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Six Frames For Thinking about Information

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

Six frames

Amazon link: Six Frames


What thinking is needed?


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A Year with Peter Drucker


Peter Drucker's work




Today we are literally surrounded by information and it has never been so easy to obtain.

Yet, information itself is not enough; it’s how we look at it that really counts.

Using the ‘six frames’ technique is the key to extracting real value from the masses of facts and figures out there and, like all de Bono’s techniques, it is simple, effective and will utterly change the way you interpret information.

Find "Information" in Peter Drucker's work






Attention is a very key part of thinking.

Yet we pay very little attention to attention itself.

It is assumed that it just happens.


Attention can be pulled or attracted to something unusual.

If you saw someone lying in the road, your attention would go to that person.

If you saw a bright pink dog, your attention, and your sympathy, would go to that dog.


That is precisely the weakness of attention.

It is pulled to the unusual.


How much attention do we pay to the usual?


Perception is a key part of thinking.

Research by David Perkins at Harvard has shown that ninety per cent of errors of thinking were errors of perception.

No amount of excellent logic will make up for errors of perception.

Goedel’s theorem shows that from within a situation no amount of logic can prove the starting points, which remain arbitrary perceptions.


Attention is a key element of perception.

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


Directing attention

What can we do about attention?

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.


Just as we can decide to look north or south-east, so we can set up a framework for directing our attention.

That is what the Six Frames are all about.

Each frame is a direction in which to look.

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


In this way we can look for need satisfaction.

We can look for value.

We can look for interest.

We can look for accuracy, etc.

Each of the Six Frames is used to direct our attention.

Masses of information

We are surrounded by information.

It has never been easier to obtain information (the internet, etc.)

But information by itself is not enough.

It is how we look at the information that matters.

How do we get the most value from the information?

That is an area that needs attention.


The Six Frames provide a method for extracting more value from information.

They are therefore as important as the information itself.


The method is very simple to use.

To be effective, however, it is essential to be deliberate and disciplined.

Just to believe you are doing something is not as good as doing that thing formally and deliberately.


The big enemy of good thinking is confusion.


Unfortunately, the more active the mind, the greater the risk of confusion.

The aim of all good thinking is clarity.

But clarity is no good if it is at the expense of comprehensiveness.

To be very clear about a tiny part of the situation is no good at all and even dangerous.

There is a need to obtain clarity and comprehensiveness at the same time.


The main cause of confusion is trying to do everything at once.

When the mind tries to do everything at once, the mind ends up doing one thing thoroughly and other things hardly at all.

That is why my Six Thinking Hats is such a powerful framework.

In a discussion, if we try to do everything at once we end up in the negative and critical mode because this is the easiest mode and the one we use most often.

The Six Hats is now very widely used, even at top economic meetings, because it ensures a thorough exploration of the subject and a discussion that is constructive.


We live in an information age.

We are bombarded by information and we have easy access to as much information as we needin fact much more than we need.

How do we react to that information?


If you have a very specific need for information and a very specific question that needs an answer, then you go to the right place and get the answer.

If you need to find a flight from London to Paris that leaves London as soon as possible after six in the evening, you go to an airline timetable or ask your travel agent.

There is still some thinking to be done regarding your choice of airport and airline.

The traffic on the road to Heathrow is likely to be very heavy at that time.


If we only dealt with information that we really needed, life would be simpler but very limited and very dull.

We also need to react to the information that we come across on television and radio and in newspapers, magazines and other people’s conversations.

How do we react to that information?


There are many important aspects of information, such as accuracy, bias, interest, relevance, value, etc.

We could seek to assess these different aspects all at once.

We could also separate them out to avoid confusion and to make sure that we cover all the different ways of looking at the information.


That is what Six Frames For Thinking about Information seeks to do.

We look through one frame at a time.

How accurate is this information?

What bias is there in the information?

The Six Frames are laid out in this book.


You can get into the habit of using the frames yourself.

You can deliberately direct your attention to one or other frame.

You can ask someone else to use a particular frame: ‘Try the Square Frame on this.

What do you see?’

The frames can also be used in a discussion where everyone adopts the same frame at a given moment.


If you ask someone to go out into the garden and look at all the colours, that person is likely to notice the dominant colours—red in roses, yellow in daffodils, etc.—but may not notice colours that are less obvious.

If you asked the same person to go out and look for the colour blue, and then the colour red and then the colour yellow, the attention scan would be much more comprehensive.


Having frames for thinking about information means that with each frame the mind is prepared and sensitised to notice different things.

