Teach Your Child How to Think
By Edward de Bono (includes links to many of his other books)
Amazon link: Teach Your Child How to Think
From Publishers Weekly
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As a self-organizing system the mind allows incoming information to organize itself into routine patterns.
The mind, therefore, has a natural behavior of its own.
We can, however, intervene so that this natural behavior is used more effectively for our purposes.
We can develop attention-directing tools and structures.
In addition, through training, we can try to set up routine patterns that are more effective than the natural ones.
All these things form the basis for the development of thinking skills.
… snip, snip …
First Review Section
At this point some readers of the book may be confused, so it is time to review what has been learned so far. ¶¶¶
The most important thing to remember is that every one of the tools and habits that have been covered so far can be used entirely on its own.
There is not some over-all structure in which everything has its place.
Later on we shall come to some structures, but at this moment everything can be considered to be independent and able to stand on its own. ¶¶¶
For example the black hat can be used on its own.
For example the OPV tool can be used on its own.
For example the C&S tool can be used on its own.
For example the ‘values habit’ can be used on its own.
For example the red hat can be used on its own.
For example the ‘focus and purpose habit’ can be used on its own.
I emphasize this because it is different from many other approaches to thinking.
Many such approaches have complicated structures which look impressive but are very impractical in real life. ¶¶¶
The famous Swiss Army penknife has many blades, each with a different function.
You use the blades one at a time as appropriate: one blade is for cutting; another blade is a screwdriver; another blade opens bottles etc. Think again of the carpenter model I described as a basis for my approach to teaching thinking.
The carpenter uses the hammer when he or she wants to use the hammer.
There is no set structure. ¶¶¶
I know, from many years of experience, that some youngsters will only remember one or two things: perhaps the PMI and CAF.
Others might remember some of the hats (not all).
Someone else might just remember the ‘values habit’ and perhaps the OPV.
Even if someone just remembers the C&S that could be most useful. ¶¶¶
Those who may be confused at this stage are those who are trying too hard to put everything together into one structure.
Do not try to do this or you will end up confusing both yourself and whomever you are teaching.
Tools and Habits
I have covered a number of tools and habits.
What is the difference between a tool and a habit?
A habit is a routine that should always be present at the back of our minds no matter what we are thinking about.
When you take a photograph you always need to be aware of: the focus, the shutter speed, the aperture, the film speed etc. These are things every professional photographer has to keep in mind.
A habit is the same.
Every skilled thinker keeps these habits in mind. ¶¶¶
Each habit is framed as a question (or two questions) which the thinker is supposed to be asking himself or herself at frequent intervals.
Only a few people will remember all the habits.
Some people will remember one or two.
Nevertheless all the habits are important and come into thinking at every stage.
If you watch a good thinker you can observe how these background habits are always there.
A tool is more deliberate and more formal than a habit.
You pick up a specific tool and you use it.
Then you put it down again.
Unlike habits, tools are not in use the whole time.
Tools can give rise to habits.
For example the OPV tool may encourage thinkers always to think of the other people affected by the thinking.
Nevertheless, the OPV tool is a specific tool. ¶¶¶
We need to be specific, formal and even artificial about the tools.
We must say, ‘Let’s do a PMI’, or, ‘I want you to do a C&S on this.’
The more formal and deliberate we are in the practice of these tools the more valuable they become as tools.
As tools they are instructions that we give ourselves. ¶¶¶
With habits, we just have to hope that frequent reminders will mean that the habits are used.
With tools, we can have formal practice and we can request the use of a tool. ¶¶¶
Very often when we are using a tool there are habits which go with the tool.
For example the OPV tool automatically includes the value habit.
All tools involve both the focus and outcome habit.
The APC tool can call for changes in perception.
And so on.
The Thinking Habits
I shall review here the thinking habits that have been covered so far in this book.
They will be presented here not in the order in which they were learned but in a more logical order.
Focus and Purpose:
What am I looking at (thinking about) right now?
What am I trying to do?
This is a fundamental habit in the discipline of thinking.
Without this habit there is drift, confusion and inefficiency.
It is not enough to have a general notion of the subject of the thinking.
Forward and Parallel:
What else might there be?
So what follows?
This thinking habit determines the next step in thinking.
Are we going to move forward from where we are, or are we going to move sideways (parallel) to consider possibilities?
This choice can become a routine quite easily, particularly if we get into the habit of stopping now and again to ask; ‘What else might there be?’
Perception and Logic:
How broad a view am I taking?
In what other ways is it possible to look at things?
The two important aspects of perception are breadth and change.
As part of our thinking we always need to be aware of the importance of perception.
I have not so far put down a question for logic because I shall be dealing with logic later.
A simple question might be: ¶¶¶
What follows from this? ¶¶¶
This is very similar to the ‘forward’ question.
What are the values involved?
Who are affected by these values?
In all real-life thinking the values habit is essential.
Quite simply, the values habit determines the whole value of the thinking (in real life).
Without values there is no value to the thinking.
It is quite obvious that the values habit needs to be a routine part of all thinking.
