

Three is the magic number if you want to succeed

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

do you know where the pens on your desk are? You should, according to Art Markman, be able to reach for one without having to think about where it might be.

After all, he argues, keeping your workspace organised is one of the first steps to Smart Thinking (yes, with capital letters), and leads you on the road to innovation and out-thinking rivals.

Mr Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas, argues in this very readable publication that we've been doing it all wrong since we were in school. That's why most of us don't innovate and haven't tapped into the capacity to do so.

"You have probably never learned much about the way your mind works," writes Mr Markman. "For that, you can blame the educational system." It would be useful for students to be taught even basic psychology in school so they can have some insight into how their minds work.

Leaving Cert

As our own Leaving Certificate examination system faces an overhaul because in part it suppresses critical thinking, there could be some useful transformational nuggets to be found in Mr Markman's book.

The core aspects to smart thinking, he says, are smart habits, quality knowledge and applying knowledge.

But crucial, he adds, is the importance of the so-called 'Role of Three'. We can typically remember three distinct things about any experience, says Mr Markman, and this goes for meetings and presentations, too.

To maximise our own thinking efficiency, we should be applying the 'Role of Three' process before, during and after important events.

After meetings or presentations, he says, take a few moments to remember the three core elements of the event, write them down or say them out loud, he suggests.


It will help to improve your knowledge and overall memory. And multitasking should go out the window.

"You cannot maximise the quality of new knowledge you are taking in if you do not give yourself an opportunity to pay attention," Mr Markman insists. "Pay attention. Don't multitask."

While such pieces of advice may seem like common sense -- and they are -- it is one of the attributes most of us possess but frequently ignore.

Mr Markman's book is a good read, and while the content may have been explored before by others, he presents it in an accessible and fresh way. Whether it can, as promised, teach you to "get the edge", will be entirely up to you.

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