We can pay attention to the accuracy of the information.

We can pay attention to the point of view expressed in the information.

We can pay attention to the interest in the information.

Each frame prepares the mind to look at the information in a specific way.

We see what we are prepared to see.


The Six Frames described in this book provide a simple tool for experiencing and looking at information.


There is an unexpected outcome when the Six Thinking Hats are used.

The framework might seem to complicate discussions and make them much longer.

In fact, use of the Hats reduces meeting time to a quarter or even a tenth.

In the same way, the Six Frames greatly simplify the way we look at information instead of complicating it.

Doing one thing at a time is simpler than trying to do many things and worrying that we might be leaving out something important.


As you read through this book, keep the image of each frame clearly in mind.

This image becomes the trigger symbol for each of the six ways we need to think about information.

At times we may choose to focus on one way of thinking about information rather than another.

That now becomes a deliberate choice.


By separating out the different ways of thinking about information and by symbolising these different ways as frames of various shapes, we take control of the way our mind performs.

We can now direct our attention more deliberately rather than letting it wander in its own confused way.


We know that perception is the most important part of thinking.

So the way we perceive information is all-important.


Outer world — inner world




  • Six Frames for Thinking about Information
    • Preface (about attention, perception, information)
      • Directing attention (the function of the Six Frames)
      • Masses of information
    • Introduction
    • Purpose: The Triangle Frame
      • Notice
      • Time-filling and distraction
      • Awareness
      • Interest
      • General interest
      • Specific interest
      • Browse and scan
      • Need and search
      • What and where?
      • Confirmation
      • Very specific questions
      • Where?
      • The triangle frame
        • Point 1: WHAT?
        • Point 2: WHY?
        • Point 3: WHERE?
      • Offering information
      • Summary
    • Accuracy: The Circle Frame
      • Authority
      • Internal checking
      • Comparative accuracy
      • Adequate accuracy
      • Doubts
      • The circle frame
      • Summary
    • Point of view: The Square Frame
      • Persuasion
      • Difficulty of balance
      • The use of adjectives
      • Point of view
      • The power of balance
      • Alternative views from the same point
      • The square frame
      • Summary
    • Interest: The Heart Frame
      • General interest
      • Addition
      • Research
      • Special interest
      • Note-taking
      • Mining
      • The heart frame
      • Summary
    • Value: The Diamond Frame
      • Need satisfaction
      • Question answered
      • Interest value
      • Confirmation value
      • Disagreement value
      • Opportunity
      • Awareness of the world around us
      • Enrichment
      • Note-taking
      • Six Value Medals
        • Gold Medal
        • Silver Medal
        • Steel Medal
        • Glass Meda
        • Wood Medal
        • Brass Medal
        • Medal Usage
      • The diamond frame
      • Summary
    • Outcome: The Slab Frame
      • Next step
      • So what?
      • Information report
      • Computers
      • The slab frame
      • Summary
    • Summary
    • Truth paste
    • About the author



Purpose: The Triangle Frame




Triangles have points.

A long horizontal triangle suggests an arrow pointing in a particular direction.

That direction is the purpose.

With the Triangle Frame, we consider the purpose of our looking at information.

We are surrounded by information all the time.


Intelligence Information Thinking


Much of that time we do not have an ‘information purpose’.

Some of the time we do.

It is useful to have a clear idea of that purpose.



You are walking down the road to the supermarket to buy some breakfast cereal.

That is your clear purpose.

You notice a poster that is upside down.

This catches your eye.

You wonder whether it was carelessness or whether it was deliberately placed that way to catch attention—as it has caught your attention.

You notice a shop window that has a very bright display made up entirely of purple clothes.

This has caught your attention, as it was designed to do.

Something catches our attention and we look at it.

We notice it.

We can wait for our attention to be pulled or attracted to something—or we can direct our attention.

The two are not exclusive.

We can choose to direct our attention and still be open to having our attention pulled towards something.

Directing attention is an act of will.

You can direct your attention as you might direct the beam of a searchlight.

As you walk along to the supermarket you can choose to notice the color of the facades of all the little shops on the way.

Is there any consistency?

Do all tobacconists use the same color?

Is there a color-coding or is it up to the artistic preference of the owner?

Which color seems to attract attention best?

Maybe some colors are easier to keep looking fresh and clean?

You can choose to direct your attention to the shoes of the passers-by.

Are these practical walking shoes that might be worn all day?

Do the shoes indicate the possible income status of their owner?

