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pyramid to dna

Water logic

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

water logic

Amazon link: Water logic




Water Logic Explored


  • 1. Foreword
  • 2. Introduction
  • 3. Structure of the book
  • 4. Outer world—inner world
  • 5. Water logic
    • 'TO'
  • 6. Dance of the jellyfish
    • Stability
    • Self-Organizing
  • 7. How the Brain Flows Into Perception
    • Self-Organizing
    • The Behaviour of Perception
      • Recognition
      • Centring
      • Preparedness
    • Discrimination
    • Meaning
    • The Importance of Words
    • Myths and 'Why?'
    • Closure
    • Shift
    • Levels of Organization
    • Broad Principles of System Behaviour
  • 8. Flowscapes
    • Stream of Consciousness List
    • Examining the Flowscape
      • Collectors
      • Stable Loops
      • Links
      • Further Examples
        • Faithful and Loyal Secretary
          • List
          • Flowscape
        • Petrol Pump Price War
          • List
          • Flowscape
        • Absenteeism From Work
          • List
          • Flowscape
        • Sectarian or ethnic violence
          • List
          • Flowscape
      • Inner and Outer World
      • Practical Technique
  • 9. Stream of Consciousness—Base List
    • CAF on the Choice of a Pet
    • The Stream of Consciousness List Is Not an Analysis of the Situation
      • Analysis
      • Stream of Consciousness
    • Problem Solving
  • 10. More Complex Flowscapes
    • Choosing a Holiday
    • Choosing a Career
    • Rapidly Escalating Health Care Costs
    • Complexity
  • 11. Concepts
    • Concepts, Categories and Aristotle
    • Lumping and Splitting
    • Concepts and Flexibility
    • Pre-Concepts and Post-Concepts
    • Blurry Concepts
    • Working Backwards and the Concept Fan
    • Concepts and Flow
  • 12. Interventions
    • Juvenile Crime
    • Old Church Which Is Standing in the Way of a Major Road Development
    • Racism
    • Action
  • 13. Context, Conditions and Circumstances
    • Creating Contexts
    • Accuracy and Value
  • 14. Flowscapes for Other People
    • From Written Material Etcetera
    • Guessing
    • Discussion
    • Hypothesis
  • 15. Attention Flow
    • 'Isness'
    • Tension
    • Triggering
    • Directing Attention
    • Difficulties
    • Example: Looking Around for a New Job
    • Errors
  • 16. Summary
  • 17. My brother is one of millions who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine




At several points in the book I have referred to ‘water logic’ as a contrast to the ‘rock logic’ of traditional thinking.

The purpose of this naming of ‘water logic’ is to give an impression of the difference.

At this point I shall spell out in more detail some of the points of difference.


A rock is solid, permanent and hard.

This suggests the absolutes of traditional thinking (solid as a rock).

Water is just as real as a rock but it is not solid or hard.

The permanence of water is not defined by its shape.


A rock has hard edges and a definite shape.

This suggests the defined categories of traditional thinking.

We judge whether something fits that category shape or not.

Water has a boundary and an edge which is just as definite as the edge of a rock, but this boundary will vary according to the terrain.


Water will fill a bowl or a lake.

It adapts to the terrain or landscape.

Water logic is determined by the conditions and circumstances.

The shape of the rock remains the same no matter what the terrain might be.

If you place a small rock in a bowl, it will retain its shape and make no concession at all towards filling the bowl.

The absolutes of traditional thinking deliberately set out to be circumstance-independent.


If you add more water to water, the new water becomes part of the whole.

If you add a rock to a rock, you simply have two rocks.

This addition and absorption of water logic corresponds to the process of poetry, in which new images become absorbed in the whole.


It is also the basis of the new artificial device of the ‘strata!’.

With conditions and circumstances, the addition of new circumstances becomes part of the whole set of circumstances.


We can match rocks by saying this shape ‘is’ or ‘is not’ the same as another shape.

A rock has a fixed identity.

Water flows according to the gradient.

Instead of the word ‘is’ we use the word ‘to’.

Water flows ‘to’ somewhere.


In traditional (rock) logic we have judgements based upon right/wrong.

In perception (water) logic we have the concepts of ‘fit’ and ‘flow’.

The concept of ‘fit’ means:

Does this fit the circumstances and conditions?

The concept of ‘flow’ means:

Is the terrain suitable for flow to take place in this direction?’

Fit and flow both mean the same thing.

Fit covers the static situation, flow covers the dynamic situation.

Does the water fit the lake or hole?

Does the river flow in this direction?


Truth is a particular constellation of circumstances with a particular outcome.

In this definition of truth we have both the concepts of fit (constellation of circumstances) and of flow (outcome).


In a conflict situation both sides are arguing that they are right.

This they can show logically.

Traditional thinking would seek to discover which party was really ‘right’.

Water logic would acknowledge that both parties were right but that each conclusion was based on a particular aspect of the situation, particular circumstances, and a particular point of view.




What do we mean by ‘to’?

A ball on a slope rolls ‘to’ or towards the bottom of the slope.

A river flows ‘to’ the sea.

A path leads ‘to’ some place.


An egg in a frying-pan changes ‘to’ a fried egg.


A falling egg leads ‘to’ the mess of a broken egg on the carpet.


A film director may cut from a shot of a falling egg ‘to’ a shot of a collapsing tower.


A film director may cut from a shot of a falling egg ‘to’ a shot of an anguished girl.


A ball that rolls ‘to’ a new position is still the same ball.

The raw egg that becomes the fried egg is still the same egg in a different form.

But the shot of the collapsing tower or the anguished girl in the film is only related to the prior shot of the falling egg because the director has chosen to relate them.


So we really use ‘to’ in a number of different ways.


Throughout this book I intend to use ‘to’ in a very simple and clear sense:

what does this lead to?

What happens next?


It simply means what happens next in time.

If a film image of an egg is followed by the image of an elephant then the egg leads to the elephant.

If you are being driven in a car along a scenic route and an idyllic shot of a cottage is followed by a view of a power station, then that is what happens next.

So the sense of ‘to’ is not limited to ‘becoming’ or ‘changing to’, although this will also be included in the very broad definition of ‘to’ as what happens next.

An unstable system can become a stable system.

A stable system can become an unstable system.

One thing leads to another.


Because this notion of ‘to’ is so very important it would be useful to define it precisely with a new word.

Perhaps we could create a new preposition, ‘leto’, to indicate ‘leads to’.

At this point in time it would sound only artificial and unnecessary





Johnny was a young boy who lived in Australia.

One day his friends offered him a choice between a one dollar coin and a two dollar coin.

In Australia the one dollar coin is considerably larger than the two dollar coin.

Johnny took the one dollar coin.

His friends giggled and laughed and reckoned Johnny very stupid because he did not yet know that the smaller coin was worth twice as much as the bigger coin.

Whenever they wanted to demonstrate Johnny’s stupidity they would repeat the exercise.

Johnny never seemed to learn.


One day a bystander felt sorry for Johnny and beckoning him over, the bystander explained that the smaller coin was actually worth twice as much as the larger coin.


Johnny listened politely, then he said: ‘Yes, I do know that.

But how many times would they have offered me the coins if I had taken the two dollar coin the first time?’


A computer which has been programmed to select value would have had to choose the two dollar coin the first time around.

It was Johnny’s human ‘perception’ that allowed him to take a different and longer-term view: the possibility of repeat business, the possibility of several more one dollar coins.

Of course, it was a risk and the perception was very complex: how often would he see his friends?

Would they go on using the same game?

Would they want to go on losing one dollar coins, etc.?


There are two points about this story which are relevant to this book.


The first point is the great importance of human perception, and that is what this book is about.

Perception is rather different from our traditional concept of logic.


The second point arising from the story is the difference between the thinking of Johnny and the thinking of the computer.

The thinking of the computer would be based on ‘is’.

The computer would say to itself:

‘Which of the two coins “is” the most valuable?’

As a result the computer would choose the smaller, two dollar coin.

The thinking of Johnny was not based on ‘is’ but on ‘to’:

‘What will this lead to?’

‘What will happen if I take the one dollar coin?’

Traditional rock logic is based on ‘is’.

The logic of perception is water logic and this is based on ‘to’.


The basic theme of the book is astonishingly simple.

In fact it is so simple that many people will find it hard to understand.

Such people feel that things ought to be complex in order to be serious.

Yet most complex matters turn out to be very simple once they are understood (here, here, and here).

Because the theme is so simple I shall attempt to describe it as simply as possible.

Although the basic theme is simple the effects are powerful, important and complex.


I have always been interested in practical outcomes. (Find practical outcomes here)

There are many practical processes, techniques and outcomes covered in this book.

How would you like to ‘see’ your thinking as clearly as you might see a landscape from an aeroplane?

There is a way of doing that which I shall describe.