The tragedy is that in a lot of school thinking there are abstract puzzles and mathematics problems in which this values aspect is not important.
In real life values determine choices, decisions, success and failure.
Outcome and Conclusions:
If you have not succeeded in reaching a conclusion:
What have I found out?
What is the sticking point?
If you have reached a conclusion:
What is my answer?
Why do I think my answer will work?
Naturally, the ‘outcome and conclusion’ habit comes at the end of the thinking.
It is an important habit for two reasons.
The first reason is that if we have made a thinking effort we do want to ‘harvest’ the maximum we can from that effort—otherwise we have wasted our time.
The second reason is that a sense of achievement in thinking is very important for motivation.
Without achievement there is no motivation.
Further thinking habits will be introduced later in the book.
The habits introduced so far are fundamental in their nature and should be part of all thinking skill.
The Six Thinking Hats
The six thinking hats are somewhere between a tool and a structure for thinking.
I have treated them as an attention-directing tool because they direct attention to a ‘type’ or mode of thinking. ¶¶¶
The hats can be used individually and separately (occasional use) or in a sequence (systematic use). ¶¶¶
Information, data, facts and figures.
What information do we have?
What information do we not have?
How can we get this needed information?
There is a relationship to CAF, OPV and possibly FIP. ¶¶¶
Intuition, hunches, feelings and emotions.
A legitimate way to put forward intuition and feelings and to label them as such.
Relationship with values and OPV. ¶¶¶
The hat of assessment and checking.
Does what is suggested fit with our experience, our information, the systems, the values etc.?
The black hat must always be logical and reasons must be given.
Relationship to PMI and C&S. ¶¶¶
The benefits and the advantages of what is proposed.
The reasons why something can work.
Relationship to C&S and PMI.
Like the black hat, must be logical. ¶¶¶
Creativity, action, proposals and suggestions.
This is the generative hat.
Constructive ideas and new ideas.
Direct relationship to APC. ¶¶¶
Overview and control of the thinking process itself.
What are we doing?
What should we do next?
Direct relationship to AGO, focus and purpose, outcome and conclusion. ¶¶¶
The hats operate at a much more general level than the perceptual thinking tools.
There is no great advantage in integrating the hats with the other tools.
The Thinking Tools
The seven attention-directing thinking tools described so far are all taken from the full CoRT Thinking Program which is designed for use in education and is widely used in many schools.
In that program there are sixty thinking lessons divided into sets of ten.
Many further tools are covered. ¶¶¶
The tools all have some acronym and the pronunciation of each acronym has been given.
This acronym is important and is not just jargon—it is necessary in order to turn an attitude into a usable tool.
It is important that the tools should be used explicitly, formally and deliberately.
This can be done as a request or as an intention.
‘I want you to do an OPV.’
‘First of all I am going to do an AGO.’
The tools are reviewed here in the chronological order of use—not in the teaching order in which they have been presented in the book.
AGO: Aims, Goals and Objectives:
What is the objective of the thinking?
What do we want to achieve?
What do we want to end up with?
The AGO directs attention to the specific purpose of the thinking.
If we know exactly where we want to go we are more likely to get there.
CAF: Consider All Factors:
What factors should he considered in our thinking.
Have we left out anything?
What else should be considered?
Before going ahead with the ‘forward’ thinking let us be sure attention has been paid to all those things which our thinking should take into account.
We have to find the factors ourselves they are not presented to us as they are in school textbooks.
Real life thinking can be a messy business.
If you leave out important factors your thinking will never be any good.
OPV: Other People’s Views:
People are doing the thinking and other people are going to be affected by the thinking.
Let us use the OPV to pay direct attention to all these other people.
Who are these people?
What are the views of these people?
What values are involved?
There are the people who are directly involved or affected by the action that might result from the thinking.
Then there are those who will be affected indirectly.
Should the thinker take these other people into account or just look after his or her own values?
Good thinking includes the frequent use of the OPV tool.
APC: Alternatives, Possibilities and Choices:
What are the alternative courses of action?
What can be done?
What are the possible solutions?
It is with the APC that we set out to generate possible lines of action.
APC also applies to explanations and perceptions.
With the APC we search through our store of possible alternatives.
What choices do we have?
If we have no alternatives then we pause and try to construct an alternative.
FIP: First Important Priorities:
With the FIP tool we try to see what really matters.
Not everything is equally important.
When we have a clear view of the priorities, we can choose between the various alternatives.
Which alternative best matches the priorities?
Although the priorities are used at this stage of choosing between alternatives, the priorities may have been set up right at the beginning of the thinking after the AGO has been done.
The more strict you are about priorities the easier decisions become.
C&S: Consequence and Sequel:
If we have chosen one alternative as a possible outcome of the thinking, let us see what would happen if we went ahead with the alternative.
What would follow?
What would the results be?
The C&S can also be applied at the decision stage.
By doing a C&S on each alternative we can see which is the best.
The C&S, FIP and the PMI are all tools to help choosing between alternatives in decisions and in problem-solving (also in design).
The C&S can be applied directly on its own to any suggested action or initiative.