You can choose to notice whether shoes are clean or not.

Does this reflect the general appearance of the rest of the person?

Whenever you choose to direct your attention in a particular way, there are always questions and speculations that follow your notice.

You may seek to make generalizations.

You may observe exceptions to your generalizations.

Where you choose to direct your attention and what you choose to notice is up to you.

If you are playing this game, however, you should be able to spell out clearly what you have chosen to notice.

By choosing to notice things, you pull from the world around you information that has not been prepared and presented to you.


Time-filling and distraction

Much of the time we look at information as a way of filling time and as a distraction.

We may read the newspaper at breakfast because we happen to be having breakfast alone or because we do not want to talk to anyone else.

We may read the newspaper sitting in a waiting room at the dentist because there is nothing else to do.

We may read a magazine sitting in an airplane because there is nothing else to do.

We may watch television simply to occupy the time when we do not feel like doing anything else.



Even if you are looking at the information as a distraction or as a way of filling time, you could claim that this is an exercise in ‘awareness’ of the world around you.

You look at the television news or read the newspaper in order to be aware of what is going on.

This allows you to take part in conversations on that topic or initiate such conversations.

If you are about to travel, this awareness may indicate to you that an airport strike is planned for your departure date.

This has happened to me.

This awareness may indicate to you that there is political turmoil in the country you plan to visit.

A general awareness of what is going on in the world around you is part of life.

You need it.

Unfortunately, you may have to spend rather a large amount of time looking at information in order to find the occasional things that do matter to you.

Perhaps there is a television program, or a newspaper, that indicates: ‘These are the things you really do need to know this week.’

So we might spend hours every week looking at a lot of information just in case there is something valuable that we need to know.



There are matters of interest in the material you are reading.

You may be interested to read about the man who was so fat that they had to knock down part of the front of his house to get him out of bed.

You may be interested to read about the wife who divorced her husband because he had lied about his age.

He had said he was ninety-five years old and he was actually only sixty-five.

There is interest in a story that starts and you want to see how it ends.

This is intrinsic interest.

This is ‘storyline interest’.


General interest

There are matters of general interest that do not relate directly to your own affairs.

You may be interested to hear about a report that claims that one in four women around the world are beaten by their husbands.

Are you missing out?

You may be interested to hear that in Russia 85,000 women a year are killed by their husbands or partners.

You may well choose to doubt this.

You may be interested to hear about a species of frog in Australia that eats its own fertilized eggs, and the young develop in its stomach and jump out of its mouth when they are ready.


Specific interest

If you work in the financial world, you are going to be interested in stock market reports.

You are going to be interested in statements both by pundits and also by officials about the present and future state of the economy.

If you are concerned about your health, you are going to be interested in little snippets of information.

The Finns may claim that drinking too much coffee increases the chance of arthritis.

Another report may show that drinking tea reduces the chance of getting Alzheimer’s by forty-five per cent.

You may choose not to believe these reports without knowing the full background.

If you are interested in motor cars, you will notice the news about the Tata car that is priced at two thousand dollars.

You may be interested in new hybrid cars that use hydrogen.


Browse and scan

Many of the above uses of information can come under the heading of ‘browse and scan’.

How much of this you actually do and how much you need to do is a matter of personal preference.

The point is that even when you are really doing no more than time-filling and distracting yourself, these other activities are also taking place.


Need and search

This is by far the most important use of information.

You need some specific information, so you set out to search for that information.

You need the answer to a specific question, so you go and look for the answer.

This is what comes top of the list whenever we consider the use and value of information.

A person who stops you in the street to ask for directions to the train station has a specific information need.

A person who consults a dictionary to find out how to spell ‘insouciance’ has a specific information need.

A person who goes to the library to read all about Buddhism in Sri Lanka has a specific information need.

A person who reads the property columns in a newspaper to get some idea of how much his home is now worth has a specific information need.

Search engines like Google and Yahoo are marvelous devices that for the first time in history allow someone to get direct and specific access to the information he or she needs.

I once said, at a major university conference, that today universities are out of date.

Universities were set up to make the wisdom and knowledge of the past available to students of the present.

In the digital age, all needed information can be directly obtained.

Perhaps universities should be teaching skills: information skills, thinking skills, people skills, management skills, etc., etc.


What and where?

What is your information need?

What are you looking for?

The more precisely you can frame the question, the more likely you are to find an answer—and with less trouble.

There can be precise needs.

I want to know if it is true that the female house spider wraps its mate up in a cocoon and then nibbles bits of the fellow when she feels hungry.

