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brainroads-toward-tomorrows mental patterns


pyramid to dna

Attention directing and attention flow

by Edward de Bono
(includes links to many of his other books)


Our attention directing and mental patterns
largely govern our lives


Attention is a very key part of thinking

Perception is a key part of thinking

Attention is a key element of perception

Without the ability to direct attention,
we see only the familiar patterns

Attention can be pulled or attracted to something unusual

How much attention do we pay to the usual? — EdB

Attention-directing thought process in Teach Yourself To Think

Druckerisms — attention-directing thought jewels from PFD


Instead of waiting for our attention to be pulled towards something unusual,
we can set out frameworks for ‘directing’ our attention in a conscious manner

Each frame is a direction in which to look

six frames

We look and then notice, and note what we see in that direction

In this way we can look for …

Going outside





Our MENTAL PATTERNS are influenced by attention.

The Changing Social and Economic Picture

movies in time movies in time




From The De Bono Code Book

Thinking is the most fundamental of all human skills.

The quality of our future will depend directly on the quality of our thinking.

Is it then not only astonishing but also absurd that thinking is not the core subject in all education and the central subject on any school curriculum?

It is not.

It is not there at all.

There are some schools that teach thinking.

Many of them teach critical thinking, which is excellent but totally inadequate.

Judgement thinking is important but so is design thinking.

We need to create as well as to judge.


Management, Revised Edition

Knowledge: Its Economics and Its Productivity


David Perkins at Harvard has shown that ninety per cent of errors in thinking are errors of perception.

This has also been my experience over the thirty years in which I have been involved in the teaching of thinking.

Yet over the ages we have put all the emphasis on logic.

If your perception is faulty, then even excellent logic will give you the wrong answer.

Excellent logic will not, itself, provide excellent perception.


More from Code-Book


If your eyesight is very sharp but you are looking in the wrong direction you will not see what you are looking for.




An explorer is sent to a newly discovered island.

The explorer returns and reports on a smoking volcano and a bird that does not fly.

The backers of the explorer are not satisfied:

‘What else was there?’

‘That is all that caught my attention,’ replies the explorer.

So the explorer is sent back again with some ‘attention-directing’ tools.

The explorer is asked to ‘look north and note what you see’.

Then, ‘look south and note what you see’.

Then look east and west in the same way.

Also make notes on:

flora, fauna, geology, water, etc., etc.

This becomes a sort of checklist — N,E,S, & W.

The seeing is directly related to perception


Writing out what you see
is different from saying it
mentally or verbally. It makes you decide.

Full size


Attention-directing thought process in Teach Yourself To Think

Additionally, what are the implications of what you see?

Maybe this will help you SEE!

Dense reading and Dense listening ::: Thinking broad and Thinking detailed

Druckerisms — attention-directing thought jewels from PFD

The dimensions of the new realities are directions in which to look

Wisdom is largely about ‘broadening’ perception




“Managers are synthesizers
who bring resources together
and have that ability to “smell” opportunity and timing.

Today perceptiveness is more important than analysis.

In the new society of organizations,
you need to be able to recognize patterns
to see what is there
rather than what you expect to see.”
Interview: Post-Capitalist Executive




We need 'attention-directing tools' for human perception. …


Larger view

Larger view

Each node offers opportunities for new perceptions


Other examples of attention-directing tools (N,E,S, & W):

Readings in The Daily Drucker

From Analysis to Perception: The New World View in The New Realities and The Essential Drucker

The Definitive Drucker

Links at the bottom of this page

The image at the very top of this page

Look for the long-term value in Drucker's writings

… Many years ago I (Edward de Bono) designed a set of such tools.

They are now in use (as the CoRT programme) in thousands of schools around the world.

See Teach Your Child How to Think

They are also being taught in business through the DATT programme (operated by APTT).



In the Karee platinum mine in South Africa there used to be 210 fights every month between the seven different tribes working there.

After the basic attention-directing tools were taught (by Susan Mackie and Donalda Dawson) the fights dropped from 210 to just four.



Jennifer O'Sullivan, in Australia, had two job clubs and every one of her unemployed youngsters was deaf.

Teaching these youngsters CoRT thinking gave an employment rate more than double the average for job clubs.



