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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Subject - Very Well Done
This wonderful book is very well written, insightful, and packed with practical advice. The science and theory are explained, but done in a way that is focused on what you can do to make use of those ideas. At heart this book is practical advice. This is not a hard book to read or comprehend. It is about 200 pages of extremely well organized material that is...
Published on January 6, 2012 by Book Fanatic

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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It has its strengths and weaknesses
I know Art Markman as a casual acquaintance, so I was doubly intrigued when the book was first published: I love books about better thinking strategies (have to recommend Six Thinking Hats) and the author was local. Nonetheless, the book and I got off to a rocky start after I read his statement that psychology was more important to teach than other sciences...
Published 14 months ago by W. Gordon


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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Subject - Very Well Done, January 6, 2012
By 
Book Fanatic (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This wonderful book is very well written, insightful, and packed with practical advice. The science and theory are explained, but done in a way that is focused on what you can do to make use of those ideas. At heart this book is practical advice. This is not a hard book to read or comprehend. It is about 200 pages of extremely well organized material that is explained very clearly. The author follows his own advice in introducing his topics in each chapter and ending each with a "takeaway" section that summarizes it very nicely. He seems well qualified for the topic on which he writes. The three key ideas of the book are Smart Habits, High-Quality Knowledge, and Applying Your High-Quality Knowledge.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their thinking. The chapter on analogy was by itself worth the price of the book. The explanations of memory were also excellent.

The book is organized in the following topic chapters:

What Is Smart Thinking?
Creating Smart Habits and Changing Behavior
Promoting Quality Learning by Knowing Your Limits
Understanding How Things Work
Making Comparisons and Applying Your Knowledge
Maximizing Memory Effectiveness
Smart Thinking in Practice
Creating a Culture of Smart

Two thumbs up for this excellent work.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Manual for Thinking, January 9, 2012
Every once in a while you need a manual to teach you how to do something. You can easily find books with detailed guidelines for how to cook, how to operate a camcorder, how to write good scholarly papers, etc. What you don't easily find is a manual that teaches you how to think. Well, if you're looking for one, look no more! You have just found it. Art Markman's book is a truly engaging and easy-to-read manual of how to think effectively. He provides a very simple formula (believe me: it IS simple) that promotes smart thinking. Even better: the success and the basis of this simple formula are explained (and supported) by a number of interesting findings in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science. Dr. Markman presents these findings in a very accessible way, with lots of examples, and even provides some "tasks" that you can use right away to start thinking more effectively. If you want to understand why we create habits -- and how to create smart ones --, how to apply the knowledge you already have to solve novel problems, and how to use smart thinking to get things done, you have to have this book. "The world needs more smart thinking"!!!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - if you pay attention, April 13, 2012
By 
Jack Reader "emanigol" (Dublin, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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It is easy to breeze through this book, getting a little here and a little there, then finish and feel like you got almost nothing out of it. It is perhaps that the structure of chapters is a little counter intuitive. There are points to remember, but they are buried in paragraphs without a clear outline. I wish there would be a little more structure or breakdown, clear outline of things. But do not give up.

Once you go back and start making notes, there is actually a wealth of useful, practical information waiting here to be incorporated in your life. Once you really get the point, the benefits are noticable almost instantly. Pay attention. Link information to your existing knowlledge. Be inquisitive. Know your limits. Know what you do not know. The most surprising fact is that while your life is built around almost automatic habits, your "smart thinking" can only be the result of breaking away from doing everything like an automaton. At the end I wish there would be more available material from the author.

You may not be the next Dyson. But hopefully you won't become one of the distracted, multitasking, absent-minded millions either...
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34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Applying cognitive science to everyday life, January 3, 2012
Art Markman is a leader in the field of cognitive psychology and is someone who has made an impressive career by studying how people think. His book Smart Thinking is, well, smart. Engagingly written, Markman describes the most effective ways for people to approach, think about, and learn about new problems.

This should be required reading for any student coming to college, new employee starting a career, or anyone who wants to be more thoughtful in life. Part "how-to" and part good science, this is a fun book to read. When you're finished, you will have a better understanding of how toilets flush, why proverbs are helpful, and why multitasking is evil.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Peter Drucker, April 30, 2013
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I cite the Drucker observation because it correctly suggests that misdirected efficiency is worse than no effort at all. Why? The problem to be solved is certain to become even worse, if neglected. As I began to read Art Markman's book, I was reminded of a passage from Judgment, a book co-authored by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis. In the first chapter, they assert that what really matters "is not how many calls a leader gets right, or even what percentage of calls a leader gets right. Rather it is important how many of the important ones he or she gets right." They go on to suggest that effective leaders "not only make better calls, but they are able to discern the really important ones and get a higher percentage of them right. They are better at a whole process that runs from seeing the need for a call, to framing issues, to figuring out what is critical, to mobilizing and energizing the troops."

