Systematic Thinkers

Systematic thinking is the foundation of all research. Germany has produced many great thinkers in the natural and social sciences. They are best known for their systematic approach.

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was the daughter of German nobility, but decided at an early age to join the Benedictine nuns. She went on to become one of the best educated and wisest of her era, advising secular and religious leaders throughout Europe. Hildegard’s fields of expertise ranged from theology to medicine, music, ethics and cosmology. Her discoveries and insights in the area of plant-based medicines are referred to today.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was one of the leading philosophers of the Enlightenment Age. His Kritik der reinen Vernunft is considered to be the starting point of modern philosophy, creating a new, systematic approach to inquiry. Kant addressed not only the theory of knowledge, but also ethics and aesthetics, the philosophy of religion, law and history, as well as astronomy and the geosciences.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is considered to this day to be the greatest of all German writers. His work encompassed, however, also the natural sciences including botany, optics and the philosophy of color – Farbenlehre.

Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a Prussian General and military theorist. His Vom Kriege (On War) a systematic approach to strategy, tactics and the philosophy of war, became the foundation of military thinking in all Western nations. Clausewitz’ writings went beyond how wars are won to address the overall nature and meaning of war in the modern world.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is renowned as a philosopher, political economist and social critic. Together with Friedrich Engels, Marx analyzed during the height of the industrial revolution the mutual influences and interactions between a society‘s consciousness and its economic system. Although Marxism has proven to fail in practice, it led to what many would consider significant social progress in public education, health care, social legislation. Marx’ writings contributed to the creation of labor unions.

Max Weber (1864-1920) was a German sociologist, legal scholar, and political economist. He is considered a founding father of modern sociology. Weber’s theories influenced greatly the so-called specialty areas of sociology: economics, religion, political power structures.

Karl Rahner (1904-1984) is considered to be the most influential Catholic theologian since Thomas Aquinas. His work opened up Catholic theology to a new and deeper understanding of faith. Rahner’s thinking influenced greatly the Second Vatical Council. Inspired by his studies under Martin Heidegger, Rahner synthesized Catholic theology with the philosophies of the modern era.

Credible and intelligent

“If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do. Couching familiar ideas in pretentious language is taken as a sign of poor intelligence and low credibility.”

From Thinking, Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman, 2002 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Overqualification

According to a recent study, almost half of all employed Americans with college degrees are overqualified for their jobs. In 2010, 15% of taxi drivers had bachelor’s degrees, compared to 1% in 1970, and 25% of retail sales clerks had bachelor’s degrees, compared to 5% in 1970.

In fact, U.S. overqualification has become such a large problem that in 2013, The Globalist published an article titled “The U.S. Overqualification Crisis: Why the United States is looking to Germany for answers on higher education.”

Now, many degree programs encourage American students to avoid doctorates and/or other certifications because having these will make it harder for the students to find jobs. Engineers are warned not to get certified as Professional Engineers (PEs,) because companies typically hire only a handful of licensed PEs, but hire many more unlicensed engineers.

American employers have several reasons why they avoid hiring people who are overqualified for a position. Some of their biggest reasons include:

Higher salary expectations – someone with more qualifications is likely to expect to be paid more money.

Promotion expectations – someone with more qualifications might accept a job that’s “beneath them” only because they expect to be promoted quickly to a job that’s more deserving of their higher skills.

Upstaging – someone who has more qualifications and/or experience than their boss might have difficulty following orders.

Short term – someone who is overqualified is likely to lose interest in their position, and won’t stay for very long.

Business Storytelling

Business Storytelling for Dummies. Author Karen Dietz. What does amazon(dot)com say about the book in order to promote it?

Learn to: translate data, facts, and figures into rich, captivating messages; harness the power of good storytelling to influence and motivate employees; effectively convey messages to buyers and funders; connect with your audience and drive your business to new heights; use storytelling to influence people and move them to action

Use stories to tap into their imaginations and translate sterile facts and stagnant case studies into exciting concepts they can identify with.

Break with Tradition

America is a nation of immigrants. Their forefathers and -mothers left everything they knew behind: country, language, customs, family, friends, traditions. Because they broke with the past – their own very personal past – they have less inhibition to further break away from traditions in order to plot a new course.

Between 1881 and 1920 two of the largest waves of immigration hit the United States. In those years more than 23 million immigrants arrived, the majority of them were from eastern and southern Europe. They were a long way from home.

