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How To Use Creative Techniques Within the Zettelkasten Framework

imageHow To Use Creative Techniques Within the Zettelkasten Framework

One of the greatest difficulties in understanding the Zettelkasten Method is to separate its specific characteristics from actual knowledge work. Or, how I like to phrase it: “Link knowledge, not notes.” Working with our Zettelkasten is the physical (or digital) manifestation of our thinking. It provides a framework that allows us to think through writing and to create an increasingly complex thinking machine that can help us think deeper than being on our own. The Zettelkasten Method provides a framework for our thinking, but does not prescribe what and how we think.

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  • An additional explanation:

    All those techniques are frame works of thinking that work as some kind of relational mini-map when you try to explore an unknown field. The Compass of Zettelkasten thinking for example would enable you to traverse the field by giving you cursor buttons. Kind of similar to explaining a non-gamer how to move in a videogame by explaining a controller.

    The five aspects of knowledge (knowledge flower) is similar in that regard. It is just a different controller that enables more complex motion through the knowledge scape.

    I am a Zettler

  • Wow! Thanks for the flower graphic. It's a lovely reminder to put the essential aspects of an idea in a tight relationship with the "tools of thought" that support the idea.

    I've been thinking about drilling hard and deep into my reading process, squeezing as much of the knowledge as I can. You have provided an all-around excellent queue/prompt to ask when reading. When confronting an author's idea, show me the truth, relevance, usefulness, beauty, and simplicity.

    How might this fit in with the Bar-Bell Method of reading?
    The care and attention devoted to exploring and thinking about an idea naturally slows reading and zettelkasting. This tool's utility lies on a spectrum. Some ideas are interesting bits of trivia that live on one end of the spectrum, and some ideas are an avalanche of awesome, requiring all the "tools of thought" in one's toolbox.

    I want to add something to this discussion, but I'm not sure I can. I don't know about you, but this will be something I'll be thinking about and applying in the coming days. Given my history, I'll slip back into old reading habits without this curious and critical look at the ideas presented in my reading. Do you have tips for how to keep this "tool of thought" in the front of mind?

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
    kestrelcreek.com

  • edited October 17

    @Will said:
    When confronting an author's idea, show me the truth, relevance, usefulness, beauty, and simplicity.

    Do you have tips for how to keep this "tool of thought" in the front of mind?

    While reading the author’s ideas

    • beauty and simplicity grab my ATTENTION
    • relevance and truth grab my INTEREST
    • emotional connection leads to DESIRE
    • usefulness supports my decision to follow the call and leads to ACTION.

    Yes, and it looks like AIDA, one of the classic marketing models. Useful for selling products, services and maybe although for ideas?!?

    Now we have 6 aspects and 5 petals? Yes, the emotional connection is represented by the flower itself.

  • A very encouraging article. Thanks for posting this. So many great ideas in this forum.

  • @Will said:
    Wow! Thanks for the flower graphic. It's a lovely reminder to put the essential aspects of an idea in a tight relationship with the "tools of thought" that support the idea.

    I've been thinking about drilling hard and deep into my reading process, squeezing as much of the knowledge as I can. You have provided an all-around excellent queue/prompt to ask when reading. When confronting an author's idea, show me the truth, relevance, usefulness, beauty, and simplicity.

    How might this fit in with the Bar-Bell Method of reading?
    The care and attention devoted to exploring and thinking about an idea naturally slows reading and zettelkasting. This tool's utility lies on a spectrum. Some ideas are interesting bits of trivia that live on one end of the spectrum, and some ideas are an avalanche of awesome, requiring all the "tools of thought" in one's toolbox.

    I think the Barbell Method is more suited for such deep processing of ideas since it allows you both modes of reading: Reading fast with getting the whole picture in mind (first round of reading) and then zooming in into the individual idea to process it (second round of reading). Both are processes that need to happen anyhow but are separated to different zones in one schedule. This allows for a more concentrated way of working but is sadly not possible if one has a lot difficulty to understand the book (possible reasons: difficult topic, not familiar with the topic etc.).

    These five aspects allow for structured unfolding of an idea. That makes the knowledge flower a great fit for the second reading. I don't think that one should force oneself to use the knowledge flower as a tool for analysis during the first reading since you want to make the first round a smooth experience. But the deep analysis during the second round will train your brain to become better at recognising those aspects of knowledge in during any reading. So, the second round will train your reading ability and comprehension in general which benefits the first round. (= positive feedback loop) This is at least how I explain the training effect that the Zettelkasten Method seems to have.

    Do you have tips for how to keep this "tool of thought" in the front of mind?

    1. I'd beginn by forcing yourself to process ideas using the knowledge flower, even if an idea does not hint organically at a leaf (e.g. What the beauty of using net profit margin for chosing an investment?). I use it sometimes as a warm-up for my processing sessions.
    2. Then you can just create a Keyboard Maestro Macro and use the aspects as a template that you don't have to follow strictly. I personally use this sometimes when I feel stuck but assume that there is something to be found that I didn't.

    I am a Zettler

  • You could use it visually:

    I am a Zettler

  • Super idea Sascha. Here's a little video showing my application of the Idea Compass.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Sascha and @Will: A great idea using the flower as an idea compass. I started to use this concept for tagging my notes. But here my question: Do you use the flower of knowledge primarily for the process of collecting ideas from others or for capturing and creating your own ideas?