This can be of great help in understanding our perceptions and even in altering them.


I know that my books attract different sorts of readers.

There are those who are genuinely interested in the long neglected subject of thinking and there are those who are only interested in practical ‘hands-on’ techniques.

The latter type of reader may be impatient with the underlying theory, which is seen to be complex and unnecessary.

I would like to be able to say to this sort of reader: ‘Skip section ...

and section ...’

But I will not do that because thinking has suffered far too much from a string of gimmicks that have no foundation.

It is very important to understand the theoretical basis in order to use the processes with real motivation.

Furthermore the underlying processes are fascinating in themselves.

Understanding how the brain works is a subject of great interest.


I have used no mathematical expressions in the book because it is a mistake to believe that mathematics (the behaviour of relationships and processes within a defined universe) has to be expressed in mathematical symbols which most people do not understand.

Some years ago Professor Murray Gell-Mann, the California Institute of Technology professor who won a Nobel prize in physics for inventing/discovering/describing the quark, was given my book The Mechanism of Mind which was published in 1969.

He told me that he had found it very interesting because I had ‘stumbled upon processes ten years before the mathematicians had started to describe them’.

These are the processes of self-organizing systems which interested him for his work on chaos —try an Amazon search.


This book is a first look at water logic and my intention has been to put forward a method for using it in a practical manner.





This book is closely related to my previous book I am Right - You are Wrong (London: Viking, 1990 and Penguin 1991).

In that book I set out to show that the traditional habits of Western thinking were inadequate and how our belief in their adequacy was both limiting and dangerous.

These traditional habits include: the critical search for the ‘truth’; argument and adversarial exploration, and all the characteristics of rock logic with its crudities and harshness.

These habits of thinking were ultimately derived from the classic Greek gang of three, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, who hijacked Western thinking.

After the dogma of the Dark Ages, the rediscovery of this classical thinking was indeed a breath of fresh air and so these habits were taken up both by the Church (to provide a weapon for attacking heresy) and by the non-Church humanist thinkers to provide an escape from Church dogma.

So it became the established thinking of Western civilization.


Unfortunately this thinking lacks the creative, design and constructive energies that we so badly need.

Nor does this thinking take into account the huge importance of perception, beliefs and local truths.

Finally this rock logic exacerbates the worst deficiencies of the human brain, which is why we have made progress in technical matters and so little in human affairs.

For the first time in history we do know something, in broad terms, about how the brain works as a self-organizing information system - and this has important implications.


As I predicted the book was met with outrage that was so hysterical that it became comic and ludicrous rather than offensive.

Not one of those who attacked the book ever challenged its basic themes.

The attacks were in the nature of childish personal abuse or picked on very minor matters - which is always a sure indication that the reviewer is not reviewing the book but prefers to attack the author.

This is a pity because it is a serious subject which needs much more attention than it gets.


It was Einstein who once said: ‘Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.’

It does not follow that violent opposition from mediocre minds qualifies one automatically as a great spirit but it does suggest that the violence of the opposition sometimes indicates emotions rather than value.


To redress this balance, because the subject is important, I invited three Nobel prize physicists to write forewords to the book for future editions.

Those forewords put the matter into perspective.

Why physicists?

Because physicists spend their whole lives looking at fundamental processes and their implications.


I had intended to add a section on water logic and ‘hodics’ to the book.

In the end the book became too long and it was obvious that the section would have to be too short to do justice to the subject.

I promised I would treat the subject in a subsequent publication, and that is what this book is about.


In our tradition of thinking we have sought to get away from the vagueness and instability of perception in order to deal with such concrete matters as mathematics and logic.

We have done reasonably well at this and can now get back to dealing with perception as such.

Indeed we have no choice because if our perceptions are faulty then perfect processing of those faulty perceptions can only give an answer that is wrong, and sometimes dangerous.

We know from experience that both sides in any war, conflict or disagreement always have ‘logic’ on their side.

This is true: a logic that serves their particular perceptions.


So this book is about the water logic of perception.


How do perceptions come about?

What is the origin and nature of perception?

How do the nerve circuits in the brain form and use perceptions?

How do perceptions become stable - and stable enough to become beliefs?

Can we get to look at our perceptions regarding any particular matter?

Can we change perceptions—and if so, where do we start?


This book does not provide all the answers but at the end of it the reader should have a good understanding of the difference between water logic and rock logic. …




Choosing a holiday base list






















Choosing a holiday flowscape




See Peter Drucker's From Analysis to Perception—The New Worldview and The Educated Person for relevance connections. Chapters on these topics can be found in several of Drucker's books. Both can be found in The Essential Drucker.





3. Structure of the book

I start by considering the importance of perception which is the working of the inner world of the mind.

This is different from the outer world which surrounds us.

Traditionally we have tried to get away from perception to deal with the ‘truth’ of reality.

It is time we looked directly at perception.

The next section introduces the notion of water logic and ‘flow’.

Traditional logic is rock logic and is based on ‘is’ and identity.

Water logic is based on ‘to’: what does this flow to?

An analogy involving the behavior of simple jellyfish then illustrates how ‘flow’ works to give stability in a self-organizing system.

Different flow patterns are illustrated.

There is now a direct consideration of the ‘flow behavior’ of the brain and how this gives rise to perception.

The jellyfish analogy is transferred to the behavior of nerve circuits in the brain but the principles remain the same.

A practical technique called the ‘flowscape’ is now introduced.

This technique enables us to see the ‘shape’ of our perceptions.

I explain how flowscapes are created.

A stream of consciousness provides the items for the ‘base list’ from which the flowscape is derived.

The nature of this list is discussed.

There follows a consideration of flowscapes that are more complex, with comments upon these.

The next section deals with the great importance of concepts in water logic and in perception.

Concepts give us flexibility and movement in thinking.

These concepts do not need to be precise and a little fuzziness is beneficial.

We may want to see how we might intervene to alter perceptions.

This section is concerned with methods of intervention based on the flowscape.

Although the flowscapes are concerned with the inner world of perception, we can derive from the flowscapes some strategies for dealing with the outer world.

The notion of context is central to water logic because if the context changes then the flow direction may also change.

This is very different from the assumed absolutes of rock logic.

Being based on perception, flowscapes are highly personal.

Nevertheless, it is possible to attempt to chart the perceptions of others.

This can be done in a number of ways ranging from discussion to guessing.

Even guessing can suggest usable strategies.

The flow of our attention over the outer world is strongly influenced by the perceptual patterns we have set up in the inner world.

This is considered in this section as is the relationship between art and attention flows.

The practical difficulties that might be encountered in setting up flowscapes are now considered with some suggestions as to how they might be overcome.

The summary pulls together the nature of water logic and the practical technique of the flowscape.

Water logic does not exist only as a contrast to rock logic.

Edward de Bono

Palazzo Marnisi





4. Outer world — inner world

The original title of this section was going to be ‘Perception and Reality’.

In the traditional way this would have suggested that there was reality ‘somewhere out there’ and then there was perception which was different from reality.

But perception is just as real as anything else — in fact perception is more real for the person involved.

A child’s terror at a moving curtain in the night is very real.

A schizophrenic’s anguish at inner voices is very real.

In fact, perception is the only reality for the person involved.

It is not usually a shared reality and may not check with the world out there, but perception is certainly real.


From Analysis to Perception


For centuries Western thinking has been dominated by the analogy of Plato’s cave in which a person chained so that he can only see the back of the cave, sees only the shadows projected on this surface and not the ‘reality’ that has caused the shadows.

So philosophers have generally looked for the ‘truth’ that gives rise to these shadows or perceptions.

It is quite true that some people, like Freud and Jung in particular, focused their attention on the shadows, but not on perception in general.

This lack of interest in perception is understandable.

People wanted to get away from the messiness of perception to the solidity of truth.

More importantly, you cannot do much except describe perceptions unless you have some understanding of how they work.

That understanding we have come to only very recently.


A Georgian manor house is set on its own in the fields.

A party of people arrive for the weekend.

They are all looking at the same house.

One person looks at it with nostalgia for happy times spent there.

Another person looks at it with envy, thinking of the sort of life style she would want.

A third person looks at it with horror, remembering a harsh childhood spent in the house.

A fourth person immediately assesses how much such a house would cost.

The house is the same in each case and a photograph taken by each of the people would show the same house.

But the inner world of perception is totally different.

In the case of the house seen differently the physical view is the same but the memory trails and emotional attachments provide the different inner world of perception.

But perception could still be different even if there were no special memory trails.

If each of the guests were to approach the house from a different direction they would get a different point of view.

It would be the same house perceived from a different perspective.

The person approaching from the front would get the classic Georgian facade.

A person approaching from the side would see the original Elizabethan house on to which the facade had been tacked.

The person approaching from the back might mistake the house for a farm.