PMI: Plus, Minus and Interesting:
A simple, attention-directing scan.
Instead of just backing up our first judgement we explore the subject before coming to a decision.
We can also use the PMI as an assessment of any conclusion, decisions or problem solution.
We can also use the PMI to help us choose between alternatives by applying it to each available alternative.
The ‘interesting’ part of the PMI scan opens up possibilities and speculations and leads on to creative thinking.
Use of the Tools
The order of the tools given here could be an order for the systematic use of the tools in thinking about some subject.
Nevertheless, the main use of the tools is as independent tools.
They can be used singly or as small groups of two or three.
Just as a carpenter has to decide the most appropriate tool on any occasion so the thinker makes the same sort of choice.
If people are involved, an OPV is important.
If a reaction to a suggestion is necessary, a C&S or PMI is important.
If a decision is needed, a CAF and a FIP are required.
If a plan of action is needed, an AGO is most useful. ¶¶¶
Because the tools are designed to be practical they often overlap.
There are times when a PMI and a C&S may achieve the same thing.
There are times when a CAF might include all the people who would be found with an OPV.
A carpenter may use a hammer and nails or screws and a screwdriver to stick two pieces of wood together. ¶¶¶
A thinker decides which tool to use and then uses it.
Habits and Tools
As I have mentioned the tools may lead to thinking habits.
For example the APC leads to the habit of parallel thinking.
The OPV leads to the habit of finding the values. ¶¶¶
The other way around, the habits are useful when using the tools.
For example focus and purpose help us to focus on the tool that is being used.
After using the tool we need to assess the ‘outcome’: what have we achieved.
With the use of many tools (CAF, OPV, C&S, PMI, FIP) we need to be aware of values the whole time.
A number of thinking habits and thinking tools have been introduced.
They can be used independently or in groups.
They need to be practiced as part of the skill of thinking.
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Second Review Section
The first review section covered many specific thinking tools (PMI, OPV, six hats etc.).
These were tools which could be used separately or together.
A thinker who learned the use of these tools and became skilled at using even some of them would become a better thinker.
Underlying all these tools was one powerful thinking ‘operation’.
This was the operation of ‘attention directing’.
This is the thinking operation that is key to the perception part of thinking.
And the perception part of thinking is key to most day-to-day thinking.
This second review section covers far fewer tools.
This second review section is concerned with some of the fundamental thinking operations.
We need to know about and to understand these thinking operations.
Some of these operations can be used as specific tools (like ‘po’ in lateral thinking), others can be the basis of thinking habits.
Much of the time we carry out these operations without even considering them.
The preceding sections have been an opportunity to consider these fundamental thinking operations.
Truth and Creativity
The big divide in the preceding sections has been between ‘truth’ and ‘creativity’.
Truth maintains: ‘This is the way things are.’
Creativity suggests: ‘This is the way things could be.’
Both aspects of thinking are very important.
Both aspects of thinking are needed. ¶¶¶
At some point we have to start from reality.
In the end we usually have to come back to reality.
So truth is important. ¶¶¶
Without creativity we would not progress or develop better ideas.
Critical thinking is our check on truth: is this true?
There is ‘game truth’ when we have ourselves set up the game or system and we judge whether the game is being played according to our rules.
Mathematics is an example. ¶¶¶
Then there is ‘reality truth’ when we try to match what we are saying to the outside reality of the world around.
There are different levels of truth.
There is truth based on experience of ourselves or of others.
There is checkable truth when anyone can check what we claim.
Then there is truth based on some authority (science, reference books etc.). ¶¶¶
We need to develop the thinking habit of always asking ourselves: ¶¶¶
What is the truth value here? ¶¶¶
What is important is the level of claimed truth.
This can range from a claimed absolute certainty to something that is only offered as a possibility.
Over-claiming needs to be challenged. ¶¶¶
The next role of critical thinking is to check on the logic that is being used.
With logic we seek to derive a further truth from truths which we already have. ¶¶¶
We need to ask the habit question: ¶¶¶
Does this follow? ¶¶¶
A much more important question is: ¶¶¶
Must this follow? ¶¶¶
With a logical argument it is claimed that the conclusion must follow from the preceding step.
We need to look closely at this ‘must’.
Very often it is claimed that something must follow because the thinker cannot imagine an alternative.
If you can imagine an alternative, that destroys the ‘must’ aspect. ¶¶¶
At the end critical thinking (black-hat thinking) may conclude:
This is false.
This is doubtful.
This is not proven.
This is proven.
With creative thinking we are not so much concerned with proving something as with moving forward with possibilities.
Once we have reached a new idea, we can set about proving its truth and value. ¶¶¶
In logical thinking we seek to move step by logical step from where we are to a new position. ¶¶¶
In creative thinking we can make jumps ahead and when we have reached a new position we then set about checking the value of that position. ¶¶¶
Hypothesis, speculation and provocation are all ways of making that creative jump ahead.
Sometimes we have to guess because we do not have enough information for action.