Ten Slides

Imagine the same task given to ten different Americans, in ten different companies, in ten different business sectors. A thousand people. They’re asked to use a maximum of ten slides in a presentation in order to persuade an audience of fellow Americans about the virtues and value of their product, service, idea, concept, recommendation.

On average, how many slides would the Americans use to explain the present (current situation), the past (how the present was arrived at), and the future (the desired situation)?

Searing

Searing: Very hot; marked by extreme intensity, harshness, or emotional power.

The United States is an immigrant country. More accurately stated: a younger, more recent immigrant country. For the history of mankind is the history of man moving, settling, then picking up and moving again.

There were and are reasons for why people moved and continue to move to the United States. Many seek greater freedom of thought, of religion, of way of life. Economic opportunity was/is certainly a motivation for many, if not most. And there are those who wanted to break out of the inflexible structures of their native country.

The immigrant experience is searing. It is of great emotional intensity, forming who we are as individuals, families, ethnic communities, and as a nation. The stories, the emotions, the choices made are passed down from generation to generation.

Oddly, but understandably, an American of German descent will say: “I’m German,” meaning, “My ethnic heritage is German,” in a deeper sense, “My national cultural hard-wiring is American and German,” just as it is for others: American and Italian, American and Irish, and Vietnamese, and Mexican, and Polish, and so on.

A searing experience. People left behind all that they knew. Language, culture, traditions, friends and relatives. The risks were both high and not entirely known. The immigrant experience leads to a complex relationship with what was once home. For people take their culture with them. National culture changes only slowly and painfully.

Immigrants admire, respect, long for their home. But they also leave it behind, in some ways they reject it. Americans have always seen America as the New World. Not just a new settlement, a new country. But a new world, as if mankind were starting afresh, anew. It is a part of the American self-understanding to believe that you can strike out on a new path, question old ways, methods, traditions.

Realistic for Americans means that the present is a starting point to the future, a new starting point towards a new future, possibly different and better than the past. Yes, the present is the result of the past, but not locked into a pre-determined, unalterable trajectory. The past, therefore, has less relevance. There is less need to explain how the present was arrived at.

Whereas for Germans realistic means “keeping your feet on the ground,” maintaining a sober view of the situation, not deviating too much from known ways; “knowing where you come from.” For Americans realistic means developing a vision, imagining new possibilities, stretching beyond, reaching for more and greater things.

Feynman on Simplicity

Feynman-thoughts on simplicity:

You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity. When you get it right, it is obvious that it is right – at least if you have any experience – because usually what happens is that more comes out than goes in. Sympathetic Vibrations

When I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real, I wasn’t upset; rather, I was relieved that there was a much simpler phenomenon to explain how so many children all over the world got presents on the same night! The story had been getting pretty complicated. It was getting out of hand. What Do You Care What Other People Think?

We can’t define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: “You don’t know what you are talking about!”. The second one says: “What do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?”  The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. I, 8-2

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry. The Character of Physical Law

Richard P. Feynman

Richard Feynman was an American physicist who is best known for his work on QED (quantum electrodynamics, and a pun on the Latin phrase ‘quod erat demonstrandum’). He also developed the now-standard Feynman diagrams and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

Feynman was a strong advocate for simplicity and explaining things so that the average person could understand them. He believed that anyone who understood something should be able to explain it to a layperson.

In fact, he believed this so vehemently that once, when he was asked to explain why spin one-half particles obey Fermi Dirac statistics, Feynman initially said that he would prepare a freshman lecture on the subject.

Later he admitted “You know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don’t understand it.” It’s also believed that Feynman said “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.”

Native American Oral Tradition

When European explorers and settlers first arrived in America, there were hundreds of different American Indian nations. Although these tribes had different languages and cultures they shared a rich oral tradition.

The stories that these nations passed down recorded everything from history to cultural beliefs and even to science and technology. Studies by anthropologists David Pendergast and Clement Meighan have shown clear evidence that Native American oral traditions contain real history, and Stephen J. Augustine, the Hereditary Chief and Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, has said about the oral tradition that

“(The Elders) did joke with each other and they told stories, some true and some a bit exaggerated, but in the end the result was a collective memory. This is the part which is exciting because when each Elder arrived they brought with them a piece of the knowledge puzzle.

They had to reach back to the teachings of their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. These teachings were shared in the circle and these constituted a reconnaissance of collective memory and knowledge. In the end the Elders left with a knowledge that was built by the collectivity.”

Many of the newcomers to America came from cultures that preferred written factual documents over spoken storytelling, and contact with the natives soon blended the two traditions. Now most education and oration in the US contains both forms of information: anecdotal and factual.