Rethinking How We Think

ISBN (print): 978-1-7322190-4-5
ISBN (e-book): 978-1-7322190-8-3
Price (print): $15.95
Price (e-book): $2.99
Pages: 160
Size: 6″ x 9″
Publication date: March, 2019
Ordering:, Ingram
front cover | back cover
Amazon author page

Rethinking How We Think brings a cognitive science lens to the concept of Cultural Maturity, the critical notion within Creative Systems Theory’s framework for understanding what it means to be human that our time’s are demanding—and making possible—new, more mature ways of thinking and acting. The book expands on the essential recognition that Cultural Maturity’s necessary new step in our human development is about more than just new values and beliefs. Cultural Maturity’s changes have their roots in a fundamental kind of cognitive reorganization. From the book’s back cover:

“If we look closely at any of the most critical questions ahead for the species, we find an easily unsettling common theme. Not only do usual answers fail us, usual ways of thinking fail us. Essential challenges of every sort are requiring not just fresh insights, but whole new, more mature and systemic, ways of understanding. Effectively engaging this needed “growing up” in how we understand will be critical to moving forward as a species.

Rethinking How We Think examines what makes needed new ways of understanding new and how they will be necessary to a healthy, and perhaps even just survivable, human future. In addition, it address how more mature ways of thinking can be practiced and how, when we are ready for them, they can feel like common sense. Rethinking How We Think is an exploration of the conceptual underpinnings—and the radical implications— of the future’s needed new common sense.”

Creative Systems Theory calls the needed cognitive reordering Integrative Meta-perspective. The term is a mouthful, but it gets quite precisely as what is involved. With culturally mature perspective we at once more fully step back from and more deeply engage the whole of our cognitive complexity. The result is a new more dynamic and complete, more “whole-box-of-crayons” vantage for understanding ourselves and the world around us.

Some provocative questions that the book addresses: 

—Why today do we see such extreme social and political polarization (and what will it take to get beyond it)?

—What are the future challenges that are most likely to be our undoing as a species (and what will be required to avoid this fate)? 

—Why today do we find denial in relationship to so many challenges that are obviously critical—climate change and the extinction of species, for example (and what will it take for us to see more clearly and think more responsibly)? 

—What makes the new ways of understanding needed to address such challenges possible (given that they might seem like too much to hope for)?

Some of the book’s essential observations: 

—Effectively addressing the most important questions before us will require new human skills and capacities, in the end, an essential “growing up” as a species.  

—This new chapter in our human development, what CST calls Cultural Maturity,  depends not just on thinking new things, but on thinking in new ways, on a fundamental new kind of cognitive organization.

—Our historical tendency to think in “either/or”, “chosen people/evil other” terms is a direct product of how we have thought in times past. That new kind cognitive organization, what the theory calls Integrative Meta-perspective, offers the possibility of thinking in more encompassing, more dynamic and systemic ways.  

—We can understand today’s extreme social and political polarization as a regressive response to today’s immense challenges and Cultural Maturity’s cognitive “growing up” as the necessary solution. 

—While our times present immense challenges, in the end what is being asked of us is straightforward. You can think of it as a new “common sense.” What is different is that this is a maturity of common sense that we are only now beginning to grasp and becoming able to apply. 

Summary reflections adapted from the book’s last chapter provide insight into the importance and larger implications of Integrative Meta-perspective:

“Integrative Meta-perspective is striking in its conceptual spareness. In the sense that it is a single brushstroke notion, it could not be simpler. And at the same time, the way it alters understanding alters everything.

—Integrative Meta-perspective both challenges us to rethink the human story and makes it possible to do so. It highlights the limitations of modern age heroic and romantic worldviews and also more recent postmodern beliefs and invites a new kind of answer to the question of narrative. The concept of Cultural Maturity, a direct product of Integrative Meta-perspective’s new vantage, offers a new North star able to effectively guide us going forward and an antidote to today’s Crisis of Purpose.

—Integrative Meta-perspective brings important new emphasis to how deeply we are responsible. By taking us beyond parental notions of cultural truth, it makes us more explicitly responsible not just for our actions, but also for the beliefs on which we base our actions. And by helping us better take everything that needs to be included into account, it offers the possibility of basing our answers on new, more mature kinds of values and ways of understanding. Integrative Meta-perspective’s new emphasis on how deeply we are responsible takes particularly pointed expression today in the importance of redefining wealth and progress.

—Integrative Meta-perspective propels us beyond ideological easy answers of all sorts. By more consciously drawing on the whole of our own cognitive complexity, it helps us leave behind the mythologizings and projections that in times past have protected us from life’s easily over whelming complexities and think in new, more complete ways. It helps us to both better get at the questions that ultimately need to be addressed and better get our minds around more systemically conceived solutions. In the process, it offers a way beyond the extreme polarization and partisanship that so often defines our time.

—Integrative Meta-perspective invites the possibility of more Whole-Person/Whole-System relationships. In doing so, it also challenges us to conceive of identity more systemically. We find this essential expansion in how we relate to others and to ourselves in every part of our lives—from the most private of personal connectings, to the bonds that link leaders and follows of all sorts, to relationships between social groups, from organizations to nation states.

—Integrative Meta-perspective helps us appreciate how questions of all sorts must be understood in relationship to larger change processes. In offering that we might more effectively step back from experience over time, it makes obvious that what is true at one moment is not necessarily true at another. And by drawing on intelligence’s multiple aspects, it makes us more generally able to think in ways that take change into account.

—Integrative Meta-perspective provides an array of additional new skills and capacities that will be increasing essential to addressing tasks of all sorts—from a new willingness to acknowledge ultimate limits to the ability to better tolerate uncertainty. Such new capabilities are pertinent at once to the realizing of important new possibilities and to avoiding consequences that could result in our demise as a species. They need not be invented or taught. Once we step over Cultural Maturity’s threshold, at least their potential comes with the territory. 

—Finally, Integrative Meta-perspective invites us to develop fundamentally new kinds of ideas. In altering not just what we think, but what it means to think, it makes possible ways of understanding that more effectively honor the fact that we are living, human beings. Throughout these pages, we’ve glimpsed how Creative Systems Theory offers an example of this new kind of conceptual sophistication. CST illustrates how Integrative Meta-perspective opens the door to a kind of very big-picture, long-term, multidisciplinary thinking that has not before been an option.”

The book’s concluding paragraphs help bring together where the book takes us and what it attempts to accomplish:

“While the outcome with Culturally Maturity’s cognitive changes may ultimately be simple and common sense, we can’t escape that culturally mature thinking and policy is today as yet rare. With most all the issues I have touch on in this book, for the majority of people the needed greater sophistication of understanding remains decades in the future. The situation is made worse by how in recent times we have often seen backsliding in our efforts to take on what more is required of us.

“Just where does that leave us? I’ve noted how Integrative Meta-perspective, beyond being in the end straightforward, brings with it an important additional kind of “good news.” The changes that make it possible do not need to be created from whole cloth. At least their potential is developmentally built into who we are. Were this not the case, we would certainly be doomed. But possibility it not destiny. Most surely we will now and then stumble and fall on the way to that realization, quite possibly in ways with at least short term cataclysmic consequences. My hope in writing this book is to contribute in some small way to engaging the necessary growing up on which our future depends—and perhaps to doing so with some degree of foresight and elegance.”