In creative thinking we guess in order to have new ways of looking at information and in order to explore the possibility of new ideas. ¶¶¶
The analysis of information is not sufficient to produce new ideas because the mind can see only what it is prepared to see—and that means the old ideas.
We need to develop skill in speculation. ¶¶¶
Speculation may range from a very reasonable guess (what we seek in a hypothesis) to a mere possibility to a provocation which makes no claim to truth whatever.
The purpose of a provocation is to get us to look at something in a new way—not by presenting the new way but by jerking us out of the old way. ¶¶¶
A creative jump ahead can pull our thinking forward.
We lead from in front.
Without creative thinking we lead from behind and we have to strive to push forward, building on what we know. ¶¶¶
The creative attitude involves a willingness to go forward and to explore possibilities.
Lateral thinking is specifically concerned with changing ideas and perceptions.
Attention-directing tools look after the ‘breadth’ aspect of perception.
The lateral-thinking creative tools look after the ‘change’ aspect of perception. ¶¶¶
Lateral thinking is based directly on a consideration of the pattern-making behaviour of a self-organizing information system (as in perception).
Such systems allow incoming information to organize itself into routine patterns.
Such patterns allow us to function in the world.
We should be grateful for these routine patterns.
But we cannot get across to the available side patterns because of the nonsymmetry of patterns. ¶¶¶
If we do get across to the side patterns we have humor or creativity.
All valuable creative ideas must be logical in hindsight but this does not mean they are accessible to logic in the first place. ¶¶¶
Two specific techniques are suggested for getting across to these side tracks. ¶¶¶
The first technique uses a combination of provocation and movement.
A provocation is an idea which does not exist in experience and has no truth value at all.
We signal such provocation with the invented word ‘po’ to indicate that it is a provocation. ¶¶¶
We then use ‘movement’ to move from the routine track to the provocation and then on to the side track (and a new idea).
Movement is different from judgement.
In judgement we compare an idea with what we know and reject the idea if it does not check out.
With movement we operate outside the judgement system.
We look at the idea to see how we can move forward from it. ¶¶¶
There are specific methods for setting up provocations: received, reversal, escape, wishful thinking and outrageous. ¶¶¶
There are specific methods for obtaining movement from a provocation: attitude, moment-to-moment, extract a principle, focus on the difference, search for values and interesting. ¶¶¶
These lateral-thinking tools can be practiced and then used deliberately whenever there is a need to generate new ideas.
The basic operations of thinking were reviewed.
We need to be aware of these operations and it is useful to practice them from time to time.
Any thinking performance uses a complex combination of these basic operations.
Just practicing the basic operations is not enough—just as exercising groups of muscles does not give us skill at a sport. ¶¶¶
Using the carpenter model the basic operations were divided into three groups.
Focusing on part of a situation;
extracting part of the situation;
analyzing the situation into its parts;
expanding attention to include more than the presented situation.
recognition and identification;
putting things together in synthesis;
building things up in construction and in design.
This is a matter of comparing what is before us to some reference shape.
So we have judgement, matching, hypothesis checking and comparison. ¶¶¶
It is very important to remember that the philosophical description of thinking is not the same as the practical skill of thinking.
A description of tennis is not the same as playing a game of tennis.
Analyzing thinking into its parts does not provide us with usable tools for thinking.
Those tools have to be designed specifically for practical use.
Further Thinking Habits
Two other aspects of thinking were covered in the preceding sections.
Some truths are universal, but many truths which are claimed as universal apply only under certain circumstances.
This is a common cause of error in thinking and also of many disagreements (because one party is thinking of one set of circumstances and the other party of a different set of circumstances). ¶¶¶
Often it is not a matter of arguing whether something is true or not true but of specifying the circumstances under which it is true.
Often both sides in an argument can be right at the same time under different specified circumstances. ¶¶¶
So the thinking habit question is:
Under what circumstances does this apply?
Broad and Detail:
This aspect of thinking is part thinking habit and part operation.
We need to get into the habit of carrying out the operation.
There are two habit questions:
What is the broad idea here?
How can this broad idea be carried out in detail?
The ability to move up and down from detail to broad idea and back again is a characteristic of the skilled thinker. ¶¶¶
We extract the broad idea in order to change it or to find better ways of carrying it out.
We extract the broad idea in order to simplify things and to understand them better. ¶¶¶
When we are generating alternatives it is usually easier to lay out the broad ideas first.
Then we look to see how these broad ideas could be put into practice as detailed ideas. ¶¶¶
Working at the level of ‘broad ideas’ is similar to working at the level of ‘concept’ or ‘function’.
This part of the book has been concerned with fundamental thinking operations.
Every thinker should have a clear understanding of these.
In addition there are the specific creative techniques of lateral thinking.
… snip, snip …
Principles for Thinking
At this point we can put together some guiding principles for thinking.
This could have been done at the beginning of this book, but it would not have made sense.
It will be seen that the principles arise directly from processes that have been covered in the book up to this section.
So the principles become a sort of crystallization of what has been learned. ¶¶¶
It would be possible to put down more principles or fewer principles.