In a pilot project with unemployed youngsters in the UK, the use of these methods by the Hoist Group improved unemployment four- to fivefold.




Attention-directing tools are very powerful.

If you are looking in the right direction you see things.

six frames

Six Frames For Thinking about Information

Conceptual resources

Attention-directing thought process in Teach Yourself To Think


Once you have seen something you cannot ‘unsee’ it.


Your thinking, choices, decisions are determined by what you have seen.

Decision-making is a time machine that synchronizes into a single time — the present — a great number of divergent time spans” Chapter 11, Strategic Planning: The Entrepreneurial Skill, Management, Revised Edition by PFD


movies in time movies in time

Different thoughts for different times

Jump to preparing to see then return

… to return use the back arrow on your browser




Click on the image below — it’s important

knowledge technology

Knowledge technology





So Attention Directing Code 2 (In The De Bono Code Book) is a very simple set of attention-directing tools.

You can instruct yourself to use a particular tool.

You can ask someone else to use a particular tool.

You can suggest to a group that a particular tool be used.

  • 2/1 Direct your attention to the PMI points. Tell me what you see.

    PMI = Plus, Minus and Interesting.

    Direct your attention to the Plus points,

    then the Minus points

    and finally the Interesting points.

    The result is a quick assessment scan
  • 2/2 Direct your attention to the future

  • 2/3 What are the factors involved here?

  • 2/4 What is the objective? What are we really trying to do?

  • 2/5 What are the views of the other people involved?

  • 2/6 What are the alternatives?

  • 2/7 What are the priorities?

  • 2/8 Direct your attention to the key values involved

  • 2/9 Direct your attention to the matters on which we agree/disagree/irrelevant

  • 2/10 Can you recognize this as a standard situation?




In a computer you might pull down a menu and then click on an item on that menu.

The thinking tools are items on a 'thinking menu'.

Larger view




The Following is From I am Right, You Are Wrong by Edward de Bono

Art is a choreography of attention.

You stand in front of a fine building.

It makes sense as a whole.

Find “whole” in The Daily Drucker

Find “whole” in Peter’s Principles

Then your attention flows to the pillars, the placement of the windows, perhaps the architrave, then back to one part of the whole, then to the detail of some scroll work.

This is a dance of attention.

Attention is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the behaviour of perception.

As you stand in front of the building you feel you can direct attention to any part you like.

You can choose to look at the front door.

You can choose to look at the upper left hand corner.

You can choose to look at the proportions of the whole.

Such choosing reinforces the notion of 'I' and free-will

So there is attention flow and attention directing.

I want to look at attention directing first.

Walk into a room and looking fixedly ahead repeat to yourself: 'Chair, chair, chair.' Unless you consciously resist it, you will find your attention drawn to the chair in the room (if there is one) even though you are not looking at it.

This is an exactly parallel process to the self instruction to find red clothing at the sports meeting.

The instruction sensitizes certain circuits and so these patterns become active and we notice or pay attention to these things.

The attention-directing instructions may be even more simple.

See the explorer example above.

This is exactly the method we use for teaching thinking in schools with the CoRT programme.

In the section designed to improve breadth in perception we have a set of simple attention directing tools.

Connection: The Daily Drucker fits here as well.

For example there is the PMI.

This tool is used for deliberate scanning of the Plus, Minus and Interesting points, so that a thinker can properly evaluate a suggestion instead of just taking an initial emotional view and using thinking only to defend that view.

There is the C&S (Consequence and Sequel) for paying attention to the consequences of an action.

There is the OPV tool for paying attention to the other people involved and their view.

The tools are practised on a variety of different subjects so that skill is built up in the use of the tool which can then be transferred to real-life situations and is indeed so transferred.




Attention-directing thought process in Teach Yourself To Think

A person stands before a picture and says: 'I like it' or 'I don't like it.'

After a course on art appreciation that same person stands before a picture but now has a handful of attention directing tools:

… look at the composition;
… look at the choice of colours;
… look at the use of light and shade;
… look at the brush work;
… look at the way the clothing is treated;
… look at the background;
… look at the background figures.

After a time this richer attention scan becomes automatic.

