Swarm Thinking: Know — Think — Choose — Do

Dr. Jamie Schwandt
Nov 17 · 5 min read
Image created by Dr. Schwandt via Thortspace

“I would simply say: Think of everything you never heard of and everything you never did in a class. Now do them, That would be this course.” — Anthony Washington, FHSU Student

My intention is for this to be a quick discussion on a new way of thinking. Swarm Learning (SL) is a teaching methodology I created to teach students how to think, not what to think. SL uses continuous student feedback to change a class while in progress. However, the intent of this discussion is not to discuss SL, but to highlight a key mechanism within SL called Swarm Thinking. For more on SL, visit my website jamieschwandt.com.

A student of mine recently made a connection between SL and Systems Thinking v2.0. My class completes weekly Plectica Concept Maps (CM) and one of them recently combined the two: Swarm Learning and Systems Thinking. I’m not sure if it was done intentionally or if my student meant to discuss Systems Thinking, but Nathan Dooley called it Swarm Thinking. Regardless, I thought it was a simple and brilliant combination.

Derek and Laura Cabrera, creators of Systems Thinking v2.0 (DSRP) and Plectica, use what are called Cognitive Jigs to connect ideas and increase the speed of thought. Using what they call an RDS Barbell, I took Nathan’s remark about Swarm Thinking and made it as a mechanism of SL.

Swarm Thinking RDS Barbell — Image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

Never do the same thing twice

“I need you to be clever, Bean. I need you to think of solutions to problems we haven’t seen yet. I want you to try things that no one has ever tried because they’re absolutely stupid.” ― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

I was reading Orson Scott Card’s book — Ender’s Shadow — when Nathan made the remark. Without going into a discussion of the book — although I highly recommend reading it — the following discussion provided the connection I made with Swarm Thinking:

“No point in getting emotional about anything. Being emotional didn’t help with survival. What mattered was to learn everything, analyze the situation, choose a course of action, and then move boldly. Know, think, choose, do.”

Beane, the main character of Ender’s Shadow, uses the following internal guidance system or mental filter: Know Think Choose Do. This is similar to John Boyd’s famous Boyd cycle or Observe — Orient — Decide — Act (OODA) loop.

A fluid — unpatterned attack

“Keep a shifting pattern of movement going in front of the door. you never hold still when the enemy knows exactly where you are.” — Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

Using an innovative program called Thortspace, I created a video with an abstract demonstration of Swarm Thinking. Here, think of Know — Think — Choose — Do (KTCD) as simple rules withing Swarm Thinking.

To try and connect this abstract thought to reality, I thought of Swarm Thinking in the same way T.E. Lawrence described Time — Space — Force in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He sought to:

“Use the smallest Force in the quickest Time at the farthest place [Space].”

In SAS Zero Hour: The Secret Origins of the Special Air Service, Tim Jones describes T.E. Lawrence strategy as:

“The crux was to ‘impose on the Turks the longest possible passive defence, by using a highly mobile, highly equipped striking force of the smallest size against widely ‘distributed points of the Turkish line.”

“This would oblige the foe to strengthen their posts or withdraw in the face of maximum loss and discomfort. It was psychological as well as a physical war that Lawrence sought to wage, aiming to arrange the minds of the enemy by playing the cards of speed and time, not hitting power.”

“He would achieve victory without battle, using the desert where range was more than force, speed greater than the power of armies.”

“Lawrence summarised his raiding ideas and drew an analogy between naval warfare and his ‘unorthodox’ parties. He argued that guerilla action should mirror that on the sea with respect to mobility, ubiquity, independence of bases and communications, ignoring of guard features, of strategic areas, of fixed directions, of fixed points.”

“Camel-borne groups — literal ships of the desert — would be self-contained like ships on the ocean.”

T.E. Lawrence came up with three specific elements of war, which I am using within SL (implied in Swarm Thinking): Hecastics (algebraic), Bionomics (biological), and Diathetics (psychological). For more on this discussion, I recommend reading A Theoretical Exploration of Lawrence of Arabia’s Inner Meanings on Guerrilla Warfare.

Positional and Situational Awareness

“Using the smallest force in the quickest time at the farthest place.” — T.E. Lawrence

To further connect this discussion to reality, I connected two ideas: Direction-Sense Test and SWOT Analysis in Chess. This assisted me in moving from the completely abstract (as illustrated in the image below) to something that is a little more practical.

Image created by Dr. Schwandt via Thortspace

Essentially, I am using the Strengths — Weaknesses — Opportunities — Threats (SWOT) analysis as a guidance system to find bearing in situational and positional awareness. The following videos helped me connect the ideas:

Thinking with no up and no down

“Soldiers and commanders would have to think very differently in space, because the old ideas of up and down simply wouldn’t apply anymore.” — Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

Image created by Dr. Schwandt via Mindly

In the development of this idea, I used another innovative program called Mindly. The following demonstrates the development of the idea.

Whole:

Parts:

To complete this abstract discussion, go to the following Thortspace presentation for an idea on how to practically apply Swarm Thinking in positional and situational awareness.

Swarm Thinking: SWOT

Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Written by

Dr. Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an American author, L6S master black belt, and red teamer.

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