It would be possible to express them in different ways.
There may be some you think I have left out.
This is very much a matter of individual choice and what follows is my choice.
It is difficult to keep the number of principles down to the twelve I give here.
There are many other important principles that could have been included, but I believe that twelve is the maximum number that is practical.
1. Always be constructive.
Too many people get into negative habits of thinking.
They enjoy proving someone else to be wrong.
They feel that it is enough to be critical.
There is a lack of the constructive and generative aspects of thinking.
There are times when it is necessary to be critical.
We need to esteem constructive thinking above critical thinking.
2. Think slowly and try to make things as simple as possible.
Except for a few emergency occasions there is no great merit in thinking quickly.
A great amount of thinking can be done in a short time even if you think slowly.
Always try to make things simple.
There is no merit in complication (except to impress others).
Is there a simpler way of looking at this?
3. Detach your ego from your thinking and be able to stand back to look at your thinking.
The biggest obstacle to skilled thinking is ego involvement: ‘I must be right,’ ‘My idea must be best.’
You need to be able to stand back and to look at what is going on in your thinking.
Just as you might be objective about your tennis skills you should be able to be objective about your thinking.
That is the way to develop any skill.
4. At this moment, what am I trying to do? What is the focus and purpose of my thinking?
Right now, what is the focus of my thinking?
What am I trying to achieve?
What tools or methods am I using?
Without this sense of focus and purpose, thinking is just a matter of drifting along from moment to moment, from point to point.
Effective thinking requires this sense of focus and purpose.
5. Be able to ‘switch gears’ in your thinking. Know when to use logic, when to use creativity, when to seek information.
In driving a car you select the appropriate gear.
In playing golf you select the appropriate club.
In cooking you select the appropriate pan.
Creative thinking is different from logical thinking and from seeking information.
A skilled thinker must be skilled at all the different types of thinking.
It is not enough just to be creative or critical.
You need to know when and how to use the different types of thinking.
6. What is the outcome of my thinking—why do I believe that it will work?
Unless you can spell out a clear outcome of your thinking you have wasted your time.
If you have a conclusion, a decision, a solution or a design etc., you should be able to explain just why you think it will work.
At this point how you got to the conclusion does not matter.
Explain to yourself—as you would to someone else—why you think the outcome is going to work.
If the outcome is a definition of a sticking point, a new problem or a better view of the matter, you need to say what you are going to do next.
7. Feelings and emotions are important parts of thinking but their place is after exploration and not before.
We are often told that feelings and emotions must be kept out of thinking.
This may be true for mathematics and science, but where people are concerned feelings and emotions are an important part of thinking.
But they need to be used at the right place.
If feelings are used at the beginning, perception is limited and choice of action may be inappropriate.
When exploration takes place first and when the alternatives have been examined, it is the role of feelings and emotions to make the final choice.
8. Always try to look for alternatives, for new perceptions and for new ideas.
At every moment a skilled thinker will be trying to find alternatives: explanations, interpretations, action possibilities, different approaches etc.
When someone claims that there are ‘only two alternatives’, the skilled thinker immediately tries to find others.
When an explanation is given as the only possible explanation, the skilled thinker tries to think of other explanations.
It is the same with the search for new ideas and new perceptions.
Is this the only way of looking at things?
9. Be able to move back and forth between broad-level thinking and detail-level thinking.
In order to carry out any idea we have to think in terms of actual details.
So at the end we do have to be specific.
But the ability also to think at the broad level (concept, function, abstract level) is a key characteristic of a skilled thinker.
This is the, way we generate alternatives.
This is the way we move from one idea to another.
This is the way we link up ideas.
What is the broad idea here?
How can we carry out that broad idea?
10. Is this a matter of ‘maybe’ or a matter of ‘must be’? Logic is only as good as the perception and information on which it is based.
This is a key principle because it deals with truth and logic.
When something is claimed to be true the claim is that it ‘must be’ so.
When it is claimed that a conclusion ‘must follow’ from what has gone before there is also an insistence on ‘must be’.
If we can challenge this and show that it is only a matter of ‘may be’, this may still have value but not the dogmatic value of truth and logic.
Even when the logic is without error the conclusion only fits the perception and information on which the logic is based.
So we need to look at this base.
In games and in belief systems we set things up to be true so they are true within that context.
In ordinary life we need always to distinguish between ‘may be’ and ‘must be’.
We need also to check what is claimed.
11. Differing views may all be soundly based on differing perceptions.
When there are opposing views we tend to feel that only one of these can be right.
If you believe that you are right, you set out to show that differing views must be wrong.
But differing views may be just as ‘right’.
A differing view may be soundly and logically based on a perception that is different from yours.
This perception may include different information, different experience, different values and a different way of looking at the world.
In settling arguments and disagreements we need to become aware of the differing perceptions on both sides.
We need to lay these out alongside each other and to compare them.
12. All actions have consequences and an impact on values, people and the world around.
Not all thinking results in action.
Even when thinking does result in action this action may be confined to a specific context such as mathematics, a scientific experiment, a game that is being played.
