The Five Elements of Effective Thinking Book Summary - The Five Elements of Effective Thinking Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

The Five Elements of Effective Thinking summary

Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird

Five ways to make better decisions.

4.2 (122 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Five Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird teaches five thinking tools to help improve our learning and problem-solving abilities. Through interesting stories and real-life examples, readers can learn how to become more effective thinkers.

Table of Contents

    The Five Elements of Effective Thinking
    Summary of 9 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 9

    Earth: True mastery isn’t about doing difficult things, but about mastering the basics.

    What’s the best way to develop a true understanding of something? Should you learn as much as possible about a subject, for instance?

    Actually, no. The key to developing a true understanding of an issue is to master the basics. The basics make up the foundation of any skill or talent, the core of any expertise – just like the element Earth represents the solid ground underneath our feet.

    Often a person who wants to become an expert – such as a student cramming for an important exam – will attempt to master as many complex theories or facts as she possibly can at once.

    This isn’t the best strategy, however. True experts are instead concerned with continually and constantly perfecting the basics.

    Virtuoso trumpet player Tony Plog once gave a masterclass for accomplished soloists, in which he requested that they play their most challenging, virtuosic piece. As you’d expect, they all played incredibly well.

    In response, rather than offering advice and tips about how the performances could be improved, Plog asked the soloists to then perform a simple beginner’s exercise.

    While they played the exercise well, none played impressively. Once they were finished, Plog himself performed the exercise, astonishing the group as to how virtuosic this “basic” piece was played.

    What happened? Plog knew that mastery requires constant attention to and understanding of the basics, as it’s the basics that provide the foundation on which we can improve.

    So when you’re faced with a challenging task, don’t tackle it headlong immediately. First, consider the basic elements of the task, and through this, you can attack each simpler element successfully.

    Consider how the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) met the challenge of landing a man on the moon in the 1960s. The agency didn’t accomplish this goal by immediately shooting people into space; rather, they started with sending an unmanned rocket to the moon first.

    Only once NASA had accomplished this basic step did they pursue and succeed in their goal of sending a man to the moon.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The Five Elements of Effective Thinking?

    Key ideas in The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The Five Elements of Effective Thinking about?

    With The Five Elements of Effective Thinking, you’ll learn how to think effectively and realize your full potential. Using as an organizing principle the four elements – earth, fire, air and water – the authors explain many techniques for improving the way in which we think. With the addition of a fifth element, change, they demonstrate how adopting the right attitude helps to bring about lasting, positive change.

    Best quote from The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

    Just by describing what is there, he was led to see the invisible.

    —Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird
    example alt text

    Who should read The Five Elements of Effective Thinking?

    • Anyone who wants to improve their thinking processes
    • Anyone who wants to master a particular subject or skill
    • Anyone wanting to enact a substantial change in their life

    About the Author

    Edward B. Burger is an educational and business consultant and president of Southwestern University in Texas. His teaching and scholarly works have earned him many honors in the United States as well as the biggest teaching award in the English-speaking world.

    Michael Starbird is a distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a business and educational consultant. He has been awarded with the highest American teaching award in his field, and his many books, lectures and workshops have reached large national audiences.

    Categories with The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

    Book summaries like The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    28 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial