“It is an affair of instincts, we did not know we had them: we valued ourselves as cool calculators, we were very fine with our learning and culture, with our science that was of no country and our religion of peace … and now a sentiment mightier than logic, wide as light, strong as gravity, reaches into the college, the bank, the farmhouse, and the church. It is the day of the populace; they are wiser than their teachers.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1861


Google “do people like to think” and you get 3,420,000,000 results 0.50 seconds telling you how much people do not like to think beginning with “Let’s be honest: We live in a culture and a society of people who do not like to think. People complain that thinking gives them a headache.”

Let me be clear. With some context here is what I think they are saying <albeit I I think they have it wrong because they are talking about an open-ended question about open ended thinking>:

  • In a world trying to convince you to cram 100 pounds of shit to do in a 24-hour bag, 99% of people just don’t feel like they have the time for ‘possibilities thinking’ <no guarantee of value>.
  • In a world in which 100 pounds of information, some shit and some not shit, is dumped on you every moment of everyday thinking becomes a job in and of itself <its easier to just ignore than go to work thinking>. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out in this point that overstimulation is a nemesis to thinking and the world wide web is nothing if not an overstimulation machine.


Without that context I think it is different if people can think about something of which they find of value.  Yes. I have a belief that everyone likes to think and I actually see thinking as intrinsic self-validation.

That belief drove my own thoughts on the business model of the future, it drove how I managed people and it drives most of my interactions with people. Yeah. This can make me a bit of a pain in the ass for what many people would call ‘run of the mill conversations, but, no one has ever claimed I am boring. Needless to say, when I suggest “everyone likes to think” I get some pushback. Most likely I will get some version of “does everyone really like to think?”

So let me explain.

In fact. I will actually begin with doing.

We are all craftsman, craftswomen, in that we like to accomplish something in our ‘craft.’ But there are dimensions to this and, yes, they are personal. I don’t care if you are a janitor, teacher, floor manager, tech designer or call center supervisor, you may not use the word ‘craft’ in describing how you go about doing what you do, but when you take pride in what you do – it is a craft of some fashion. And, yeah, while many people will hesitate to say ‘craft’, 99.9% of people, when pushed, will point out some of the nuances in what they do that makes it uniquely challenging and of us. Yeah. That is describing a crafy. And, yeah, your ‘doing’ is your craft <it is a sense of ownership for the labor>. But. I would posit that everyone, craftspeople of all, find some value in the thinking within their craft. For many, going home and sitting at the kitchen table and proudly talking about the new Ford Mustang they are part of building is “showcasing their craft value.” Yes. It is grounded in doing and meets everyone’s most basic question at the table – ‘what did you do today.’ But another level would be if they went home and talked about how they were a part of a team/group discussing how the Ford Mustang could thrive in the EV (electric vehicle) world. Their family would look just a bit differently at them and they would feel like they were part of future decision-making. That’s an entirely different dimension of thinking. And you know what? It is all within grasp of every person working in a business. So, I see ‘thinking’ as not just noodling over some decision, but actually embedded value in doing and the future outcomes.

Which leads me to people having thoughts.

The world does its darndest to compress our wisdom, and knowledge, into almost meaningless shapes and sizes. What I mean by that is the world tries to convince you that what you are doing is NOT a craft, but commodity work. In doing so it creates a sense that work is mindless doing. Well. That’s bullshit. You are either crafting or part of a crafting system. Period. Craftwork demands some thought work. Simply because someone is trying to convince you all repetitive work is mindless or simply because much of what you do is driven by heuristic thinking does not mean the majority of what you do has some components, or dimensions, of embedded thinking. So, when I say people like thinking part of what I am suggesting is actually acknowledging your existing thinking, and thoughts, about the work you do now.


There was a book called Imagine: How Creativity Works <by Jonah Lehrer> who asks where good ideas come from.  John Lehrer argues that to assume creativity is some lofty trait enjoyed by the few is both foolish and unproductive. He suggests that innovation cannot only be studied and measured, but also nurtured and encouraged. I believe the same is true of thinking.

Thinking is often found in some fairly random nooks and crannies of different people. Oh. And it may not be ongoing. Some people are good for one great thought in their lifetime … and that is it. And others are just, well, damn good at it. But. That said. Everyone can think and in a cooperation environment a mix of thinkers will often beget the best conceptual thinking that will pragmatically exploit an opportunity.

To be clear. Some people are better at ‘thinking thinking’ than others and better at actually generating the concepts themselves. But everyone can think, contribute to thinking, and enjoy the fact that the ultimate output contains some aspect of their thinking.

Which leads me to what type of thinking supports my own thinking the best – conceptual thinking.

  • Conceptual thinking seems like it is positive, formative, creation, providing opportunities for possibilities and progress. At its best it seems abductive.
  • Critical thinking seems like it is creative destruction at its core – either deductive or inductive or, at its worst, reductive. But it seems like it is negative to gain a positive.

Both can be extremely effective, but conceptual thinking seems more inclusive.

Now. While it may appear I am simply suggesting thinking, particularly conceptual thinking, has value in and of itself, I am not. I am simply suggesting conceptual thinking is not only a thinking positive but also a doing positive. Yeah. While I believe most people do like to think at some point that thinking has to come to fruition in some tangible way to create ongoing continuous thinking <and improvement>. Therein lies my rationale for concepts and conceptual thinking. For it is within great conceptual thinking that a business discovers meaningful progress or, in the business word du jour, scaling success is found as well as individual value from thinking is generated.

So, the formula is found within individual thinking+contribution+cooperative/collective thinking+concept+implementation+progress+meaning <of the individual & group>.

All that said.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone that at the core of ‘everyone likes to think’ is the belief that no matter how mundane a job is, or how we make it out to be, there is an element of craftsmanship embedded within. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that thought, and crafting that attitude, would, in general, improve the overall health of business.

Just ponder it all.


There will be, of course, a number of people who truly do not want to think. In my experience these are not represented by some nebulous ‘blue collar’ label or even the less educated, but rather the professionals who I would label ‘the purposeful ignorant.’ They have discarded nuance and embraced simplistic memes and reductionism. They know of Ockham, but misunderstand what Ockham suggested. They bludgeon everyone with ‘least’ and ‘one thing’ forgetting true value is created by ‘saying the most with the least’ and forgetting that brevity does not mean stripping away the meaningful. They are the most egregious non-thinkers in that they actually can think well, but don’t.


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Written by Bruce