May 1, 2023 • 5 min read • Monthly Brief • Second-Order Thinking
Can we predict the future?
“There are unintended consequences to everything,” Steve Jobs said. Even so, Apple became a tech giant while other businesses floundered in the face of the unexpected. The difference is Second-Order Thinking: making decisions not based on immediate results but long-term outcomes. This month at Synthesis, we’ll help your child build the mental muscles to think two steps ahead.
Here’s how we’re going to do it:
Week 1: First-Order Thinking.
This week students zoom in on the decision-making process itself. Understanding what drives “gut reactions” is a critical step in moving towards second-order thinking.
Week 2: Outcome Mapping.
Predicting the future isn’t magic. In this session, students practice the process of determining possible outcomes and making rational decisions based on them.
Week 3: Ripple Effects.
Students continue the process from the previous week with added complexity: working with, instead of against, their peers.
Week 4: Incomplete Information.
Students apply what they’ve learned to interpret the actions of others in complex, non-zero-sum situations.
Week 5: Nth-Order Thinking.
In a culminating challenge, students think through multiple layers of consequences to obtain a competitive edge.
Sometimes the “obvious answer” is wrong.
A decision with positive first-order impacts may lead to negative ones down the line, and vice versa. We won’t try to tell your students what choices to make in any given situation, but we will give them space to practice recognizing and weighing downstream consequences.
What you can do:
If you’re interested in supporting your students at home, visit Second-Order Thinking: Continuing the Conversation with Your Student for resources and discussion starters.
You can also join us for parent events:
READ OTHER CONCEPTS
Continuing the Conversation: TEAM DYNAMICS
How do you know what you know?
Continuing the Conversation: FIRST PRINCIPLES
Is risk a good thing, or a bad thing?
Continuing the Conversation: RISK