Everyone knows of the classic optical illusions in which you look at a drawing on a piece of paper and what you think you see is not actually the case: lines which seem to bend but are actually straight; a shape that looks larger than another but is exactly equal.


Stage magicians perform the magnificent feat of fooling all the people all the time through tricking their perceptions.

We are left waiting for the event to occur while it has occurred a long time before.

It is obvious that perception is very individual and that perception may not correspond with the external world.

Perception, in the first place, is the way the brain organizes the information received from the outer world via the senses.

The type of organization that is possible depends entirely on the fundamental nature of the nerve circuits in the brain.

This organization is then affected by the emotional state of the moment which favors some patterns at the expense of others.

The short-term memory of the present context and what has gone immediately before affects perception.

Computer translation of language is so difficult because what has gone before, and the context, may totally alter the meaning of the word.

For example, the word ‘live’ is pronounced in two different ways depending on the context.

Finally there are the old memories and memory trails which can both alter what we perceive and attach themselves to the perception.

One of the most striking examples of the power of perception is the phenomenon of jealousy.

A man is accused of choosing to sit in a certain place in a restaurant so that he can stare at the blonde sitting opposite.

In truth, he had not even noticed the blonde and was really trying to give his girlfriend the seat with the best view.

A wife seems to be seeing a lot of a certain man in the course of her business.

She claims it is a business relationship but her husband thinks otherwise.

In jealousy there are complex interpretations of normal situations which may be totally false and yet give rise to powerful emotions, quarrels and violence.

The point is that the perceptions could, just possibly, be true.

The fact that they are not true does not alter the perceptions.

It is no wonder that the ancient thinkers considered it a magnificent feat to get away from this highly subjective business of perception to truths and absolutes which could be checked and which would hold for everyone.

If you were making a table you could guess the sizes of the pieces that you needed and just cut them up according to your guess.

You would probably be better off if you were to measure the pieces you needed.

They would then be more likely to fit together and the table legs would be the same height.

Measurement is a very successful way of changing perception into something that is concrete, tangible and permanent.

We take it for granted but it is a wonderful concept.

Mathematics is another method for escaping the uncertainties of perception.

We translate the world into symbols and relationships.

Once this is done we enter the ‘game world’ of mathematics with its own special universe and rules of behavior within that universe.

We play that game in a rigorous manner.

Then we translate the result back into the real world.

The method works very well indeed provided the mathematics is appropriate and the translation into and out of the system is valid.

The great contribution of the Greek gang of three was to set out to do the same thing with language.

Words were going to have specific definitions and to be as real, concrete and objective as is measurement.

Then there was going to be a rigorous game with rules which would tell us how to put words together and how to reason.

This game was largely based on identity: this thing ‘is’ or ‘is not’ something else.

The principle of contradiction held that something could not ‘be’ and ‘not be’ something at the same time.

From this basis we developed our systems of language, logic, argument, critical thinking and all the other habits which we use all the time.

The result was that we seemed able to make judgements (which the human brain loves) and to arrive at truths and certainties.

This was all very attractive and it was very successful when applied to technical matters.

It seemed successful when applied to human affairs because judgement and certainty gave a basis for action and for righteousness.

In fact this habit of ‘logic’ is no less a belief system than any other.

If you choose to look at the world in a certain way then you will reinforce your belief by seeing the world in that way.

So the trend has been to flee the world of perception in terms of thinking and to leave perception to art which could explore and elaborate perceptions at will.

I believe it is time we did turn our attention to the world of perception in order to understand what actually happens in that world.

The world of perception is closely related to the way the brain handles information and that is what I explore in the book I am Right - You are Wrong.

There is no ‘game truth’ in perception as there is in mathematics where something is true because it follows from the rules of the game and the universe.

All truth in perception is either circular or provisional.

Circular truth is like two people each telling the other that he or she is telling the truth.

Provisional truth is based on experience: 

‘it seems to me’; 

‘as far as I can see’; 

‘in my experience’.

There is none of that wonderful certainty which we have with ordinary logic — which is a ‘belief truth’ that masquerades as a ‘game truth’.

In the inner world of perception there is not the solidity and permanence of ‘rock logic’.

A rock is hard, definite and permanent, and does not shift.

This is the logic of ‘is’.

Instead, perception is based on water logic.

Water flows.

Water is not definite and hard edged but can adapt to its container.

Water logic is based on ‘to’.

The purpose of this book is to explore the nature and behavior of water logic and to demonstrate some practical ways of using it.

Water logic is the logic of the inner world of perception.

I suspect that it also applies, far more than we have hitherto thought, to the external world as well.

As we start to examine self-organizing systems, as mathematics begins to look into non-linear systems and chaos, so we shall find that water logic is also relevant to many aspects of the external world to which we have always applied rock logic.

I believe this to be the case with economics.

There is a direct impact of perception and water logic even on the apparent rock logic of science.


The mind can see only what it is prepared to see.


The analysis of data does not, by itself, produce ideas.

The analysis of data can only allow us to select from existing ideas.

There is a growing emphasis on the importance of hypotheses, speculation, provocation and model building, all of which allow us to see the world differently.

The creation of these frameworks of possibility is a perceptual process.

I should add that there is no such thing as a contradiction in perception.

Opposing views may be held in parallel.

There is mismatch where something does not fit our expectations — like a black four-of-hearts playing card but that is another matter.

Because of this ability of perception to hold contradictions, logic has been a very poor way of changing perceptions.


Perceptions can be changed (by exploration, insight, context changes, atrophy, etc.) but not by logic.


That is another very good reason for getting to understand perception.

Only a very small part of our lives is spent in mathematics or logical analysis.

By far the greater part is spent dealing with perception.

What we see on television and how we respond to it, is perception.

Our notions of ecological dangers and the greenhouse effect are based on perception.

Prejudice, racism, anti-semitism are all matters of perception.

Conflicts that are not simply bully-boy power plays are based on misperceptions.

Since perception is so important a part of our lives there seems merit in examining the nature of water logic rather than trying still harder to fit the world into our traditional rock logic.



Legal documents often contain paragraphs like, 

'The house at number 14 Belmont Road, 

the house at number 41 Cornwall Avenue 

and the house at number 12 Drake Street 

comprise the property hereinafter referred to as The Property.'

So instead of listing the different houses each time they are referred to, it is only necessary to write 'The Property'.

A concept is a similar package of convenience 

which puts a number of things together 

so that they can be referred to as a whole.

In a sense every word is a concept.

There is a concept of a mountain which is referred to by that word.

There is the concept of justice 

which includes 

fair play, 

moral values 

and the administration of the law.

Obviously it is easier to be certain about 

what goes into a concept 

where the subject is physical 

and can be observed 

than when it is abstract.

A great deal of 

classic Greek thinking 

and Socratic dialogue 

went into discussing and arguing 


what actually 

should go into concepts 

such as justice.

So there are concepts 

which have been crystallized 

into words: 

crime, justice, punishment, mercy, etc.

Then there are packages 

for which we do not yet have a word.

This may be 

because it is but a temporary package (as with the legal document) 

or because language is quite slow at creating and admitting new words.

We could call these 'naked' concepts 

since they are like a crab 


the hard shell of a word around them.

Such naked concepts have to be described by a phrase, 

a combination of other words.

All the 

stream of consciousness lists 

given in this book 

contain a variety of concepts.

These may be well established concepts 


There are also less established concepts 


There may even be 

more complicated concepts 



This last example 

is on the borderline 


a described factor 

and a concept.

As I have indicated 

there is some danger 

if the concepts 

we use in the base list 

are too broad.

For example, 

in the flowscape on 

'Choosing a holiday' 

if we had inserted 

the concept 


we might have ended up 

with showing that 

the best way 

to choose a holiday 

was to choose 

an enjoyable holiday.

This is like saying 

the best holiday 

is the best one to choose.

The same consideration 

applied to 

'Choosing a career'.

If we had inserted the concept 


we would have arrived 

at the conclusion 

that the best career 

was the one which 

suits a person best.

Since this is just a 

repeat of the question 

it has little practical value.

For the base lists 

we need to 

put in 


that are broad enough 

to cover a lot of detail 

but not so broad 

that they just 

repeat the question: 

'How would you solve this problem?'

'With the appropriate answer.'

In addition to using concepts for the base list 

we can also extract concepts 

from the flowscape 


we have it before us.

Any major collector point 

is automatically 

a useful concept 

which may, or may not, be 

adequately described 

by the item on the base list.

For example, 

in 'Choosing a holiday' 

the point INTERESTS 

is a major collector point.

We may leave this as it is 

or redefine it.


a whole loop 

can become a concept.

For example, 

in the 'Health care costs' flowscape 

the whole stable loop could be 

characterized as 

'the need to strive to maintain life 

at any cost'.

This is not quite the same 

as heroic medicine, 

though this comes into it.

