Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Cognitive Mind

Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

A cognitive mind is the effective instrument to deal with today’s complexity and has the capability to help solve complex problems. In science, cognition is the set of all mental abilities and process related to knowledge, attention, memory, and judgment & evaluation, reasoning & computation, problem-solving & decision-making, comprehension & production of languages, etc. Cognition is by humans conscious and unconscious, concrete or abstract, as well as intuitive (like knowledge of a language) and conceptual (like a model of a language). Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.” (Wikipedia). So what’s the purpose of such mindset and how to shape it?

In pursuit of knowledge: The most important capability of cognitive mind is the willingness and ability to seek out acknowledge, and address our ignorance and the assumptions we make to minimize it. The challenge is in different scenarios, there are different unknowns. There is known unknown and unknown unknown, the next important cognitive capability is the willingness and ability to acquire the different types of information we need to answer different questions. So what would be necessary for us is to be (1) willing and (2) able to acquire various types of information?

An understanding of purpose: Both willing and able to acquire various types of information begin with an understanding of purpose; what is it we want to achieve? Willingness to acquire additional information begins with an acceptance you do not know enough to achieve your purpose; you recognize a gap in the knowledge you have and value in closing the gap. Ability to acquire additional information also begins with knowing what questions to ask to close the knowledge gap. To recognize the gap, you must acquire the necessary knowledge you need to achieve a particular purpose. There are four fundamental knowledge gaps one might need to close to achieve one’s purpose and cultivate a cognitive mind: (1) what do we need to know to achieve our purpose? (2) what does change to produce unacceptable performance?(3) what should change to meet expectations?; and (4) what could change to prevent you from achieving the purpose? Although reducing all of the issues to four paradigms can have the appearance of oversimplification, it does enable us to understand the different information we need to reach different conclusions and then consider the different tools and techniques available to gather, sort, organize, and analyze that information.

Frame the right questions and answer them. From leadership and management perspective, the cognitive processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts, they are striving to answer five key questions:

(1) What is the gap between the complexity of leaders' roles and leaders' minds? (how big is the "complexity gap" really?)

(2) What is the "complexity" between the levels of hierarchical complexity at which a leader can currently operate at vs. what is the level of hierarchical complexity at which at leader needs to operate at given the decision she/he needs to make in her role?
(3) Which developmental interventions are most effective at fostering mental growth in leaders so that they thrive in complexity?
(4) How effective are leaders in tackling complex organizational/social/global issues once they have experienced advanced mental growth?
(5) How do we achieve the greatest mental growth from the least investment?

The literature in human development would suggest that there are many processes which play a causal role in helping people to shape a cognitive mind that can operate at higher levels of complexity. Knowledge/information acquisition (with a very specific emphasis on taking, coordinating and integrating multiple perspectives) is one of these processes which can be deliberately used to fostered human development. There are definitely new skills and processes emerging in response to the complex issues we create and face today.  


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