REVIEW: "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning", Andy Hunt
- BKPTLRYW.RVW 20081128
"Pragmatic Thinking and Learning", Andy Hunt, 2008, 978-1-934356-05-0,
%A Andy Hunt andy@...
%C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
%G 978-1-934356-05-0 1-934356-05-0
%I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
%O U$34.95/C$34.95 707-829-0515 fax: 707-829-0104 nuts@...
%O Audience n Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 271 p.
%T "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware"
Paperbacks don't have endpapers, but there is an illustration before
the table of contents, which turns out to be a "back of napkin"
mindmap version of the table of contents.
Chapter one acts as an introduction to the book. It states that the
intention of the text is to allow you to redesign your brain so that
it works better. There are few specifics given at this point, but
there is a lot of emphasis on holistic, agile, and context. Models of
moving from ignorance to expertise, such at the Dreyfus model of
skills acquisition and the Shu Ha Ri martial arts model, are outlined
in limited fashion in chapter two. Unfortunately, the brevity of the
explanation leads to problems. The material is internally
contradictory: for example Dreyfus "proficient" level people are said
to "see the big picture" whereas novices are derided for considering
everything. Hunt notes that experts may not be capable of teaching or
outlining their field of expertise. This is unsurprising: teaching
and task analysis are not inate, but require specialized proficiency.
In chapter three Hunt proposes his own version of the "left
brain/right brain" hypothesis. Chapter four suggests various
exercises that may be helpful for promoting lateral or creative
thinking. A seemingly random collection of notions about human
thought biases are listed in chapter five. Hunt's assertion that
these prejudices generate problems appears reasonable, but some of the
items seem in odd contention with other material in the book.
(Earlier chapters rail against the overuse of the "logical" side of
the brain: here Hunt notes that one way to avoid irrational ideas is
to demand quantification.) Most of chapter six is about life-long
learning, although it starts with a distinct section suggesting that
you set goals for yourself. Some disjointed advice for learning by
experience is given in chapter seven. In contrast to the emphasis,
from chapters one and three, on divergent thinking, chapter eight
stresses the importance of narrowing your focus. Except that you have
to defocus in order to focus. Clean off your computer desktop: cut
down to one window. Except that you need to have some distractions
available ... Chapter nine encourages you to change.
There are some interesting ideas in the book. Individual items could
be useful for pushing thinking out of ingrained ruts. However, by and
large, the author promises more than he delivers.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKPTLRYW.RVW 20081128
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Why don't you write books people can read? - Nora Joyce, to James