In addition there are things that will now be noticed that may indicate a period of painting or a particular painter or a particular period of a particular painting (Picasso late period, Warhol early period).

“To know something,
to really understand something important,
one must look at it from sixteen different angles.

People are perceptually slow,
and there is no shortcut to understanding;
it takes a great deal of time.” — PFD

Beyond the Numbers Barrier

six frames

Six Frames For Thinking about Information

Attention-directing thought process in Teach Yourself To Think

We cannot see things unless we are prepared to see them.

That is why science advances by fits and starts as paradigms change and we are allowed to see things differently.

That is why the analysis of data can never produce all the ideas present in that data.

Think “big data” and information challenges.

The inherent weaknesses in all possible information systems

That is why analysis is a limited tool, not the complete one we have always believed it to be.

The James Gleick book on Chaos: Making a New Science shows how the pioneers in this field went back to look at old data but to look at it with new perceptions and could now see new things.

We come back now to sensitivities in the nerve network and the readiness to go active.

Contrast the directing of attention by specific self-instruction (look at the upper right-hand corner) with attention flow.

We look at a scene with a mind that has been sensitized by hunger.

Immediately our attention is drawn to the food.

We look at a scene with a mind sensitized to pick out certain patterns, so we notice them.

We look at a scene with a mind sensitized to pick up the slightest hint of insult or discrimination, so we immediately notice this (even if unintended).

Sometimes we use the word 'notice' when attention seems to flow to a particular area or when we pick something out.

In reality there is very little difference between directed attention and attention flow.

The directions sensitize our minds so attention flows into that area.

In the sports meeting example our instruction sensitizes the mind to notice red, so our attention flows to red clothing.

Underlying all this there is one key feature which I have not yet mentioned.

This is the 'unitary' nature of attention.

It is in the nature of a self-organizing patterning system (at least the one I have described) to have a single area of stabilization.

If there are two competing areas at any time, the large one will expand and the lesser one will disappear even if the difference is very slight.

This arises directly from the wiring of the system and is not an imposed condition.

It leads to one area of attention at a time.

It does not exclude the possibility that there are functionally different and parallel brains within our skulls.




Attention and Clues

One does not pay attention to everything.

radar system

So what's on your radar?

And one acts only upon what one is paying attention to.



Harvesting and implementing

The reaction may be thinking or it may be action (which is only thinking that passes through our mouths or our muscles instead of our minds).

The world around is full of a huge number of things to which one could pay attention.

But it would be impossible to react to everything at once.

So one reacts only to a selected part of it.

The choice of attention area determines the action or thinking that follows.

The choice of this area of attention is one of the most fundamental aspects of thinking.




Perceptual creativity involves looking at things in different ways.

It involves extracting concepts.

It involves extracting values.

It involves opening up connections and associations.




Constructive creativity means putting things together to deliver value.

This is "design thinking."

While education focuses a great deal on analysis, there is practically no attention at all to design thinking.

Yet life and human progress depend on design thinking.


Analysis is important, just as the rear left wheel of a car is important—but it is not enough.



Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas

Practical Thinking





bbx Patterns of corporate crisis

bbx What executives should remember

bbx Measurements

bbx Manage by Walking Around — Outside!

bbx Knowledge system view and life design.

bbx What foundations do I need?

bbx See "It's our mental patterns" for more on attention

bbx See Edward de Bono bio and snacks

bbx Where does my attention need to flow next and what are the time spans?




What are the opportunities time and history have (will) put within your grasp? — Peter Drucker





“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence;

it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker



The shift from manual workers
who do as they are being told
either by the task or by the boss —

TO knowledge workers
who have to manage themselves

profoundly challenges social structure


Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” …

“It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities:
Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life),

and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context



More than anything else,

the individual
has to take more responsibility
for himself or herself,
rather than depend on the company.”


“Making a living is no longer enough
‘Work’ has to make a life .” continue

finding and selecting the pieces of the puzzle


The Second Curve




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving relentlessly toward unimagined futures.



What’s the next effective action on the road ahead




It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then working out a plan for coping with what you’ve rejected.

Your future is between your ears and our future is between our collective ears — it can’t be otherwise.

A site exploration: The memo THEY don't want you to see



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