Technology Spotlight: Greendale company’s software improves critical thinking skills

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

If you do what you always do, you will get what you always get. Leading your life by this philosophy can lead to good things, but it probably won’t lead to innovative thinking.

Books about how to improve critical thinking skills can help people learn a new kind of thought process, but readers of those books cannot engage themselves unless they perform the exercises. Even then, there are limitations.

Greendale-based Nth Degree Software Inc. believes it has developed a better way to improve thinking skills. The company recently launched the newest version of MindSights, a suite of smartbooks that interact with a user to get thoughts flowing.

The smartbooks were created out of Microsoft Word documents but run like Wiki software similar to that of a content management system, said Dennis Heindl, president of Nth Degree Software.

“Our mission is to amplify natural human thinking,” Heindl said.

To the user, MindSights works like a Web site. Each page has a series of links for different topics that lead to different pages. If a user clicks on a subject pertaining to meeting planning, for instance, the user will be directed to a whole new set of pages where a more specific topic list is presented. Users follow the links until they are at a place in the program that will help them find their answer.

When navigating through MindSights, users are working with thinklets, which are exercises or questions that the program asks along the way. The user is then able to engage in facilitated thinking, drawing new ideas upon the whole picture and eventually forming a new strategy or a new solution for a business problem.

Because the program runs through Microsoft Word, the more the user or group of users engages the program, the more ideas and thinklets they can add to both customize the program and add more knowledge to it.

MindSights can be used as a personal consultant, a facilitator or as an exercise book to keep the mind sharp, Heindl said.

MindSights Meeting Mentor costs $149 and helps prepare users for a meeting, resulting in a more effective meeting overall. Other products in the MindSights suite include MindSights Innovation Environment for $199, a tool to facilitate innovation; MindSights Consultants for $99, a guide for performance improvement; and MindSights Thinklets for $89, which provides more than 200 self-development cognition tools and more than 1,700 mentoring questions.

“Basically, it is 10,000 pages of intellectual property that Dennis has captured and made very accessible to people who are involved in facilitation, planning meetings and making decisions, so it has a wide range of applications and customers,” said Robert Beard, co-director of the San Diego-based Strategic Solutions Center for Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), an employee-owned research and engineering firm. “I found it a very good source for the kinds of information I need to do facilitation and meeting planning.”

The Strategic Solutions Center supports customers of SAIC who are interested in strategic planning, development and information technology (IT) enterprise architecture. It serves as a think tank for clients, Beard said.

“Dennis’ tool is just another tool in our tool box to help have more effective and efficient meetings for our customers,” Beard said.

Beard first heard about MindSights at a conference for the International Association of Facilitators. SAIC purchased a site license for MindSights to use as a tool in the Strategic Solutions Center about a year and a half ago, Beard said.

The Milwaukee Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA #1), which serves 45 school districts in southeastern Wisconsin, has used MindSights for two years.

“While working with students in direct instruction, MindSights enables us to provide a framework for the students and the teachers to organize their thoughts for their learning and investigation,” said Tim Gavigan, executive director for CESA #1. “MindSights is a template for a student who is learning to do critical thinking, project management, to hold meetings, organize themselves for meetings, it is very helpful in that arena.”

Since CESA #1 implemented MindSights, users are constantly finding new uses for the product, Gavigan said. CESA #1 uses MindSights with adults who are part of the organization to facilitate projects, set up meetings and serve as a coach.

“Teachers can use this technology to be customized to their needs, so whatever it is they are working on, for instance, a business meeting, MindSights can facilitate and help them get themselves ready for a meeting,” Gavigan said. “On the other hand, it can be used for a problem-solving activity with a group.”

MindSights also can help users with self-evaluation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, reverse thinking, brainstorming and mental exercises.

“It is more of a reference set of critical thinking skills that you can fall on at the moment, and I am not really aware of any other tools out there in this medium, rather than books,” Beard said. “Do you want to carry around 25 reference books you thumbed through or an electronic collection of all of those good thoughts?”

Elizabeth Geldermann is a reporter for Small Business Times. Send technology news to her at or by calling her at (414) 277-8181, ext. 121. Technology news can also be sent to: Elizabeth Geldermann, Small Business Times, 1123 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202.


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