Whatever its size and nature may be, every organization needs what Markman characterizes as "Smart Thinking" at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. That is, develop a culture within which everyone involved is prepared to solve new (i.e. unfamiliar) problems using the knowledge they possess including knowledge of where and how to obtain the additional information they may need. Decades ago, when responding to complaints about tuition increase at Harvard, Derek Bok observed, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." I agree, presuming to add that not knowing what you think you know but, in fact, don't is perhaps the most damaging form of ignorance. According to Markman, "Smart Thinking is like chess. Even though it may seem like Smart Thinking must be some kind of talent, it is really a skill" and almost anyone can master it.

o James Dyson: How did he come up with the idea for his vacuum? (Pages 8-13)
o The Formula for Smart Habits (33-41)
o Changing [Bad] Habits (44-54)
o Seeing Less Thank You Expect to See (60-71)
o Help Others Use the Role of 3 (81-98)
Note: This refers to "three simple steps": Prepare Pay Attention, and Review
o Fixing the Illusion of Explanatory Depth through Specific Thinking (110-118)
o Applying Your Knowledge (123-133)
o How Memory Works (159-162)
o A Language for Smart Thinking (174-177)
o Recommendations for Good Practice (186-192)
o Find New Solutions (195-198)
Note: In my opinion, this is one of the most insightful passages in the book. Re-read Drucker quote.
o Your Social Network and a Culture of Smart (207-210)
o Ten suggestions to create a "Culture of Smart" (210-229)

As Markman stresses at several points throughout his lively as well as informative narrative, Smart Thinking and intelligence are not the same. Whereas intelligence is defined as an inborn ability that determines how well you are going to be able to think, "Smart Thinking is really about the content of what you know and how you use it." As quoted earlier, "Smart Thinking is like chess. Even though it may seem like Smart Thinking must be some kind of talent, it is really a skill" and almost anyone can master it.
Markman wrote this book so he could share whatever information, insights, and counsel anyone may need to become and then continue to be a Smart Thinker, feeding the brain with new knowledge of a very high quality.

As I read this book, I was again reminded of an observation by Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." This is what Markman has in mind in Chapter Two when explaining how and why creating Smart habits will change both attitude and behavior. He notes two aspects of habits that promote Smart Thinking: The behaviors you perform habitually do not take up your precious cognitive resources" and "You do not have to create habits intentionally. They develop whenever there is a consistent mapping between your mental and physical environment and the behavior you want to carry out."

Becoming a Smart Thinker is essential to personal growth and professional development, to be sure, but it is also essential to developing a Culture of Smart. Before concluding his book, Art Markman provides and discusses ten specific initiatives that will help to establish and then enrich such a culture. All great leaders are Smart Thinkers who seem to have a "green thumb" for "growing" those with whom they are associated. That is the challenge and (yes) the privilege that they embrace.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting ideas for everyday life, April 11, 2012
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I started reading Art Markman's book Smart Thinking by pure chance, basing on an online recommendation. I thought Art Markman's ideas were quite interesting, and recommended the book to my friends and colleagues. The book includes practical ideas that can be applied to everyday life. It even changed my perspective on some topics. After reading the book, I realize that keeping my old habits (and doing the things the way I'm used to) will open up room for more creative ideas. The book is also well written, is easy to read and follow.. recommended!
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It has its strengths and weaknesses, October 12, 2013
By 
W. Gordon (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I know Art Markman as a casual acquaintance, so I was doubly intrigued when the book was first published: I love books about better thinking strategies (have to recommend Six Thinking Hats) and the author was local. Nonetheless, the book and I got off to a rocky start after I read his statement that psychology was more important to teach than other sciences.

The book has some solid ideas for improving thinking/recall strategies. For example, he puts into context the "rule of three" and the idea of telling people what you are going to tell them, telling them, and then telling them what you told them. He explains how previewing material allows people to start linking or scaffolding new information to prior knowledge, which then makes it more likely they will be able to recall the information.

On the other hand, I found the narrative tedious. The book's explanations drone on and on. The ideas are not so complex that they need copious examples. Of course, that would have meant that a short book could have been published as a long essay.

I also have a criticism of one specific idea he discusses towards the end of the volume - this is a prime example of how different disciplines invent unique terms to describe the same phenomena. He claims that some people have a high need for "closure" and others a low need. The former are quick to make decisions while the latter are slow. He provides an example of teens ordering ice cream flavors at an ice cream shop. One quickly makes a choice will the other is agonizing about which flavor to select. He discusses strategies for helping the one teen, while noting that making quick decisions is not always a "smart" strategy and offers advice in that context as well.

