brainroads-toward-tomorrows mental patterns


pyramid to dna

Six action shoes


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

six action shoes

Amazon link: Six Action Shoes: a brilliant New Way to Take control of Any Business or Life Situation

Author's Note: Thinking and Action

Very few people just sit and think.

Most of us eventually take action.

You might think of something to buy at the supermarket, but then you buy it.

You might plan a new strategy for an electronics company, but then you implement the strategy.

Often we assume that action is easy and obvious—that thinking lays out the roads and decides which road is to be taken and that action is as simple as walking along the correct road.

It's not that easy.

Some people do seem to have a natural flair for action, just as some people have a flair for thinking and for creativity.

Such people benefit greatly from some additional training.

For those without a flair, training is essential.

I spend a great deal of time in the education world and am involved with the largest program in the world for the direct teaching of thinking in schools (the CoRT Thinking Programme).

Too often education is about description and analysis.

That is the academic tradition, and they are easier to teach than teaching how to act.

But the real world involves action as well as knowledge.

That is why I invented the word operacy, which is the skill of action.

Operacy covers the broad skills of action, of making things happen

Operacy involves such aspects of thinking as: other people's views, priorities, objectives, alternatives, consequences, guessing, decisions, conflict-resolution, creativity and, many other aspects not normally covered in the type of thinking used for information analysis

What will happen if we take this action? Will it be acceptable? Do we have the resources to do it? How will people react? How will competitors react? What can go wrong? What are the potential problems? Will it continue to be profitable?

These things are part of 'pro-active' thinking, not the usual 'reactive' thinking.

The word operacy has the same base as the word operations.

Operacy is just as important as literacy and numeracy.

This book has very much to do with operacy.

The framework of the six action shoes is a help both in the training of action skills and also in the use of those skills at the moment of action.

"Be perfect," "Do the right thing," are instructions that are easy to give—but such instructions have little practical value.

By breaking down action into six distinct modes, the six action shoe framework gives specific guidance about the action that needs to bee taken.

When you cook, you choose your ingredients.

In action you can choose your action style to fit the needs of the occasion.

  • A brilliant new way to take control of any business or life situation
  • Author’s note
    • Think and then take action
    • Often we assume that action is easy and obvious
      • That thinking lays out the roads and decides which road is to be taken
      • That action is simple as walking along the correct road
      • It’s not that easy
    • The direct teaching of thinking
    • Education is too often about description and analysis
    • The real world involves action as well as knowledge
    • Operacy is just as important as literacy and numeracy
      • Has to do with operations
    • Six action shoes helps
      • In the training of action skills
      • In the use of those skills at the moment of action
      • Specific guidance about the action that needs to be taken
    • Choose your action style to fit the needs of the occasion
  • Introduction
  • Six pairs of action shoes
    • Introduction
      • Occasionally, thinking is an end in itself
      • Usually the purpose of thinking is to choose or design a course of action
      • Sometimes there is a distinct thinking phase and then an action phase
      • At other times thinking and action are intertwined
      • Shoes imply action
      • Situations require different styles of action
    • The perfect person
      • Knowing how to act appropriately in any type of situation
  • Six styles of action
    • Introduction
    • The feel of a situation
      • The feel of a situation is all important
      • Six action shoes provide a framework
        • Become familiar with different types of situations
        • Then use this familiarity to react suitably in similar situations
      • The mind
        • Sees what it is prepared to see
        • Notices what it is ready to notice
        • Works as a self-organizing system
          • Information arranges itself into patterns
          • Once the patters are there then we see the world through these patterns
    • Two shoes in a pair
      • Have to respond to a particular situation without pretending that it is something that we would like it to be
      • Situations are rarely pure
      • Often require a combination of 2 types of shoes
      • 15 possible combinations
    • Color for the shoes
      • Must differ from the hats. To avoid confusion
      • Must suggest the nature of the mode
    • Physical nature of the shoes
      • Important for visualization and learning purposes
    • The shoes
      • Overview
        • Navy formal shoes
          • Routines and formal procedures
        • Grey sneakers
        • Brown brogues
          • Involves practically and pragmatism
          • Do what is sensible and what is practical
          • Figure it out as you go using initiative, practical behavior, and flexibility
          • Almost the opposite of the formality navy formal shoes
        • Orange gumboots
          • Danger and emergency
          • Emergency action is required
          • Safety is a prime concern
        • Pink slippers
          • Suggest care, compassion, and attention to human feelings and sensitivities
        • Purple riding boots
          • Suggest authority
          • Playing out the role give by virtue of a position or authority
          • There is an element of leadership and command
          • The person is not acting in his or her own capacity but in an official role.
      • Once the framework has been learned and visualized, then there is no need to repeat the whole description of the action mode each time:
  • The shoes in detail
    • Navy formal shoes
    • Grey Sneakers
    • Brown brogues
    • Orange gumboots
    • Pink slippers
    • Purple riding boots
  • Combination of shoes
    • No formal framework for combining the different modes of action
    • See discussion of individual shoes for more suggestions
    • Types
      • Balanced combination
      • The uncertain situation
      • A modifying situation
    • See table
    • It is also possible to have flavors of more than two colors in a situation
    • In practice, situations are rarely pure examples of one or another action mode.
  • Action, not description
    • The purpose of the framework is to set the style of the action in advance so that a person can behave within a certain style framework
    • Six action shoes are concerned with what is about to be done
    • Each person should be capable of operating in each of the different modes
    • Just as each person should be capable of using each of the six hats
    • Must resist the tendency to use the six action modes for purposes of description and categorization
  • Simple and practical
  • Language and terminology
  • Action mode summary