In general, thinking that results in an action plan, a problem solution, a design, a choice or a decision is going to be followed by action.
That action has future consequences.
That action has an impact on the world around.
This world includes values and other people.
Action does not take place in a vacuum.
The world is now a crowded place.
Other people and the environment are always affected by decisions and initiatives.
Twelve principles for thinking have been put forward here.
For each principle there is an explanation which describes the scope and the importance of that principle.
Some of the principles are concerned with how we operate the skill of thinking.
Other principles are concerned with the practical use of that skill.
It is worth reviewing these principles from time to time.
… snip, snip …
Third Review Section
All the thinking tools put forward in this book can be used on their own.
You can do a PMI.
You can ask someone to do a C&S or an OPV.
You can put on the red hat.
You can ask someone to switch from the black hat to the green hat.
The thinking habits put forward in this book can also be used separately.
You can watch out for the values.
You can pick out the broad idea.
You can examine the truth value.
You can check whether a conclusion has to follow from what went before. ¶¶¶
This approach to the teaching of thinking skills is deliberate.
It is based on many years’ experience.
Complicated structures look good on paper but do not get used.
Even if a youngster just picks up and uses one or two tools from this book that will make an improvement in his or her thinking skill. ¶¶¶
In these last sections I have, however, put forward some suggested structures for those who want to use structures.
Older and more motivated students of thinking and those thinking about serious matters may want a more formal approach. ¶¶¶
The purpose of a structure and the value of a structure is to enable us to do complicated things step by step.
We follow the steps indicated by the structure instead of figuring out what to do at any moment.
You are free to put together your own structures.
The five stages of the structure are given by the syllables: TO/LOPOSO/GO.
Purpose and objective of the thinking.
What do we want to end up with?
What we see when we look around.
The information, the factors, the scene, the terrain.
The input into thinking.
The active, generative and productive stage of thinking.
We produce alternatives, ideas and new ideas.
Possibilities and possible courses of action.
Selecting from the alternatives.
Narrowing things down.
Arriving at a specific course of action or conclusion or outcome.
The action stage.
Plan of action.
The steps to be taken.
There must always be some action output. ¶¶¶
Within each of these stages we can use thinking tools as we wish: for example CAF and OPV in the ‘LO’ stage; FIP in the ‘SO’ stage. ¶¶¶
There is a visual diagram to reinforce the structure.
This has the form of an L-shape.
The vertical limb represents the input into the thinking.
The horizontal limb moves forward into the future and suggests action.
The corner position where the vertical changes to the horizontal limb is ‘PO’ and the generation of possible alternatives.
Argument and Disagreement
This is the first of the special situations for which a structure is offered. ¶¶¶
The basic approach is to lay out ‘alongside each other’ the two opposing views.
This is done at four levels.
Red-hat thinking from each side.
The way each side sees the situation.
The values for each side. ¶¶¶
LOGICAL ARGUMENT: The logic offered by each side. ¶¶¶
In order to lay out these opposing views there may be three steps: ¶¶¶
1. These are my views. ¶¶¶
2. I believe these to be the views of the other party. ¶¶¶
3. What are the views of the other party? ¶¶¶
Steps 2 and 3 can be interchanged if the other party is willing to state its views. ¶¶¶
When the views have been laid ‘alongside each other’—without challenge or argument—the following steps can take place.
What are the points of difference?
What are the points of similarity?
Can these differences be resolved or removed?
Can the opposing views be brought together in a design that looks after the values of both sides?
Can the apparent contradictions be reconciled? ¶¶¶
TRADE AND EXCHANGE: If the design step does not work, there is an exchange or trading of values.
Some value is given up in order to enjoy another value.
Problems and Tasks
A problem is something that gets in our way.
Problems present themselves.
A task is something that you set up for yourself because you want to get somewhere. ¶¶¶
In both problems and tasks there is a starting position and a place where we want to get—but we do not know how to get there. ¶¶¶
The Problink method uses a basic diagram format.
There is the starting position, then there is the route, and then there is the objective (or final position). ¶¶¶
Starting with the objective we ‘drop’ down ideas or items.
These may be sub-objectives or alternative definitions of the objective. ¶¶¶
We then do the same for the ‘route’ area.
We now ‘drop’ down broad ideas.
These broad ideas cover ways we might reach the objective.
These ideas may be very broad but may also be almost specific. ¶¶¶
Next we move to the ‘starting position’ and ‘drop’ down elements or features that are to be found.
This need not be a comprehensive analysis. ¶¶¶
We now take any of these ‘dropped’ items and try to link it up with any other item.
We can move in any direction.
When we have formed a linked route that takes us from starting position, through route to the objective, we seek to turn the broad ideas into detailed ways of getting things done. ¶¶¶
At the end we should have several alternative courses of action available. ¶¶¶
There are various ways of assessing the alternatives.
There can be a simple use of PMI or C&S.
There can be yellow-hat followed by black-hat thinking.
There can be a short check-list that considers:
There can also be a full-scale assessment, as in ‘decisions and choices’.