That would all be fine except economists have framed this entirely differently, and I think their framework makes more sense. They talk about "satisficers" and "optimizers." The former want to make a "just good enough" decision while the latter want to make "the best possible decision." Honestly, I don't really see how the teen agonizing between two ice cream flavors doesn't have a high need for closure. That teen is trying to make the best possible decision in that situation. The solution is not to flip a coin, as Markman suggests, but to recognize the behavior and that sometimes there is no one best solution, just a solution space of equally viable alternatives. (And why Markman, as the bystander, didn't suggest mixing a scoop of each, is beyond me.)
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart Doing, January 18, 2012
By 
Jeff Loewenstein (Champaign, IL United States) - See all my reviews
You will accomplish more if you take the advice in Smart Thinking, Art Markman's very useful book. The point of smart thinking, and Smart Thinking, is to do more and better. Solving problems is mostly about bringing knowledge to bear on them, so the book explains how to make sure you're using the knowledge you have, how to learn the kind of knowledge most likely to be useful, and how to form the habits that will make sure you continue to spend your energy on these valuable activities. The advice is grounded in research--including some of the author's own extensive work--and written so you not only know what to do, but why you're doing it. If smart is something you do, not something you are, Smart Thinking is a clear, start-to-finish guide to smart doing.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Think you know about thinking? Think again., January 7, 2012
Art Markman has written a brilliant, engaging book on a subject of paramount importance in every person's life - how to think effectively. After all, what skill is more valuable than being able to learn, reason, and solve problems to the best of your ability? What could give you a bigger advantage in the workplace or in your personal life? In clear, concise (and often quite funny) chapters that offer insight as well as practical guidance, Markman translates the science into plain English, showing us how we can learn more effectively and help others do the same. He describes how we reason and solve problems, and identifies ways to compensate for the biases in our thinking that can hamper our efforts. Markman points out that mental habits are the key to smart thinking, and teaches us how to form the habits we need to make the most of our potential. Smart Thinking is that rarest of books - a pleasure to read, and truly useful to boot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Book that Provides Different Advice on Becoming a Better Thinker, February 21, 2014
By 
Smart thinking is critically important in any endeavor. This book provides a different perspective from the usual books on improving your thinking. Markman's main advise is that you need to develop Smart Thinking habits to be able to be a better thinker. These habits includes habits to make certain behaviors routine; i.e. having a good time management system for example, so you don't waste a lot of time and effort organizing yourself, but also developing certain other habits that will help you access the information that you need when you need it. This is the key to being creative. According to Markman, you need to build what he calls High Quality Knowledge that you can tap into later when it's needed. For example, you need to have knowledge that is deep and does not leave out gaps. Many of us go through life with a certain amount of nonchalance when it comes to this. I tend to gloss over difficult concepts, thinking that it will all come together magically at some point in the future. That, unfortunately, is usually not the case. So you need to have deep knowledge about subjects, including deep causal knowledge, which is important to answer the question "why". One way to be creative is to relate new information to information you already have. Having High Quality Knowledge allows you to do that. You can then, for example, when confronted with a challenge ask "Where have I dealt with this before and how did I solve that?"

Markman provides specific techniques for opening your mind to new alternatives and innovative solutions. For example, move from the specific to the abstract; i.e. by describing a situation at a more abstract level you can begin to relate it to different situations that may have similar components and from that hatch new insights. Analogies are also therefore important, as they allow you to use abstract concepts to make comparisons and return to more specific ideas. This is another way of re-describing a problem to make new thoughts more accessible by highlighting the relational aspects of the situation rather than focusing solely on the objects. Interestingly, Markman suggest using proverbs to achieve this analogical stance. Markman claims that using proverbs allows you to categorize a problem based on its relational essence and thereby get at the root of the situation. I have not tried this approach yet but it seems very promising. These techniques force the thinker to move out of the problem's domain and into different domains that may provide innovative solutions. In some ways this is similar to De Bono's suggestion of using random words to stimulate new ideas.

Another technique recommended by Markman are self-explanations. In other words, teach yourself the subject you are trying to understand. Go over it and be honest about where you have gaps, and then go back and fill them in. In this way you can also avoid what he calls the Illusion of Explanatory Depth, something that I clung to dearly through most of my academic life, unfortunately.

One of the interesting and comforting things that Markman wrote, is that your memory did not evolve to be an accurate playback of your experience; rather it evolved to give you the information you need when you need it. As such you can focus on improving your habits to assist this function, rather than worrying about how you can turn your memory into the equivalent of a video recorder.
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