The concept of 

'health as a right' 

is produced by 

a combination of 



and lack of economic considerations.

One of the main benefits 

of examining flowscapes 

is to realize 

how powerful 

certain clusterings 

of factors 

might be.

This can be 

a moment 

of insight.

For convenience 

we may wish to 

create a concept 

to represent such clusterings.


Concepts, Categories and Aristotle

It was Aristotle's great contribution 

to create rock logic.

This was done by 

forming the idea of 'categories'.


could be clearly defined.

For example

 there might be a category (or concept) 

of a 'dog'.

When you encountered an animal 

you would judge 


it belonged in that category 

or not.

If it did belong 

then we might say or think, 

'This is a dog.'

Once we had made that judgement 

then we could ascribe 

all the characteristics of the dog category 

to the creature.

For example 

we might expect the creature 

to bark 

and behave like a dog.


'this is a dog' 

and 'this is not a dog' 

could not both be right 

we got the principle of contradiction 

which is the basis of the logic.

There is nothing wrong with 

concepts and categories 

as exploratory devices.

It is when 

they are used for 

the rigid arguments of rock logic 

that there 

may be trouble.

Using water logic or flow notation, 

the benefits of having 

concepts and categories 

are shown in fig. 53.



we can see 

how the different attributes 

feed into 

the collector point 

of the concept.

From the concept 

we then get 

a loop 

consisting of 

all the fixed characteristics 

of that concept.

It is fairly easy 

to see 

that the whole thing 

is either 

a guessing game 

or circular.

If a creature 

has all the attributes 

of a dog 

then we can call it a dog, 

but doing so 

will not provide anything 

we do not know already.

If the creature 

has only some of the attributes 

then we can call it a dog 

and it will now get the rest of the attributes.

This is a guessing game 


we assume that a creature cannot have some of the attributes of a dog 

and not the others — 

just as a duckbilled platypus 

has a bill like a duck 

but has fur and four legs.

In practice 

the process 

is more as shown in fig. 54.



the hints or clues 


a hypothesis or guess.

This guess 

is then checked out 

by looking for 

vital features.

If the check is passed 

then the 

concept description can be applied.


Lumping and Splitting

Science has always been a matter of 

lumping together 

into a single concept 


which may seem different, 

and separating 

into two concepts 


which seem the same.

Fig. 55 shows 


part of a flowscape 

in which two collector points 

are linked together 

by a single name, N-1.

A scientist 

now spots a vital 

X factor.

One of the groups 

has this X factor 

and the other does not.

The flowscape 

now splits into two, 

as shown in fig. 56, 

and this split is stabilized 

by two new names, N-2 and N-3.


This process 

of increased discrimination 

happens all the time.

That is how different diseases 

get identified 

so that treatment 

can be more specific.

The same process 

can happen in reverse.

In Australia 

there is a wealth 

of brightly colored 

parrots, parakeets, lorikeets etc. 

Amongst all these 

there is one bird 

which is almost completely red 

and another which is almost completely green.

For a long time 

these were considered to be 

two different species.

Then it was realized 

that they were just 

the male and female 

of the same species.

This process of lumping is shown in fig. 57.


Two separate groupings 

are united by a common feature 

and the grouping is stabilized 

with a new name N-4, 

though it could retain one of the old names.


Concepts and Flexibility

There was a classic experiment 

in which students were given 

some electrical components 

and asked to 

make up a circuit 

to ring a bell.

There was not 

quite enough wire given 

to complete the circuit.

Most students 

gave up 

and declared 

that it was impossible.

A few 

made use of the metal shaft 

of the supplied screwdriver 

to complete the circuit.

The majority of students 

looked for 

a 'piece of wire'.

The exceptional students 

worked at a concept level 

and looked for a 'piece of metal'.

The ability 

to work at a concept level 

is crucial for creativity 

and for thinking in general.

As shown in fig. 58, 

we need to keep moving constantly 

from the actual detail level 

to the concept level 

and back again.


This is how 

we move 

from idea to idea.

This is the basis of 

constructive thinking, 

for otherwise 

we are limited to experience 

and what is before us at the moment.

Fig. 59 is an illustration of training.

You can train someone 

to react to situation A with response 1, 

to situation B with response 2, 

and to situation C with response 3.


The training is effective 

and these trained people 

know what to do.

But if, one day, 

situation A occurs 

and response 1 

is not possible 

then that person will be lost.

But if the people 

had been trained 

using a function concept 

to link 


and reaction 

then that person 

might have 

looked around 

and found 

that another response 

might also carry out that function concept, as shown in fig. 60.


That is why 

it might be limiting 

to accelerate 

the learning of young children.

They can be taught responses 

but may lose out 

on the development of concepts.


Pre-Concepts and Post-Concepts

Most concepts 

are convenient package descriptions 

after we know what is in the package.

The legal paragraph 

used at the beginning of the section 

defines the relevant properties precisely.

I call these 


because they occur 

after the event.

This packaging 

for the sake of convenience 

is shown in fig. 61, 

which also indicates 

how the concept is stabilized 

by a name.




we start at exactly 

the opposite end.

We know 

what the concept should do 

but we do not know 

what the concept is.

Any writer knows this well, 

as he or she searches 

for just the right word 

to describe 

a complex set of features.

An engineer might say: 

'At this point 

we need something 

that is going to change shape 

and to form a shape 

we have predetermined.'

The engineer knows 

the features 

of what is wanted.

The answer 

could be a type of memory metal 

which reverts back to a previous shape 

at a given temperature.

Such metals are now in use.

The process is illustrated in fig. 62.


A pre-concept 

is like defining a hole 

and then looking for something 

to fit that hole.

In a post-concept 

we find the characteristics together 

and name this cluster a concept.

In a pre-concept 

we put together the characteristics 

and then look around 

for something to fit the defined need.

This is an important part 

of problem solving.

A pre-concept 

is a bit like a hypothesis 

since it allows us to 

move ahead of where we are at the moment.

I sometimes distinguish between

 three types of question.

In a 'shooting question' 

we know what we are aiming at 

and the answer is 'yes' or 'no'.

This is a checking-out question.

In a 'fishing question' 

we bait the hook 

and wait to see what turns up.

This is an open-ended search for more information.

In a 'trapping question' 

we prepare the trap 

to suit 

what we want to catch.

This is exactly the same as a pre-concept.

We define the needs 

and then look for a way 

of satisfying those needs.


Blurry Concepts

In most of our thinking 

we are encouraged 

to be precise.

This is very much 

the nature of 

rock logic.

In water logic, 

however, the concern 

is for movement: 

where do we flow to?

There are times when 

a blurry or vague concept 

is actually more use 

than a precise concept.

A blurry concept 

can act as 

a better collector point 

and therefore 

a better connector point.

Which is the more useful 

of the following two statements?

'I need a match to light this fire' 

or, 'I need "some way" of lighting this fire.'

In the first case 

you look specifically 

for a match 

and if you do not find a match 

you are blocked.

In the second case 

your search 

is much broader.

You might use a lighter, 

you might take a light from a gas pilot light, 

you might generate a spark, 

and so on.

In an earlier book of mine 

(Practical Thinking, London: Penguin, 1971), 

I wrote about 'porridge words' 

and the value of blurry concepts.

A precise concept 

may fix where we are.

A blurry concept 

allows us to move forward.

Once again, 

this is partly related to the 'fuzzy logic' 

that is now so fashionable 

in the computer world.



locks us into the past, 

what 'is' 

and what has been.

Blurry concepts 

open up 

the future, 


and what might be.

A blurry concept 

is not the same as 

sloppy thinking.

A blurry concept 

is definite 

in its own way.


Working Backwards and the Concept Fan

One way to solve problems 

is to work backwards.

This is not so easy to do 

if we do not know 

the solution to the problem.

If you want to reach point P 

you can work backwards from that point 

but if you are not sure where point P might be, 

that is not easy.

There is, however, 

a way of working backwards 

that I have called.

The Concept Fan.

This is described 

in more detail 

in Serious Creativity 

(New York and London: Harper Collins, 1992) 

but I shall also mention it here 

since it really depends on 

the flow of water logic.

Suppose the purpose of our thinking 

is to tackle the problem of 

'Traffic congestion in cities'.

From that defined purpose 

we work backwards.

What broad concepts 

might help us 

with that problem?

We might reduce the traffic load.

We might improve flow on the existing road system.

We might increase the available road surface.

Each of these 

are broad concepts — 

there may be more.

How might we 

feed these 

broad concepts?

This is the same notion 

as the 


of a collector point.

How might we reduce traffic?

We could encourage the use of vehicles with more people on board.

We could discourage drivers from coming into the city.

We could reduce the need for people to come into the city.

Again there will be other concepts which feed the broad concept of reducing traffic.

We would do the same 

for each of the other 

broad concepts.


we see how 

we could 

feed these concepts.