Decisions and Choices
There are many situations which directly require a decision or choice as the thinking action.
Many more situations (such as problem-solving, design, planning etc.) reach the stage where there are a number of possible alternatives and a choice between them has to be made. ¶¶¶
In the end all decisions and choices are emotional even when they seem objective and neutral.
The purpose of thinking is to allow emotions to act upon perceptions that are broad and clear. ¶¶¶
The emotions of greed, fear and ‘laziness’ contribute to most decisions.
It is worth asking oneself in every case what contribution these three emotions might be making.
‘Laziness’ includes a desire for a quiet life and low hassle. ¶¶¶
For minor decisions and choices we can use a six-hats sequence. ¶¶¶
RED HAT ¶¶¶
YELLOW OR BLACK HAT (opposite to the ‘feelings’) ¶¶¶
BLACK HAT (unless just used) ¶¶¶
GREEN HAT (to overcome difficulties) ¶¶¶
RED HAT (final feelings) ¶¶¶
It is also possible to use the attention-directing tools.
A PMI on its own or a C&S on its own provides a simple assessment.
For a more thorough assessment you can use the tools in the following sequence: ¶¶¶
AGO FIP OPV C&S PMI ¶¶¶
For major decisions and choices there is time for a fuller assessment and this takes the form of a step-by-step check-list that is applied to each alternative in turn: ¶¶¶
OBJECTIVE AND PRIORITIES: How well does this alternative meet the objective and fit the priorities?
Perhaps an ‘A’ list for the alternatives that fully fit the priorities and a ‘B’ list for the rest.
What are the direct benefits for the decider or doer?
Can this be done?
Is it possible?
Something may be feasible only with a great effort. ¶¶¶
DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS: Black-hat thinking.
Difficulties in getting things done.
Contingencies and ‘ifs’.
The impact of each alternative on life style, people, other projects, environment etc. Following the spread of the ripples of effect.
Direct look at the future in terms of immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term effects.
Covering these again even if they are mentioned elsewhere.
What will follow?
Not only in money but also in time, hassle, energy, effort, stress, anxiety etc., etc. What are my ‘outputs’?
The need to assess the risk and to be prepared to accept the risk.
Different types of risk: short-fall; harm and danger; cost-overrun; circumstance change; fall-back position or safety-net. ¶¶¶
TRIAL AND TESTING: Can this alternative be tested?
The possibility of trying out an alternative before full-scale commitment is a great advantage. ¶¶¶
After the application of this check-list the choice may become obvious.
If not, further items may be added to the check-list. ¶¶¶
Sometimes the difficulty arises from a reluctance to give up alternatives that are all attractive.
In such cases an effort is made to ‘Unlove’ alternatives by looking at each of them in a negative light.
This makes it easier to give them up. ¶¶¶
One approach is to make four choices instead of one:
MINIMAL CHOICE (least effort)
The personality of the chooser will then decide which of these is best. ¶¶¶
If selection is still not possible, there is a need for design and creative thinking.
Existing alternatives may be modified.
Alternatives may be combined.
New alternatives may be generated. ¶¶¶
Finally, if too much thinking seems to have confused the matter, it could be useful to apply a simple red hat.
What do I feel like choosing?
This is then followed by the black hat.
Four structures have been put forward: general purpose; argument and disagreement; problems and tasks; decisions and choices. ¶¶¶
For each structure the steps should be followed systematically, one after the other.
The degree of detail that is required at each step will depend on the seriousness of the matter. ¶¶¶
After going through the structure the answer, solution or conclusion may be obvious.
If the conclusion is not obvious this is because there is no suitable alternative or you cannot decide between alternatives.
There are two possible next steps: ¶¶¶
1. Define the ‘sticking point’ or a new problem and think about that. ¶¶¶
2. Use creative thinking to generate new alternatives or to modify existing ones. ¶¶¶
The thinking cycle can repeat itself again and again.
The outcome of thinking may be the definition of a new focus area or problem.
Thinking about that may produce yet another focus area—and so on.
… snip, snip …
The Drawing Method
This is a powerful and practical method of exercising thinking skills.
I have used it for many years with children of different ages, abilities and cultures. ¶¶¶
The method may be used with children as young as five years old and it may be used all the way up to adults.
With the young children the drawing may be rather rudimentary and may need to be accompanied by explanation. ¶¶¶
By drawing I do not mean ‘art’ or pretty pictures that simply describe some scene.
The drawings are ‘functional’ drawings which show how something can be done.
In that sense they are ‘problem-solving’, ‘task-solving’ or ‘design’ drawings.
There is something to be achieved and the drawing shows how it can be achieved.
The drawing may show how you might weigh an elephant.
The drawing might show a machine to exercise dogs.
There are two books of mine based on this method and giving the approach of children to different tasks: Children Solve Problems* and The Dog Exercising Machine.1
1 t * Penguin Education, Harmondsworth, 1972 t Cape, London, 1972
Words and Pictures
Children are often limited in their vocabulary by their socio-economic background.
If the vocabulary of parents is limited so will be the vocabulary of the children.
But with drawing children are free.
