The tools of deep thinking

Deep thinking is one cool attribute that lots of persons want to equip with. As lots of other skills, it should not only depend on your natural quality. There should be some methodology or tools to help you shape this skill and improve it with your practice. I’d like to share some of my insights about this topic.

Some of people refuse to accept or find these tools to improve their thinking technique. They’d treat theses stuff with more emotional things. They often think: improve thinking? Can’t I think myself? Do you mean I can’t handle my own brain? Are you insulting me? For this, I think people give much more bias on things related to their half-mature field. It’s just like:

  • If you want to go far away, e.g. go aboard crossing ocean, it’s acceptable that you can’t finish these journey just by walking. It’s nice to use tools like cars, planes to help you reach your target place.
  • If you want to find some information, it’s acceptable that you can’t only use your hands and eyes to go through lots of stuff. It’s nice to use tools like search engine Google to help you find what you want.
  • If a doctor want to find the structure of bacterial groups, it’s acceptable that he/she can’t only use his/her own eyes to begin research. It’s nice to use tools like microscope to help he/she find the real details in micro world.

So, why is it unacceptable to use some tools to improve your thinking technique?! People often treat the things that they can’t do even exhaust all their energy with more objective mind; on the other hand, treat things that they can but not with mature ability with more emotional, insulting considerations.

Drop these stupid bias, thinking about your target! If you do want think deep and find more things that others can’t know, just keep searching and using tools which can improve your skills.

In my opinion, ask questions, practice and writing are the 3 main tools to help you shape your deep thinking. If you read one snippet of code, read one piece of paper or blog post, you should not stop at reading them.

  • You need to ask quite enough supposed questions, based on your question list, on these materials to help you think deep and complete.
  • You need to practice the solutions or functionality of your code. Because we people are not good at observing what we don’t know. But once we use the tool of practice, you can immediately find lots of hidden details and great amount of misunderstood and unknown parts in current material. So, if your goal is mastering your materials, you should not research them just by your intuition, you need the help of practice tool to find unknown things. It’s just like we use radar, microscope and telescope to observe things beyond our vision. So does the thinking. If the depth of thinking beyond our intuition, we need to use the tool of practice to probe more hidden sides.
  • You need to summarize your work when you finish one session of your work or life experience. But summary is another kind of anti-intuition behavior. You can’t give a complete, logical and profound summary unless you use the tool of writing! Human beings don’t have large memory and tedious processor like computer. Thus we can’t extract the core parts easily and obviously from lots of disorder tedious details. We have to use the tool of writing to get our ideas into shape. We need to use tool, but just the mind tool.

Ask Questions

Each filed has its unique thinking way, ponder perspective, and core thinking. When you learn something in one field, the most valuable thing is not the domain knowledge, but the domain thinking way. To concretize the thinking way, ponder perspective, and domain thinking, the most important thing you need is to collect and find the questions list of this field.

When you inspect one field, you need to spend more time on talking with experts and collecting information like books or papers first. And then, dig out what questions when the domain expert dealing with problem in the field. In fact, the thinking perspective and thinking way are constituted with lots of questions, i.e. the questions list. The angle of your consideration and the emphasis of your concern, are all expressed with a series of questions. Human beings are not sensible to go through deep of one topic. It’s the original survive way that making quick feedback based on superficial phenomena. Thus, you need the help of question guidance. People are easy to dig into details when they have some questions in mind. How to dig this topic, in which way to explain your research and how to deal problems are totally depend on what question you’d ask, which is the so called thinking perspective. People’s mind are problem oriented. If you don’t have problems, the process of exploring can proceed. And the problems can guide your direction, because your exploring are rigorous based on your problem chain. If this chain proceeds to island A, you can reach A to find corresponding scope. If your problem chain guides you to island B, you’ll take a glimpse of B but without the chance to seeing what happen in island A. Thus, in order to take lots of views and find more valuable information, you need to work on how to organizing your problem chain, i.e. the questions list. If you can find out or build a valuable problem chain, you will get larger probability to get valuable information. But if you don’t spend time on building your problem chain, or you even don’t have one question list, well, you’d be in a very dangerous place.

If we push this topic further, the more valuable questions list should have the ability to become framework of the field. The importance of framework questions list is: in order to construct the whole field, or in order to answer any questions in this domain, they all can be answered by the combinations and deductions from the questions on the framework questions list. That’s why they called framework questions. Because these questions can support the whole field. Thus, when you prepare your questions list, you need to refine it to be the framework questions list.

And when you become more familiar with your field, you need to ask some meta question, i.e. build your meta questions list:

  1. Why is the question list necessary?
  2. Why is the question on your list matter for this field?
    a. Is it really worth caring?
    b. Is it possible that this is not the right question, you need to provide your own really correct question?
    c. How could you prove that yours is better?
    d. If you think this question is not necessary, could you prove why it’s not valuable?
    e. Is your proof based on data reality, or just your field bias? E.g., lots of technician can’t understand the history and politics. They think that area is no logic and not worth thinking deep. I think it’s most due to the engineer doesn’t know the humanity field questions list first. And then, they don’t research why their questions list is necessary, why is that piece of questions list existing, and what problems they are solving. They think their engineering tools, i.e. questions list, can solve all kinds of problems in the world. But they’re wrong. Every field contains its unique characteristics. You do need to spend time and energy on researching it, collecting the questions list, and think more about the hidden reasons of these thinking framework.
  3. Is your question list based only on other one’s opinion?
  4. Does it contain your own thinking?
  5. Does it verify by your own practice experience?
  6. Does your question list need to update dynamically?
  7. How do you distinguish the dynamic part and the stable part?


Most people undertake the impact of practice. From the concept of deliberate practice, the experiment, the implementations are the only way to indicate and guide you. You can’t know what situation you’re, how the market is, you can’t just predict the feedback of market, you can only know it by practice, by your concrete experiments. Like in the Lean Startup‘s concept, that’s the vital.

In order to get the hidden places and information, you need to jump into details, which only the practice can provide you. All the models and abstraction is the excerpt for it, it can’t conclude more. The model is built based on some purposes. And these purposes determine which part will be removed to better serve your problem. But once you get different problem, the previous simplification won’t be suitable for this part. That would be totally wrong. You do need to rebuild your model from scratch. But that requires you dig into details with practice.



As Steve Jobs considering PC as the bicycle of thinking, the writing is also the tool of expression thinking. Human beings are always prefer to visible things. If our thinking only stops into our brain, it’s hard to manipulate it and do complex operations around it. We can’t do something precise firstly, and then organize them piece by piece and then decorate it with our characters.

But once we can writ them down, things’re changing immediately! You can not only finish them complicated things mentioned above, but also make your inspiration flowing naturally. People who love writing must experience lots of times that the writing itself will trigger the writer to think deeper and create what the author doesn’t notice or even doesn’t know before. These things may hidden in the potential, but you can’t dig them out unless through the journey of writing.

TK The writing of every term is like making one knot. When lots of knots being accumulated, you can build one net. Then, you can use this net to cover one field and catch fish.

To be continued …

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