  • @Will Ha! You went a step further than me with the template. I just use it as a reminder when I develop an idea/thought. :)

    @Edmund The Knowledge Flower is based on general traits of knowledge. So, the source doesn't matter. I'd not say collect. I'd rather say develop or unfold since I often add what wasn't there from the start.

    I am a Zettler

  • @Sascha If I remembered all the things wiser people had told me and had these nuggets in mind when I needed them, I'd ...

    @Edmund I use the Idea Compass to remind me to look for instances and connections with ideas when reprocessing a zettel from a rough first draft onward as the drafts evolve.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Sascha said:
    ... I'd not say collect. I'd rather say develop or unfold since I often add what wasn't there from the start.

    Thank you for clarifying. “Unfolding the flower 🌸” was just the metaphor I was missing for my own understanding. It really helps.

    Another thought: Do we have different flowers 🌺 ? I’m not sure with “truth” and also have a need for “emotion”.

    —-
    All bad art comes from copying nature and being realistic;
    and all great art comes from lying and deceiving,
    and telling untrue, beautiful things.
    The Decay of Lying – An Observation, by Oscar Wilde

  • @Will said:
    I use the Idea Compass to remind me to look for instances and connections with ideas when reprocessing a zettel from a rough first draft onward as the drafts evolve.

    Idea Compass = 4 directions
    Knowledge Flower = 5 petals

    Which petal would I miss using a compass instead of a flower as my preferred metaphor?


  • Sixteen-point compass rose. (2022, September 4). In Wikipedia.

    The compass rose is a technical term used in map making.

    There are also 32-point and more compass roses. A compass is a circle divided up into portions in a sexagesimal system which is base 60 math. There are 360 degrees, each divided into 60 minutes and 60 seconds. With just this level of detail you get 1296000 points on a compass. If this is not enough, we can scrutinize each second by each millisecond.

    I want to be sure to leave room for ideas that have yet to occur to me. I get that flowers are pretty and compasses are technical. There are flowers with only 4 pedals. And there are some roses with the 100 or more pedals.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Edmund said:

    @Sascha said:
    ... I'd not say collect. I'd rather say develop or unfold since I often add what wasn't there from the start.

    Thank you for clarifying. “Unfolding the flower 🌸” was just the metaphor I was missing for my own understanding. It really helps.

    Another thought: Do we have different flowers 🌺 ? I’m not sure with “truth” and also have a need for “emotion”.

    Yes. We have very different flowers. :) AIDA is a procedual model of connecting perception to a specific and intended action (buying the product). If you think it as a stock flow model (compare: Meadows Thinking in Systems) this allows to design stages of prerception as action potential.

    The knowledge flower is an inventory of various aspects of knowledge that aims to be complete (I have yet found any reason to assume that the knowledge flower is complete other than my gut feelings). The procedure of unfolding the knowledge flower is only a means to an end.

    It seems to me AIDA is more an actionable zooming-in into the connection of relevance and usefulness. Or something like that.

    Perhaps, the biggest difference is that AIDA is based on a psychological theory of how buying decisions are made while the knowledge flower is based on an epistemiological theory of what makes is the value of knowledge.

    —-
    All bad art comes from copying nature and being realistic;
    and all great art comes from lying and deceiving,
    and telling untrue, beautiful things.
    The Decay of Lying – An Observation, by Oscar Wilde

    Oi. It would be hard to find a quote on art that I disagree more.

    I am a Zettler

  • @Sascha said:

    Yes. We have very different flowers. :) AIDA is a procedural model of connecting perception to a specific and intended action (buying the product).

    Yes for sure. For me there is a strong connection between the to concepts:

    • buying a product / selling a product and
    • “buying” an idea - when selecting an idea and capture it for my Zettelkasten,
    • “selling” an idea - when re-conceptualizing ideas from my Zettelkasten and publishing the “new” idea.

    For this ideas I always have this procedural model in mind:

    • Attention - Is the idea graceful enough?
    • Interest - Is the idea compelling and informative?
    • Desire - Is there an emotional connection?
    • Action - Decision to follow the call?

    @Sascha said:
    Perhaps, the biggest difference is that AIDA is based on a psychological theory of how buying decisions are made while the knowledge flower is based on an epistemiological theory of what makes is the value of knowledge.

    Yes and I like to “play” with concepts, mixing them up and experimenting to hopefully find some new insights.

    @Sascha said:

    All bad art comes from copying nature and being realistic;
    and all great art comes from lying and deceiving,
    and telling untrue, beautiful things.
    The Decay of Lying – An Observation, by Oscar Wilde

    Oi. It would be hard to find a quote on art that I disagree more.

    If you like it ;-), I have a second quote from my Zettelkasten:
    Truth is the invention of a liar. - Heinz von Foerster

    And thank you for your personal views. It’s great seeing ideas from very different perspectives.

  • I get that flowers are pretty and compasses are technical.

    Or with other words:

    • Flowers are emotional
    • Compasses are non-emotional

    Let me ask you one more question: Why do you prefer a non-emotional metaphor to visualize the aspects of an idea? What’s your benefit?

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