Is that true?

There can be much more general needs.

I have bought a house with a garden and I am thinking of growing roses.

Where can I find some general information on growing roses?

Is it difficult?

Is it expensive?

Do I need to be an experienced gardener?

I occasionally get e-mails asking me to tell the sender all I know about creativity.

Since I have written several books on that subject, that is a rather big demand.

‘I am looking for information on where I can find information on the following matter.’

‘I am looking for general information in this area.’

‘I am looking for a specific answer to this specific question.’



Confirmation is where you hold a specific view.

You are not seeking to check it out because it is not a matter of fact.

What you are really looking for is support for that view.

This will not be easy to find because information is really [(rarely)] laid out to support different views.

You might need to make a general search in the subject area and then select the information that supports your view.

There is always room for general questions.

‘I have heard such and such ... Is it true?’

Someone told me Is it the case?’

‘I half remember reading that Is that so?’

‘I believe that Is that correct?’

‘It is said that redheads have, a much higher pain threshold than people with other colors of hair. Is this so?’

Where can I find information to check out this point?’

As with all questions, the more specific you can be, the more likely you are to find an answer.

‘What is the general political situation in Turkmenistan?’

‘What are the most common disabilities affecting older men?’

If a specific question is framed in a general way, then a lot more work will need to be done.

If the questioner wants to know about a particular disability in older men, it would make sense to ask specifically about that disability rather than to hope it would come up in a general scan of disabilities.


Very specific questions

I need to know the time of a flight from London to Dubai that arrives in the morning.

This question could be put more generally—I need to know the flight departure times for all flights from London to Dubai—and then I can make my selection to suit my exact needs.

Doctors need to frame specific questions to patients in order to help with the diagnosis.

There is a general stage of asking open-ended questions.

Then comes the specific stage: ‘How soon after a meal does the pain come on?’

Specific questions may ask for a specific answer: ‘The pain comes on about half an hour after eating.’

Specific questions may also require a yes or no answer: ‘Do you ever cough up blood?’

A ‘shooting question’ is one with a definite answer.

When you are shooting, you know what you are aiming at.

A ‘fishing question’ is different.

When you drop a baited hook into the water, you do not know what fish or what type of fish will take the bait.

This is very different from shooting at something.

The question: ‘What sorts of food upset you?’ is different from: ‘Do spicy foods upset you?’

In a shooting question, there is specific information that you are seeking.

In a fishing question, you only have a very general idea of the information you may obtain.



You can ask people.

You can ask specific people, like a travel agent, or an airline, or a doctor, or a car salesman.

You can ask people for the information, or you can ask people to suggest where you might find the information you need.

You can search the internet.

You can use specific search engines like Google and Yahoo, or you can go directly to information areas relevant to your needs.

You can use a library and ask advice from the librarian.

You can go to a bookshop and buy a book on that subject.

You could also subscribe to a magazine in the area of need—if there is one.

You might find a magazine on rose-growing but not one on spiders.

It is not my intention here to give a full list of possible information sources.


The triangle frame

The purpose of the Triangle Frame is to lay out very clearly—for yourself or others to see the purpose of looking at the information.

‘Using the Triangle Frame, what is our purpose here?’

If you wish to attach a meaning to each of the three points of the triangle (which is not necessary), the three points might be:

Point 1: WHAT?

What is the purpose of our information search or scan?


Point 2: WHY?

Why do we need this information?

Why is this information of value?

Why will this information affect us?


Point 3: WHERE?

Where should we look for this information?

Are we looking in the right place?



‘I want to use my Triangle Frame here.

We need specific information on the number of single-parent families.’

‘Triangle Frames, please.

Do we know the number of unoccupied dwellings in this town?’


Offering information

This is yet another aspect of the information purpose.

There is information that you have and that you wish to place before others.

You can use the Triangle Frame to signal your intention to do so.

‘I want to use the Triangle Frame at this moment to put before you the results of a recent survey of the smoking habits of people under the age of sixteen years.’

‘I do not know how valid this information is, but I want to use the Triangle Frame to put before you the relative number of accidents of cars of different colors.’


Purpose Summary

The purpose of the Triangle Frame is to emphasize the huge importance of being clear and laying out the exact basis of your need for information and your interaction with the information.

Most people only have a vague and general idea somewhere at the back of their minds.

Bringing that to the front of the mind and placing it before yourself, and before others, makes our use of information more effective.

There is no shortage of information.

We need to be clear about what we want from all that information.


See the Preface for context


“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.

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