In practice this means seeing how the concepts could be put into practical operation.

For example, how might we get vehicles with more people on board?


encouraging the use of public transport and making this better, 

encouraging car pools and sharing, giving privilege lanes to vehicles with several occupants, 

or by restricting central parking.

We do the same for each concept.

How might we 

discourage drivers 

from driving into the city?


charging a special fee for entrance before ten in the morning (as in Singapore), 

making no provision for parking and using tough measures for illegal parking, 

publicizing pollution levels in the city, 

or by publicizing the actual rate of car movement in the city.

The process is shown schematically in fig. 63.


At the left-hand side 

we end up with a number of practical ideas 

which feed into the concepts, 

which in turn feed into the broad concepts, 

which in turn help with the problem.

The interesting point is 

that our search is moving backwards 

from the purpose (going from the right-hand side to the left-hand side) 

but the flow path of achievement is flowing from the left-hand side to the right-hand side.

The process can be very powerful 

if you are good 

at putting down the different concepts.

This requires some practice.

The concept fan 

is not an analysis of the situation 

but an elaborated flowscape.

At times you may reach 

a pre-concept 

or a defined need 

but not have a way of doing it.

For example, you might seek 

to discourage drivers 


'damaging their cars'.

Is it possible to find a way of doing this which would be effective but also acceptable?

Possibly not.


Concepts and Flow

This section of the book is important because 


are a very important part of


and water logic.

Concepts are collector points or junctions.

Concepts allow

things to come together.

Concepts allow 

us to move across 

from idea to idea.

Concepts allow 

us to describe things 

but also 

to search for things (pre-concepts).

The better 

you become 

at using concepts 

the better you will be 

at water logic.

The question is always, 

'Where does this take us?' 

rather than, 'What is this?'


Context, Conditions and Circumstances

In water logic context is hugely important.

I have often used the landscape or river valley analogy to illustrate the flow patterns that form in the self-organizing information system we call the brain.

This analogy gives a good picture but has one major defect.

The landscape is fixed and permanent.

But in the brain 

a change of context 

can change the landscape.

It is as if 

a different landscape 

were being observed.

Under one context or set of circumstances 

in the brain, 

state A will be 

succeeded by 

(or flow to) state B. 

But if the context changes 

then A 

will flow to C. 

The context change 

might be chemical.

A change in the chemicals 

bathing the nerve cells (or released at nerve endings) 

will lead to different sensitivities.

This is also explained in more detail 

in the book I am Right - You are Wrong.

It seems likely 

that changes in emotion 


the biochemical balance 

and so the flow patterns shift.

This is an essential part of the functioning of the brain 

and not some ancient irrelevance.

Self-organizing patterning systems 



in order to function well.

Fig. 72 shows a simple flow from A to B. With a context change the flow is from A to C.


Other inputs into the brain 

at the same time 

will also alter the context 


different nerve groupings will be activated 

or partially activated (sub-threshold).


when the currently activated grouping (or state) tires, 

then a different new grouping will follow.

For this reason 

the basic water logic theorem 

is stated as follows: 

'Under conditions X, 

state A will always 

flow to state B.'

We can return briefly to the jellyfish.

Let us suppose 

that at night 

they disengage their stings 

and sting another jellyfish.

There will therefore be 

two arrangements: 

the day arrangement 

and the night arrangement.

The brain 

behaves in the same way 

but at a more complex level 

because there are many possible contexts.

In an argument 

people with opposing perceptions 

are often both right.

Each of the opposing perceptions 

is based on 

a particular set of 

circumstances and context.

The variability 

may arise 

in many ways.

Each party 

is looking at 

a different part 

of the situation.

Each party 

is looking at the same situation 

but from a different point of view 

(like different views of the same building).

The emotional setting is different.

Personal history and backgrounds are different.

Traditions and cultural backgrounds are different.

Immediate past history has created a different context for each of the parties.

It is characteristic of rock logic to ignore all this and to assume that the absolutes of 'truth' are independent of the current context.

Science only works because in any experiment it is assumed that the context is held constant while one factor (the experimental variable) is altered.

In some of the flowscape examples 

I have mentioned 

the huge importance 

of context 

and in one example 

shown the effect of 

a context change.

For most of the examples, 


it has been assumed 

that the context is fixed.

Is this reasonable?

The flowscape method 

deals with 

the inner world of perception.

A flowscape 

is not a description 

of the outer world.

Whenever a flowscape is constructed 

the person 

laying out the stream of consciousness list 

and making the flow connexions 

has some definite context in mind 

at that moment.

So for that moment 

the context is fixed.

If that person 

wishes deliberately 

to change the context 

then a different flowscape 

can be laid out.

At a different time 

a new flowscape 

might be made 

and might differ 

from the original one 

because the context is different.

For this reason 

we do not put into a flowscape 

the possibility that 

state A can also flow to state C 

under different circumstances.

That would not only be confusing 

but would be incorrect 

since it would 

refer to a possible perception, 

whereas flowscapes 

are about actual perceptions 

at this moment.

At the intervention stage 

it is now possible 

to speculate 

on how perceptions might be changed 

if a context 

were to be changed.

Now we are 

looking at possibilities.

It is always best 

to construct a new flowscape 

(or part of the flowscape) 

rather than to attempt 

to show the change 

on the same flowscape.

This causes confusion 

because you can always 

add a new flow arrow 

but you cannot remove an existing one.

The use of different colors is a help 

but it is far better 

to lay out a new flowscape 

for the new context.

What about 'if' factors?

'If he were rich this would happen … but if he were poor then this would happen …'

'If the sun were shining then I would do this … if the sun were not shining I would do that …'

When you take a picture with a camera 

the photograph tells you 

what is there at that moment.

The photograph does not tell you what it would be like 

'if' the sun were to come out, 

if the man were thinner, 

if the boy were to smile, 

if the woman wore a green dress, etc. 

In the same way 

the flowscape is 

a 'picture' of perception 

at any one moment.

Where there is an interest in 

an 'if' or possible context change 

then do another flowscape 

for that other context.


Creating Contexts

Quite often there are specific context conditions: 

war conditions, 

the context of intense jealousy, 

if the sun is shining, 

if he is rich, 


These are definable contexts.

Most of the time, however, a context is not defined but is built up of many different factors: 




the media, 


At the beginning of the book I mentioned that one characteristic of water is that you could add water to water and still get just water — in contrast to adding rock to rock.

So we can build up contexts in layers.

We add further inputs one after the other.

The inputs do not have to be connected.

The inputs may be contradictory.

We just add them.

Gradually a context builds up.

Poetry and much of art is concerned with the build up of a mood, scene or understanding in this way.

There is no attempt to interconnect the elements or to make deductions: the mood just develops.

In the creative process, 

people are often asked 

to saturate their minds with information 

and considerations about the subject 

and then to let these settle down on their own.

In the book I am Right - You are Wrong the process is formalized as a 'stratal'.

This is different layers or strata which have no connection other than that they are about the same subject and are put down in the same place.

The result is very similar to blank verse or even a Japanese haiku.

There is no conclusion and there is no intention to make any point.

All this is sensible and reasonable behavior in a self-organizing system.

The inputs do organize themselves 

to give an output 

which we might call intuition.

More importantly 

we build up a background context 

in which our thinking 

can take place.

In setting out to create a flowscape 

it can be worthwhile 

to establish the context in this way: 

putting down layers of 

statements and considerations.

This creates the context 

in which the flowscape 

is going to be set.

From this 

also comes 

the stream of consciousness list of points.

This preliminary stage 

is a sort of sensitizing 

of the mind 

to the subject.


Accuracy and Value

If flow and water logic 

are so heavily dependent on context 

and if context can be so variable, 

then how can a flowscape 


be accurate 

or have a value?

Our actions 

arise from our perceptions 

and we do manage to 

initiate and carry through sensible actions.

Perceptions are changeable 

but are also stable enough 

to give us 

actions and flowscapes.

If I asked you to 

arrange the numbers 3 5 2 4 1 6 from the smallest to the biggest, 

you would have little difficulty in putting down 1 2 3 4 5 6.

If I asked you to 

arrange the numbers 2 13 8 20 3 9 from the smallest to the biggest, 

you would not tell me that it is impossible because all the numbers are not there.

You would arrange them quite simply: 2 3 8 9 13 20.

In the same way 

a flowscape 

does not have to be comprehensive 

to have value.

We arrange 

what we have 

and then see what we get

'Accuracy' is a term which comes directly from rock logic.

Is the flowscape 

an accurate reflection 

of the perception of the person 

making the flowscape?

If it is made honestly 

then it will be a reflection 

of that person's perception — 

because it is made with perception.

If the person puts down 

what he or she 'thinks they ought to think' 

then that is the picture that will emerge.

The value of a flowscape 

is that it allows us to 

look at 

our perceptions.