Anyone can look at a cat and draw a cat.
The similarity of drawings across a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds suggests that this method of showing thinking is very useful. ¶¶¶
Children often do not have the right words to describe a sophisticated concept—but they are capable of showing that concept in action.
In one drawing of a ‘machine to put people to sleep’ the youngster showed a person on an inclined bed.
Music, and a hammer blow to the head, put the person to sleep.
When the person fell asleep he or she would slip down the inclined bed and the feet would hit a switch which would turn off the music.
The concept is that of ‘feedback control’.
The child would never have been able to describe the concept in those words. ¶¶¶
With words it is often possible to waffle and to be vague.
With pictures this is not possible.
You have to draw something.
A parent or teacher can point to a particular part of the drawing and ask: ‘What is that?’ ¶¶¶
Pictures can often be produced much more quickly than a description in words. ¶¶¶
Pictures provide an organizing framework for the thinking of a child.
With words it is difficult to keep everything in mind as you write it down.
With a picture you can at once see what you have already done and what you still need to do.
If there are gaps you fill them.
Operacy is the skill of doing, the skill of making something happen.
Education is usually reactive and descriptive because it is much easier to put something in front of a student and then ask that student to react.
There are not many practical ways of teaching operacy.
Asking children to run projects or to get involved in making physical objects is useful but it may be very time-consuming.
A drawing is very quick. ¶¶¶
In drawing a child has to put together experience, functions and concepts in a concrete way in order to achieve an effect.
There are problem to be overcome and difficulties to be considered. ¶¶¶
It is often surprising how comprehensive the thinking of children can by/in their drawings.
There is a consideration of factors, of consequences and of other people. ¶¶¶
With a drawing a youngster often gets a sense of achievement that is not present with a written description.
The youngster feels: ‘I have found a way of doing this,’ and ‘this will work.’
Whether or not the concept would work in real life is not important at the moment it works in the drawing.
This sense of achievement is motivating.
A drawing provides a good basis for discussion between a parent and a child.
The drawing is there in front of both of them. ¶¶¶
The parent can ask for clarification and explanation:
Tell me what that is?
What happens over here?
What is that for?
How does this happen?
The parent can also draw attention to problems and gaps:
How do we get the elephant on to the machine?
What happens if the dog does not want to run?
Wouldn’t that be very painful?
Around each of these points a thinking discussion could take place.
Ways of dealing with the difficulty could be suggested.
Values can be introduced. ¶¶¶
If a child draws a box and says ‘It all happens in there’, you ask for a drawing of the inside of this box. ¶¶¶
The discussion can also be at the level of broad ideas and concepts.
A child’s drawing is usually a particular way of carrying out a concept.
It is not easy to see whether the child had the concept first and then thought of a way of carrying it out (for example how to motivate the dog to run) or thought almost directly of a detailed way of carrying out the concept.
In children’s thinking concept and actuality may occur side by side. ¶¶¶
The parent can draw attention to the concept and can try to extract the concept.
Parent and child can then look around for other ways of carrying out the concept.
What are we trying to do here?
How else could we do this?
What about doing it this way...?
Asking children to make simple line drawings is a practical and effective way of developing thinking skills.
These are not ‘art’ drawings but ‘operational’ drawings.
Each drawing shows how some task can be achieved or some problem solved.
The method practices the skills of operacy and design: how do you bring together things in order to achieve some desired effect? ¶¶¶
Pictures have many advantages over words as a thinking medium.
Words are a communicating medium.
Pictures are not limited by vocabulary or social background. ¶¶¶
Pictures provide an ideal medium for thinking discussion between parent and child because it is possible to focus on any aspect of the drawing.
Exercises With Drawing
A list of possible subjects is shown below.
You can add your own.
Always remember that the subject must set some task. ¶¶¶
1. How would you weigh an elephant?
(You might be a zoo keeper and you need to know how much medicine to give.) ¶¶¶
2. Design a machine for testing cars.
(So that all the faults would be found before the car was sold.) ¶¶¶
3. Show a new way for washing windows in very tall buildings.
(The windows get very dirty on the outside.) ¶¶¶
4. How would you design a better bus?
(Buses carry a lot of people but are not always comfortable.) ¶¶¶
5. Design an underwater house.
(So that scientists can watch sharks other fish as they swim by.) ¶¶¶
6. How could roads be made more quickly?
(Making new roads is very slow and very expensive.) ¶¶¶
7. Show how you would test a bridge.
(Bridges get old and unsafe.
We need to know if they are still safe.) ¶¶¶
8. How would you stop people from driving too fast?
(Fast driving causes accidents and injuries.) ¶¶¶
9. How could you design a better table for meals?
(Design a table that is specially suited for eating from.) ¶¶¶
10. Show a new way of catching fish in the sea.
(There are existing ways, can you find a new way?) ¶¶¶
11. How would you put out forest fires?
(Each year forest fires cause a lot of damage.) ¶¶¶
12. Can you show a way of exercising people in their offices?
(People have to work but need exercise too.)
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“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.” …
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
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.
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