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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

A man of science doesn’t discover in order to know, he wants to know in order to discover.
– Alfred North Whitehead

I spend a large part of each day getting information for other people. The requests come in a panic induced, chaotic deluge. And my response has become so regularised its often delivered in monotone:

What do you want to know? Where did you hear about it? How do you know you want this information? What do you want to do with it?

Most people know what the want to know. But it’s astounding to realise how few know what they want to do with it.

The Gestalt conception of thinking includes productive thinking and reproductive thinking.

Reproductive thinking involves the application of some previously acquired knowledge to a problem. These are copy-cats.

Productive thinking is the ability to go beyond past experience and produce something new in response to a problem.

Most people think they’re being productive when they’re being reproductive.

Here’s the clincher: What you want to do with information determines whether you’re being reproductive or productive. If you want to be reproductive – the answer to my line of questions is: I read this before, I want it again. I want to use it as a template for what I’m doing now.

When you’re being productive, the answer is: I have this idea, I was told this information might help me see it more clearly. It has nothing to do with what I have to deliver but it might help me do this new thing.

Neither mode of thinking is better than the other. But if you want to know in order to discover and you’re only being reproductive, you’re on the wrong track.

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