We can 

agree with them 

or disagree with them.

We may get 


and also a sense of relative importance 

and controlling factors.

We may observe 

how the perceptions might be changed.

We may get ideas or approaches 

for acting in the outer world 

represented by the flowscape 

of the inner world.

All these things are values.

Could we end up fooling ourselves?

The answer is certainly 'yes' because we are very good at that.

But we have a much better chance of detecting the self-deception with a flowscape than without it.

Flowscapes do not have 

a 'proving value' as in rock logic.

Their value is illustrative and suggestive.

A flowscape provides 

a framework 

or hypothesis 

for looking at the world.

A flowscape provides a tangible way of getting to work on our perceptions.

Do not set out to construct the 'correct' flowscape.

Put down the stream of consciousness list 

and then work forward from that 

and see what emerges.

Then look at that.


Attention Flow


Related: How to Be More Interesting


You are walking through long grass and suddenly you hear a rustle right behind you.

Your attention switches to that rustle.

You are examining a piece of jewelry and the assistant puts another piece in front of you.

Your attention switches to the new piece.

You are talking to someone at a cocktail party and suddenly one of her earrings falls off.

Your attention switches to that.

It is hardly surprising that 

if something new turns up 

your attention may be caught by that.

But what about those situations where there is nothing new?

How then 

does attention 

shift or flow?

You can live in a house for years and not notice some feature until a guest points it out.

The Boy Scouts have a game, called, I believe, Kim's Game, in which you are presented with a tray of objects which is then removed after a few moments.

You try to recall as many objects as you can.

Noticing things is certainly not easy and may require a lot of training.

Medical students are taught to notice all sorts of features of a patient in order to help with the diagnosis.

Conan Doyle applied his medical training in this respect to the behavior of his detective character, Sherlock Holmes.

There is a sort of paradox in that 

the mind is 

extremely good at recognizing things 

and yet poor at noticing things.

From a tiny fraction of a familiar picture someone will recognize the picture.

From a single bar someone will recognize a musical piece.

Perhaps there is no paradox at all.

We notice the familiar things we are prepared to notice.

At the same time very unusual things will catch our attention.

Anything in between is unlikely to be noticed.

This is not at all a bad design for a living creature to make its way through life.

In many amusement parks today there are long water chutes in which a little water running down a chute provides enough slipperiness for a child to slide down the entire chute.

The surface has to be very smooth.

Imagine the trouble that would be caused by a protruding bolt.

There is the same effect when something interferes with the smooth flow of attention.

The opposite of interruption is the smooth flow that contributes to aesthetics.

In a way art is a choreography of attention, 

leading attention first here 

and then there.

The same is true of the art of a good storyteller.

There is 


and foreground 

and loops of attention.

You look at a beautiful Georgian house set amongst trees.

At first you look at the whole setting.

Then your attention moves to the house itself.

Then to the portico or main door.

Then back to the house.

Then to an individual window.

It is this dance of attention that gives us the feeling of pleasure.

It is probably true that there are 

certain things 

that the human mind 

finds intrinsically attractive.

There are certain proportions 

which may or may not 

reflect the proportions 

of a mother's face 

to an infant.

There are certain rhythms 

which may or may not be 

related to the effect 

of the mother's heartbeat 

upon a child.

The rest may be 

the rhythm of 

the flow of attention.

In a sense 

all art 

is a sort of music.

We often think of attention 

as a person holding a torch 

and directing the beam 

at one thing after another.

This does happen sometimes.

If you attend very formal art appreciation classes 

you may be given 

a sort of check-list of attention.

Notice the use of light and shade.

Notice the disposition of the figures.

Notice the use of color.

Notice the brushwork.

Notice the faces, etc. 

Here, attention is flowing along a preset pattern 

in order to 

notice things in the world in front.

Mostly, however, there are no check-lists 

except those 

set by familiarity and expectation.

Mostly attention flows 

according to 

the rules of water logic.

If the flow of attention 

turns up something interesting 

then there is a new direction, 

and new loops form.

You might be looking 

at the carving on a Hindu temple 

and suddenly notice a swastika sign.

Because of the association of 

the swastika with Nazi Germany 

your attention is caught 

and loops around in that area.

You may wonder 

what the sign is doing there 

if you do not know 

that it is indeed 

an ancient Hindu symbol.

So the attention flow itself 

can turn up things 

which develop 

further attention flows.


Drucker and de Bono topics


You are looking at something in a museum 

and then you read the label — 

this prompts you to notice things 

you have not noticed.

So even if 

there are no new events, 

attention can turn up 'new events'.

If attention follows the rules of water logic 

then why does attention 

not lock itself 

into a stable pattern 

and stay there?

To some extent 

this is what attention 

normally does.

Most of the time 

we recognize things 

and do not give them a second glance, 

precisely because 

we have locked into 

the usual stable pattern.

At other times 

the flow of attention 

uncovers new things 

which then 

develop new loops.

Any new input 

will change the context 

and so 

get us out of a stabilized loop.

Attention flow 

may uncover 

areas of 


and detail.

The immense richness 

of the carvings on a Hindu temple 

makes it difficult for us to see it 

as a whole.

In contrast, the attention flow of the Taj Mahal 

is an excellent example of 

a smooth flow 

from the whole 

to a part 

and back to the whole 

and back to another part, 

and so on.

If there is too much detail 

we get bogged down.

If there is too little detail 

we can only see the whole, 

and attention does not flow — 

as in some modern buildings.

Somewhere between 

too much and too little detail 

is the richness of the Gothic style.

This is more like 

the intricacies of a morris dance 

rather than the waltz of the classical style, 

although that could also have 

many intricacies.

The difference between 

perception which is purely internal 

and attention flow which is directed outwards 

is that attention 

can trigger new perceptions.

This can also happen in 

the inner world of reflective perception 

but is much more rare.

In general, in reflective perception, 

it is a matter of existing perceptions 

which organize themselves into flow patterns 

which we attempt to capture with flowscapes.

If a dog is taken on a walk 

then the dog will 


sniff around 

and explore one area 

then set off for another area, 

which is then explored again, and so on.

Attention flow is somewhat like that.

Fig. 76 shows that the overall track of attention flow is really made up of several exploratory loops on the way.


If we include the loops 

in the overall track 

then fig. 77 

shows some possible 

attention-flow tracks.


In one case 

the track just wanders about.

In another case 

the track keeps coming back 

to the starting point 

but then moves out 

in widening circles, 

all of which still come back to the start.

In another case 

the loops succeed each other 

but the whole returns full circle 

to the starting point.

I suspect 

the attention flows 

that complete the circles 

are the ones 

which we would 

find most appealing.



Indian philosophies put a lot of emphasis on 'isness' 

which means 

really seeing 

what something 'is'.

If you sit and contemplate a rose for three hours 

you will begin to see a 'rose'.

Mostly attention has a practical job to do: 

explore a matter 

until you 

recognize it 

and then move on.

Once the perceptual loop 

has stabilized 

we move on.

So we do not really see a rose 

but just the usual impression 

of a rose.

Meditation is an attempt 

to halt the flow of attention 

and to unravel 

the stable perceptual loops.

One can ascribe metaphysical value to that 

as you wish.

A somewhat similar effect 

can be obtained with drugs 

that interfere with 

the normal nerve coordination, 

so making familiar things look strange 

because the established flow patterns 

no longer work.



Salvador Dali's famous painting 

of the melting watch 

is a pure example of 

the use of the tension 

between two opposing patterns: 

the rigidity of a watch 

that is necessary for it to perform 

its function of accuracy, 

and the soft contours of wax-like melting.

The mixing, 


and juxtaposing of images 

has an extensive tradition in art.

It is unusual, 

it catches our attention 

and makes us stop, 


and perceive anew.

Without claiming that it is easy to do this well, 

it can be said

 that this is a relatively simple technique 

used also by bad artists 

and bad poets 

to achieve effect.

To talk about the 'cold fire of his spirit' 

creates a perceptual tension 


the normal perception of fire as hot 

and the attachment of the image of 'cold'.

The mind does not quite know how to 

settle down 

and oscillates 

between the two images, 

creating an effect 

more powerful than 

'the fire of his spirit'.

There is genuine descriptive value 

in that the 'cold fire' 

does suggest 

a passion that is 



and ruthless.

A significant part of art 

is based on 

the need 

to unsettle the usual.


attention does its work 

and moves on.

Attention flow 

is normally dismissive.



to highlight, 

to deepen perception 

and to open up insights.

This is done 

by disrupting patterns, 

by juxtaposing patterns, 

by providing new pattern frameworks.

If attention were a cook 

it would always 

contentedly cook 

the same dishes.


interfering with the cooking, 

by providing new ingredients, 

by removing staple ingredients, 

art sets out to 

re-excite our taste buds 

with new dishes 

that allow us to 

taste the old ingredients anew.

When the Impressionists 

first started 

to show their work 

it was judged 

hideous and ugly 

by most of the 

art critics and connoisseurs.

This was because it was 'ugly' 

when viewed through 

the frames of expectation 

of existing and traditional painting.

People had to be trained 

to look at the paintings 

in a different way 

to appreciate their beauty.

Carrying this to an extreme, 

if you put a pile of bricks 

into an art gallery 

and you ask people 

to look at the bricks 

as a work of art 

then they really do become a work of art.

This circles back to 

the 'isness' I mentioned before.

Our normal perception patterns 

treat bricks as mundane building materials 

but if we break that loop 

we see them differently 

but still keep a faint echo 

of their constructive value.



A finger on a trigger 

can release 

a child's pop gun 

or a nuclear bomb.

There is no direct relationship 


the pressure on the trigger 

and the effect.

A system is set 'to go' 

and you trigger it to go.


has already set up 

the patterns 

which are ready to go.

The triggers or stimulation 

we receive 

from the world around 

set off flow patterns 

in the brain 

which settle down 

into the standard perception.

It is something like 

those children's play books

in which the child 

is asked 

to join up the given dots.

The patterns 

that we operate as perception 

depend upon the triggers received, 

past experience 

and the organizing behavior of the brain.

It is this organizing behavior 

that has been the subject 

of this book.

This behavior involves 

the formation of 

temporarily stable states 

which tire 

and are succeeded by 

other similar states 

in the flow of water logic.

This flow itself 

stabilizes as a loop 

and that forms 

the standard perception.

Attention flow 

is determined by 

the outer world 

and also by the standard perception patterns 

which direct where we should look 

in order to check out 

the suitability of the patterns.

It is very similar to a conversation.

In a conversation 

you listen to what is being said 

but your own mind 

is going about its own business.

So we pay attention 

to what is out there 

but our own brain is busy 

with its perception patterns and flows.

Just as the leaves of a tree 

all 'flow' down the branches 

into the tree trunk 

so the different sensations 

are 'drained' into 

an established flow pattern.


Directing Attention

Attention flow 

is determined by

what is out there, 

our standard perceptual patterns, 

the context of the moment 


what we may be trying to do.

Is this natural flow of attention 

the most beneficial or effective?

It may be effective for 

long-term survival of the species: 

do not waste energy on 

what you already know 

and what is not valuable at the moment.

But it is less than effective for other matters.

The whole purpose of a university education 

is supposed to be to train the mind 

to probe more deeply — 

and this requires 

attention-directing practice.

The formal checklist 

for art appreciation 

that I gave earlier 

is a simple example 

of attention directing.

It may seem rigid and mechanical 

but in time 

it does result in 

better attention flows.

The very first lesson 

in the CoRT thinking program for teaching thinking as a school subject 

has a simple attention-directing device called 

the PMI.

The student directs his or her attention to 

the Plus aspects of the situation, 

then the Minus aspects 

and finally the Interesting aspects.

If people do this anyway, 

as some claim, 

then the exercise 

should make no difference.


we get huge differences 

in final judgement 

(from 30 out of 30 students being in favor of an idea to only one being in favor).

There is no mystery.

The normal attention flow results in 

an immediate emotional reaction 

which then determines an attention flow 

to support that reaction.

The PMI ensures 

a basic exploration of the subject 

before judgement.

This is not at all natural.

What is natural is to 



and judge 

as quickly as possible.

That has long-term survival value.

The flowscapes 

put forward in this book 

are attention-directing devices 

in the sense that 

the examination of a flowscape 

can direct our attention 

to the significant parts 

of our own perception.



Can there be misleading errors in a flowscape?

Since a flowscape does not claim to be right it is difficult for it to be wrong.

A flowscape is a hypothesis or a suggestion.

It is a provisional way of looking at the shape of our perceptions.

If we do not like what we see 

then we can check out 

what it is that we do not like.

When we get a surprise, 

we may find it is the surprise of insight: 

'I did not realize that point was as central as it is.'

Since most of the attention 

is on 

collector points and stable loops, 

there is a danger 

that an important point 

which just happens to feed into a collector point 

will not get the attention it deserves.

In a way this is 

as it should be 

because collector points and loops 

do dominate perception.

We usually believe that 

important points 

should dominate perception 

but very often 

they do not.

A flowscape 

is a picture of perception 

as it is, 

not as it should be

There is a danger 

of constructing a false flowscape, 

which is one 

which is carefully contrived 

to give you the perception 

you think you ought to have.

In such cases 

you are cheating no one 

but yourself.

There is no limit 

to the number of flowscapes 

you can lay out 

on any subject.

You may 

vary the connexions 

and make another flowscape.

You can alter 

some of the items 

on the base list 

and make a further flowscape.

Examine them all 

and see 

what you can get 

from them.

When you attempt to 

make flowscapes 

for other people 

you may be totally in error.

You have to keep that in mind.

Your perception 

of another person's perception 

may leave out something vital.

If the perception can be checked out 

in some way 

then that should be done.

If not, 

then design strategies 

which fit various possibilities.

Or just accept the risk 

that you may have got it wrong 

and go ahead with your strategy, 

but be prepared 

to change the strategy 

if it does not seem to be working.





16. Summary

Our traditional rock logic is based on ‘is’ 

which leads us on to 




and ‘logic’.

Mathematics is based on the ‘equals’ sign 

which allows us to 


the rules of the game 

of the mathematical universe.

Water logic is based on ‘to’ 

and the concept of ‘flow’.

In certain systems 


leads to ‘stable loops’.

A stable loop 

is not the same as ‘truth’ — 

it is a stable loop 

which we can learn to use 

just as we learned to use truth.



Fig. 79 shows the symbolic difference 


between the three systems of 

rock logic, 


and water logic.

This is obviously an oversimplification but it does make the difference clear.

It is actually very difficult for us to 

think in terms of water logic 

because language itself 

and our habits of thinking 

are so thoroughly based on rock logic.

We can just about be concerned with 


and what things lead ‘to’ 

but our reasoning 

is still based on rock logic, 

and we keep coming back to it with such remarks as, 

‘Is this right?’

As I wrote at the beginning, the book is actually very simple.

I have tried to keep it simple in order to provide a practical introduction to water logic.

I have wanted to provide a method that people can use for themselves instead of just reading about it.

There is far more to water logic 

than I have covered in this book 

but I have not wanted to 

deter readers with complexity.

I hope to be able to take the matter further in later works.

There are two base theorems, both of which are simple:

1. In any system with a finite number of states and a tiring factor, a stable loop will always be established from any input.

2. Under a given context X, A will always lead to B.

In the book, I have examined 

how the nerve circuits 

in the brain 

act as a self-organizing system 

to allow perceptions 

to arrange themselves 

into stable states.

There is no mystery in this.

It is simple, fundamental behavior 

of self-organizing systems 

and well within the capability 

of what we know about nerve circuits.

Although simple, this behavior is extremely powerful.

I explore this behavior in more detail in another book, I am Right - You are Wrong, to which I have made reference as appropriate.

This sort of thinking is now mainstream thinking amongst many working on brain behavior — although it was far from mainstream when I wrote about it in 1969 in The Mechanism of Mind.

I am not interested in merely analyzing and describing the behavior of the brain, nor am I especially interested in designing computers that think like the brain does.

But I am interested in ways of improving human thinking.

So there is a practical side to the book.

This practical side is the flowscape.

This technique is described in detail with many examples.

The laying out of a flowscape is very straightforward.

There is the stream of consciousness or base list.

Flow connexions are made for each item on the base list.

The result is displayed graphically.

We can now get to see the ‘shape’ of our perceptions.

Perceptions are highly individual, so there is no matter of saying this is right or wrong, unless you are guessing at the perception of some other person.

The flowscape is a hypothesis which we look at in order to examine our perceptions.

From such an examination we may come to see the collector points or sinks which draw other points towards them.

Such collector points tend to dominate any perception.

Then there are the stable loops which stabilize perceptions.

We may get 

some understanding of our perception 

and even some insights into what is going on.

We may come to realize 

that some points are more important 

and others less important than we thought.

We can 

try to intervene 

and see how our perceptions 

might be altered.

Although we are intervening in the inner world of perception 

we can get suggestions 

that may also be useful 

for intervening in the outer world.


we can devise strategies 

based on flowscapes.

Such strategies 

are suggested by the flowscape 

but must be proved in other ways.

This is the same 

as with any hypothesis.

We can set out to 

make flowscapes for 

other people.

This can be done 

through discussion 

as with a group.

It can also be done 

by examining the


or utterances 

of the other person.

Finally we can attempt to 

make a flowscape 

for another person 

by guessing.

Such flowscapes can suggest 

strategies and actions.

In the book I write about 

the huge importance of 

concepts for water logic.

It is concepts 

that give 


and flexibility 

in thinking.

Such concepts 

do not always need to be precise 

because we are using water logic 

rather than rock logic, 

which depends on precision.

If we do not develop 

a facility for 

dealing with concepts 

then we are locked into 

the literal details of experience.

Concepts are also important 

for the base list 

of the flowscape.

Context is hugely important 

in the flow 

of water logic.

If the context is different 

then the flow connexions 

are different.

Any indication of flow 

should always specify the context.

Although context is so very important 

this does not complicate the flowscape 

provided this is done at one moment in time.

The context of that moment 

will affect the whole flowscape, 

which becomes a picture of perception 

at that moment.

Most disagreements 

are really based on 

differences of context.

Yet we usually direct our thinking 

to arguing about 

differences of ‘truth’.

Towards the end of the book 

I write about attention flow 

and also its relevance 

to aesthetics and art.

Attention flow 

is partly determined by 

what is out there, 

partly by 

the perceptual patterns of our inner world 

and partly by 

specific attention-directing patterns 

that we have developed deliberately.

There is a close connexion 


perceptual patterns 

and attention flow.

The world outside 


the patterns that we then use 

to ‘see’ the world outside.

Like much else 

this matter 

deserves much fuller attention.

I have set out to achieve three things:

1. An introduction to water logic.

2. An explanation of 


the water logic 

of perception 

is based on 

the self-organizing nature 

of the nerve circuits 

in the brain.

3. A practical technique 

to make visible 

the flow patterns of our perception so that we can see the ‘shape’ of our thinking.

This is the flowscape technique.

The flowscape technique 

can be used in its own right 

even if you do not 

accept, or understand, 

the basis for it.

The purpose of any conceptual model 

is to provide something 

useful and usable.

That itself is an example of water logic: 

‘What does this lead to?’

I am aware that the rigidities of rock logic 

will make some people 

uncomfortable with this book.

At the same time 

there are many 

who will welcome the fluidity 

of water logic 

because such people have always felt that rock logic 

is totally inappropriate and inadequate 

to deal with perceptions.

And perceptions are extremely important.




The Backstory: My brother is one of millions who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.


I asked why.

Here are his reasons, my responses.

I’m USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week.

If you’d like to get The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here.

Today, our front page encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

I agree completely with the message because overwhelming evidence shows vaccines save lives, but wonder if it will make a difference.

Those against the shot are adamant in their beliefs.

One of them is my brother.

About 2,000 people a week in the US are dying from COVID-19, mostly infected by the fast-spreading delta variant, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

About 99% of deaths today are people who did not get vaccinated.

Patients dying in hospitals are telling loved ones they regret not getting the vaccine.

Given the dire situation, I wanted to know what is keeping so many from getting vaccinated.

So I asked my brother, why won’t you get a vaccine?

It’s a conversation many family members are having (or need to have).

First of all, he doesn’t trust it.

He’s worried about long-term effects years down the road.

I pointed out that all three US vaccines went through rigorous clinical trials.

Moderna was tested on 30,000 people, Pfizer on nearly 44,000, Johnson and Johnson on more than 39,000.

Side effects, including pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue and nausea, were mild to moderate and resolved within a few days.

And since then, about 165 million Americans (about 50%) have been fully vaccinated.

Long-term side effects “are extremely unlikely,” according to the CDC, because historically vaccine monitoring has shown side effects appear within six weeks.

A study out Wednesday,published by JAMA, showed that for every 1 million Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, only 60 developed heart problems.

Complications were short-lived.

My brother, Chris Carroll, also says fully vaccinated people are getting breakthrough viruses, so why bother.

The vaccinated can get COVID.

Sen. Lindsey Graham announced this week he tested positive despite being vaccinated.

But, as Graham pointed out, those with the vaccine generally have mild cases and are far less likely to die than the unvaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people made up nearly three-quarters of COVID-19 infections after Fourth of July events in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement the findings “raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with delta can transmit the virus.”

But experts agree the outbreak, where seven were hospitalized and no one died, could have been much worse without vaccines.

And breakthrough infections overall are rare.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of data available from 23 states and Washington, D.C., found the rate of breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated was below 1% in each state.

More than nine in 10 COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths were in people either not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

My brother says he’s also cautious because the vaccines had only emergency FDA authorization.

Full authorization for Pfizer could come as soon as next month.

I asked him if that would change his mind.

Not really, he said, as the FDA is a government organization, and maybe President Joe Biden pressured them to approve it.

“He’s going overboard trying to sell it,” Chris said.

“Because Biden wants me to get it so bad, that makes me skeptical of getting it.”

So does politics play into his decision not to get a vaccine?

Absolutely, he says.

He doesn’t trust the president.

But the vaccine was developed under President Donald Trump, I pointed out.

“He was under pressure” to get a vaccine quickly to reopen the economy, Chris replied.

Chris is a Christian conservative and lifelong Texan.

He’s bothered by the pressure to get what he calls “the jab,” such as lotteries, financial incentives, employer mandates.

Will these types of mandates encourage him to get the vaccine?


He had COVID-19 late last year, and while there are people now sick for a second time, he isn’t worried about getting it again.

He said blood tests have confirmed he has COVID antibodies, and he feels comfortable with his natural immunity.

However, it’s not known exactly how long antibodies from infection last or how mutations of the virus may impact that.

Research published Feb. 5 in Science magazine found natural immunity can last at least eight months.

More recent research, published May 24 in Nature, detected cells producing coronavirus antibodies in patients at least 11 months after they had mild COVID-19 cases.

Chris doesn’t look down on those who get the vaccine.

He thinks vaccines are purely a personal choice.

“I believe in individual liberty,” he said.

“We should be able to decide if we want something put in us.”

But what happens when individual liberty begins to harm the common good?

For example, unvaccinated people can keep the virus spreading to those unable to get vaccines, like kids or those with weakened immune systems.

Does he worry his individual decision can harm others?

“Government does have a role to play in community safety,” he said.

“We should have a police force, a military to protect people, food and water safety.

But that’s a bit different than requiring the masses to take something.”

And what about those who can’t get vaccinated, like kids, shouldn’t we protect them?

“How many kids were killed in car accidents versus kids killed by COVID,” he asked.

“Should I be out there driving?

There is always some risk.

I feel more at risk by driving my car around.

“I don’t want to see any kids die; I’ve actually had a child who died.

If I believed me taking this vaccine would stop kids from dying, I would take it.”

Medical experts agree that vaccines and masking can help control the spread of the virus, including to kids.

In 2019, 612 children younger than 13 died in motor vehicle traffic crashes and more than 97,000 were injured.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that as of July 29, almost 4.2 million children have tested positive for the virus, nearly 72,000 of them in the last week.

That’s almost twice as many as the 39,000 infections from the previous week.

Since May 2020, more than 17,000 kids have been hospitalized with COVID-19; 358 have died.

Two children with COVID-19 died over the weekend in Tennessee, according to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

“It’s important for everyone to know that we’re seeing sicker kids, we’re seeing more kids be admitted that are sick with actual COVID illness, and that those kids, some of them are in our intensive care unit and some of them are intubated,” Le Bonheur’s Dr. Nick Hysmith, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, told Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Laura Testino.

Also, experts have said the longer the virus spreads, the more likely it can mutate and come back into the entire population, making vaccines less effective, endangering lives again.

My brother says he’s not sure that’s true.

On Tuesday, the CDC’s Walensky said it is, telling reporters, “For the amount of virus circulating in this country right now largely among unvaccinated people, the largest concern that we in public health and science are worried about is that the virus …(becomes) a very transmissible virus that has the potential to evade our vaccines in terms of how it protects us from severe disease and death.”

Still, he said, “How many things have they been wrong on?”

And that, in the end, is his biggest problem.


“It’s hard to believe anything,” he said.

“There is so much information out there, and so much bad information out there.

There is so much distrust.

For me, I try to read everything I can, pray for wisdom, and make the choice I feel is best for myself and my family.”

So, back to my first question.

Can professional journalists make a difference?

We’re giving it everything we have.

We are fact checking statements in the news, giving you original sources so you can see the evidence for yourself.

Our expert health reporters followed the trials carefully, watchdogging the process and the results.

And we’ve got reporters across the country reporting first-hand what is going on in different communities, talking to health care workers, COVID patients, grieving families, stressed out parents.

There is no higher calling in journalism than to give people accurate information to help them make decisions that can save lives.

“We don’t know what to believe,” my brother said.

“We don’t know who to trust.”

We know that trust is earned.

We work to earn your trust with every story, every day.

Nicole Carroll is the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY.

Reach her at or follow her on Twitter here.

Thank you for supporting our journalism.

Originally Published 5:02 a.m. EDT Aug. 6, 2021

**Updated 12:06 p.m. EDT Aug. 6, 2021**





“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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