How to be an unorthodox thinker

I am currently spending some time with my parents and being with my father reminds me of what a contrarian he is. With a slightly cynical view, he comes at every issue from the opposite side to you and challenges your view. With any issue, he says, the first thing you must do is attack the orthodox view to ensure that it can stand up. To do that he reads widely so he has the tools at his disposal to attack your view. We talked about how he does this and below are his ten points on unconventional or unorthodox thinking.

  1. Look at your response to a situation and examine it critically. If the response makes sense to you then what would the nonsense response be?
  2. What is the orthodox view – what is everyone else saying about this issue? What is the contrary response and are you able to hold that contrary response and defend it?
  3. Sit in the contrary response for a period of time, at least a week. Explore it, read about it and discuss it. Does it change your point of view?
  4. After a week attack your original point of view, ideally in discussion with a friend who knows you well (because it’s fun to see the confused look on their face).
  5. Do you know other people who don’t think the same as you on a range of issues? Approach them for conversation, have a dinner party with a group of people that you know have diverse views and spend the night listening, not talking.
  6. Look at your information habits. Where do you get your information from? Do you read/watch/listen to a wide range of information providers. Bin your favourite news source for a month and instead subscribe to a news source that you have always derided/avoided.
  7. Read a book by an author whose views you find challenging.
  8. Look at how you make decisions. Take a decision you have made recently and think through the steps you took to get there. Now change the decision and work backwards developing the steps that would take you there.
  9. Spend a day making completely logical decisions. Spend the next day making instant intuitive decisions. What’s the difference between the two days?
  10. Don’t read/watch/listen to any information sources for a week. Instead develop a list of topics that you want to explore and write what you think about one each day. What do you really think about things and is there a coherence to how you approach issues?