combination table




Chapter 1: The Perfect Person

I had lunch with two senior police officers who were talking about the increasing pressures being felt by the police force.

On one side there was increasing crime, violence, drug-related offenses, and criminals who were more and more sophisticated.

On the other side the public was putting more and more pressure on the police to behave compassionately.

Not only was emergency action required from the police responding to earthquakes, fires, etc., but the police were being asked to perform the roles formerly played by doctors and priests in communities that were small and stable.

All those involved in training police officers were aware that the end product of the training was to be a perfect person who knew how to act appropriately in any type of situation.

But how do ‘,you get a perfect person?

How do you train perfection?

That was the problem.

Of course, people occasionally approach this ideal.

But how can more people attain that state of perfection?

There seem to be two traditional approaches to this problem: ¶¶¶

Method 1: Establish rigid codes of behavior and expect people to learn these codes and follow them without deviation.

This method avoids the need to think out a response to individual situations.

To some extent this used to be the military approach.

But how do you establish routines that cover all possible situations?

How do people choose between a multitude of routines or act when there is no relevant routine to apply?

The effect can be disastrous if the wrong routine is selected.

The method works only within a limited range of situations under close supervision. ¶¶¶

Method 2: Establish general guiding principles, and then allow people to design their own actions around these principles.

This method allows the action to fit the occasion.

The guiding principles are designed chiefly to avoid mistakes, and training consists of showing how people follow or fail to follow these guiding principles.

There is merit in this approach, but if the principles are very detailed, it is impossible to remember them all, and if the principles are very broad, then they don’t give much guidance. ¶¶¶

Exhorting someone to behave in a perfect manner is not very useful.

We may fool ourselves into believing that we are achieving our objective, but at most we are making only slight improvements.

IBM has a slogan that says “Think.”

This may get people to stop, pause, think, reflect, and appreciate the value of thinking, but its value is limited because the basic instruction—to think—does not in any way explain how this is to be done.

The six hat method, simple as it is, does provide a framework for thinking.

The six action shoe method does the same for action.

In the course of this discussion on training the perfect person it occurred to me that instead of training one perfect person we should train six people, each of whom would be perfect for just one type of situation. ¶¶¶

This seemed far more practical and easier to do.

Of course, these six people would all live under one skin.

That was the origin of the six pairs of action shoes. ¶¶¶

The success of the six hat thinking framework suggested that something similar could be done for action.

The need for perfectly appropriate action suggested a need for breaking down action into six different styles, each of which could be developed.

See booktitle at for reviews and comments


“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



To create a site search, go to Google’s site ↓

Type the following in their search box ↓

your search text



What needs doing?




Copyright 1985 through 2022 © All rights reserved | bobembry | bob embry | “time life navigation” © #TimeLifeNavigation | “life TIME investment system” © #LifeTimeInvestmentSystem | “career evolution” © #CareerEvolution | “life design” © #LifeDesign | “organization evolution” © #OrganizationEvolution | “brainroads toward tomorrows” © #BrainroadsTowardTomorrows | “foundations for future directed decisions” © #FoundationsForFutureDirectedDecisions | #rlaexpdotcom © | rlaexpdotcom © = rla + exp = real life adventures + exploration or explored

exploration leads to explored

Examples ↑ can be found through web searches, Wikipedia
and the daily news


As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases