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pyramid to dna

Wisdom

by Edward de Bono

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Amazon link: Edward de Bono's Textbook of Wisdom

 

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From The Daily Drucker

13 FEB — The Nature of Freedom

Freedom is never a release and always a responsibility.

Freedom is not fun.

It is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace or progress.

It is a responsible choice.

Freedom is not so much a right as a duty.

Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be license.

It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite.

It is not “fun” but the heaviest burden laid on man:

to decide his own individual conduct as well as the conduct of society and to be responsible for both decisions.

“The Freedom of Industrial Man,”
The Virginia Quarterly Review

 

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Contents

  • Introduction
  • Perception
  • Now and then the ‘edge effect’
  • Truth, certainty and arrogance
  • The power of possibility
  • Values
  • Contrary and Contradiction
  • Hostage, Slave, Prisoner and Puppet
  • I, We and Identity
  • Contribute
  • The beach and the road
  • Wise about wisdom (book summary chapter following the next section)

 

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Comments from illustration pages in Wise about Wisdom chapter

The richer and more complex the world in which you live, the more likely you are to be confused. 

But it does not have to be so.

A fear that conscience like a nagging aunt is forever observing, scolding and directing behaviour …

Go through this book picking out the points that make sense to you and putting them together. 

You can ‘graze’ through the book as often as you like or dip into it anywhere at any time

You are supposed to integrate what you read here with your own experience, rather than to choose one or the other. 

You use what you find to be of value for you.

Wisdom is about awareness and possibilities: awareness of the world around; awareness of possibilities and choices.

Perception is a matter of picking out the patterns that we have got used to seeing. 

It becomes difficult to see things in another way unless we make the effort demanded by wisdom.

Wisdom is about breadth of perception. 

There are three types of breadth.

1. How widely do we look? How widely do we see?

2. How deeply do we look? Forward, backwards and into detail.

3. How rich is our vision? This means possibilities, speculations, alternatives and different points of view.

A logic bubble is that bubble of perceptions and values within which everyone acts logically.

Possibility is the key to wisdom. 

Possibility is the basis of creativity. 

Possibility is the best antidote to arrogance. 

Possibility drives exploration.

Richness of perception and design are based on alternatives.

So is effective action. 

The design of alternatives is a key element in wisdom.

Wisdom encourages different thoughts and different values.

This gives a richness of perception.

There does not have to be a choice of one and a rejection of the others

Parallel thinking is the opposite of traditional adversarial thinking.

Instead of judgement, both sides are laid down in parallel and then a way forward is designed.

Because wisdom encourages alternatives and possibilities, wisdom also encourages choice according to your values.

If we determine our values then those values can determine our choices and behaviour.

If our emotions come first then they determine our perceptions. 

We only see things the way we want to see them.

We need judgement to find our way through life.

The danger is an excessive emphasis on rigid acceptances and rejections, and not enough attention to design.

Design is a matter of putting things together to achieve an objective and to serve our values.

Instead of searching for the standard solution we design a way forward.

Wisdom comes with growth.

But wisdom is also the fertilizer for growth.

 

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A foundation for seeing the value of wisdom

Google: History of the World in Two Hours YouTube (the last ¼ of the video)

A Century of Social Transformation — Emergence of Knowledge Society

 

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Wise about wisdom (book sumary)

 

# 170 Awareness

Wisdom is about awareness — see foundation above.

If you know the road, life is easier.

If you can see the road, life is easier.

If you can discover new roads, life is richer.

If you know you have a choice of roads, life is richer.

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Awareness can be applied to the outer world.

What is going on out there?

(It’s in the news AND The people and organizations I follow on Twitter @news4rte)

There may be times when the outer world is going to affect you, either as a threat or as an opportunity.

Seeing more clearly what is happening is always an advantage.

There are times when you are going to want to affect the outer world.

Seeing this world more clearly will enable you to design your actions more effectively.

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Awareness can be applied to the inner world.

How do we see the world?

What are our habits?

What am I doing right now?

You know what you look like in the mirror.

Do you have a mirror for your inner world?

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‘The purpose of thinking is to arrange the inner and outer world so as to serve and improve our values.’

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If you do not know the ingredients, you are not going to be a very good cook.

If you do not know the processes of cooking you are not going to be a very good cook.

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Awareness is much more than information.

Awareness is information as it relates to you.

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Larger view

The University Art Museum: Defining Purpose and Mission

 

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# 171 Perception

Perception is not what the ‘eye’ sees but what the ‘brain’ sees.

When you read the word ‘ice cream’ you do not just see an arrangement of letters.

In your ‘mind’s eye’ you get an impression of the appearance, taste, texture and temperature of an ice-cream.

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When you see a train pulling out of a railway station your perception is very different according to whether it is the train you have just missed or if that train had no relevance for you.

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I have often written that we badly need a word in our language for ‘the way we look at things’.

The nearest word is indeed ‘perception’ but that is rather too tied up with vision.

We need a word to indicate ‘the way we see things in our mind’.

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Wisdom takes place in perception.

Within perception the traditional rules of logic do not apply.

We are dealing with the logic of ‘flow’, or ‘water logic’, and not the logic of ‘identity’, or ‘rock logic’ (see Water Logic, Penguin 1994; I am Right - You are Wrong, Penguin 1991 and the patterning system of the brain).

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If our perceptions are wrong then no amount of logical excellence will give the right answer.

So it is a pity that almost the whole of our traditional intellectual effort has been directed at logic and so little at perception.

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Logic will not change emotions and feelings.

Perception will.

 

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#172 Broad

Cleverness is sharp focus, wisdom is wide angle.

Wisdom is largely about broadening’ perception.

Most of the mistakes in thinking are mistakes in perception.

Seeing only part of the situation. for example

Jumping to conclusions.

Misinterpretation caused by feelings.

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Helicopters that report back to local radio stations on traffic conditions at peak hours get a broad view of what is going on.

No motorist stuck in the traffic could possibly get this view.

With wisdom we seek to climb into a helicopter to get a broad overall view.

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There are three types of ‘broad’.

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The first type of broad is to do with ‘width’.

How widely do we see?

This means taking into account different factors, different people, different values and different needs.

This is the closest to the helicopter analogy.

We look around in all directions, not just where we are next going to place our feet.

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The second type of broad is to do with ‘depth’.

This means looking forward and looking backwards.

We look backwards in time to seek explanations and reasons for what is before us.

We look backwards to examine past experiences, both our own and those of other people.

We look forward to see the consequences of what is before us.

This might be prediction in terms of what may happen.

It may also be looking for the consequences of any action we are contemplating.

We look forward from the immediate consequences to the long-term consequences.

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The third type of broad is to do with ‘richness’.

Here we open up alternatives and different ways of looking at things.

We seek out the existing alternatives.

We imagine the different viewpoints of other people.

We make an effort to generate further alternatives.

These are alternatives of perception and alternatives of action.

We look for ‘might be’ and for ‘possibly’.

We go beyond ‘what is’.

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So the aim of wisdom is to end up with a perception that is wider, deeper and richer.

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There is a considerable element of creativity in broadening perception.

We need creativity to direct our attention to areas we might have overlooked.

We need creativity to generate alternatives.

We need creativity to put things together in different ways.

We need creativity to link up with past experiences which are not so obviously relevant.

Creative perception is part of perception.

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One shoe salesman reported back that there was no market because no one wore shoes.

His companion reported back that it was a fantastic market because no one wore shoes.

 

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# 173 Logic Bubble

‘Everyone is always right — no one is ever right.’

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This quote comes from an earlier book (see Future Positive, Penguin 1990).

What it means is that at any moment everyone is acting logically within his or her ‘bubbleof values and perceptions.

So at that moment in time that person is ‘right’.

In the broader, overall and objective sense no one is ever right because we do not have a full understanding of the world or the detailed consequences of our action far into the future.

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Wisdom acknowledges the value and the reality of individual logic bubbles.

 

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# 174 Possibly

It must have become obvious to anyone reading this book that ‘possibly’ and ‘possibilities’ are a central part of wisdom.

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‘Possibly’ is valuable in two ways.

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The first way is ‘possibly’ in exploration and creativity.

Just as the hypothesis is central to science, so our ability to hold something in mind as ‘possible’ allows us to examine, explore, develop and check out that possibility 

Generating ‘possible’ courses of action allows us to choose between them.

Considering ‘possible’ designs allows us to work towards them.

‘Possibly’ is a key driver of progress, change and human thinking.

It is a pity that traditional thinking seems to have had little time for it, preferring the temptation of certainty.

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The second way that ‘possible’ is valuable is that it is the best antidote to arrogance and to harsh judgements.

Arrogance can assert that there is only one way.

‘Possibly’ puts forward other ways.

Once thought, a thought cannot be unthought.

False judgements can only be challenged by ‘possibly’.

A judgement may be correct in terms of chosen information, chosen perceptions and chosen values.

So a logical attack on that judgement will not succeed.

But ‘possibly’ shows other possibilities of information, perception and values.

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There may be no proof that improvement can be made in an area.

It is only our belief in ‘possible’ improvement that gets us trying to make that improvement.

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Unless we become skilled in ‘possibly’ we shall always remain far behind the full use of our experience.

Only ‘possibly’ can pull us ahead so that we can put together our experience in different ways.

 

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# 175 Alternatives

Richness of perception, ‘possibly’ and alternatives all go together.

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We need to seek out and consider available alternatives.

These may be alternatives of perception, alternatives of explanation, alternatives of action and alternatives of design.

How else can we look at this?

How else can we do this?

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Without alternatives we remain trapped in one channel.

No matter how reasonable a position might be, we need to consider alternatives.

Is your view the only possible one?

Is this course of action the only possible one?

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Alternatives do not have to show themselves.

They do not have to ‘put up their hands’ like a child in a classroom who wants to be noticed.

Alternatives do not have to force themselves on your attention.

You have to go out and look for them.

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Something happens and the immediate response comes to mind.

But you pause in order to seek out alternatives.

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Sometimes you have to create alternatives.

The various deliberate techniques of lateral thinking are available for this purpose.

You need to say to yourself 

Right here I am going to set out to generate some further alternatives.’

 

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# 176 Plurality

It follows from ‘alternatives’ that we accept for consideration a number of different possibilities, alternatives, points of view, values, etc.

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Traditional thinking says:

 ‘No, you cannot put that on the table unless you can logically justify its being on the table.’

There is a judgement gateway.

If something does not pass that judgement gateway it is rejected.

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Wisdom says: 

Put it on the table anyway and later we can see whether to use it, combine it with other things or not use it.’

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Wisdom encourages plurality in order to get the ‘richer’ picture.

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The Japanese word for yes is ‘hai’.

But when a Japanese says ‘hai’ it does not mean that he or she is agreeing with you.

It simply means that the person is awake and has heard what you have said.

That person has ‘put it on the table’.

Consideration comes later.

 

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# 177 Parallel Thinking

This follows on directly from plurality.

Parallel thinking means laying down different views, values and possibilities in parallel.

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Parallel thinking is the opposite of traditional adversarial thinking, where each statement has to be judged before being accepted.

In adversarial thinking, the ‘contradiction’ is a very important and powerful tool.

Both sides of a contradiction cannot be right.

One or other must go.

Parallel thinking allows both sides of the contradiction to be laid down in parallel without interfering with each other.

Later on, in the design phase, things can be sorted out.

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Parallel thinking removes at once the urge to instant judgement.

You do not have to accept something as ‘right’ because you have not rejected it as ‘wrong’.

You simply accept it ‘in parallel’.

Sometimes you can accept it as ‘possibly’ but even when you cannot accept something as ‘possible’ you still accept it in parallel.

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Husbands usually complain that wives take far too many clothes on holiday.

Husbands say that wives should decide in advance exactly what is going to be needed and to reject what is not going to be needed.

Husbands complain that wives take six outfits with them so they can have the ‘luxury’ of choice at the holiday destination.

Parallel thinking is what the wives are doing.

They take everything along and then make the choice only when it has to be made.

The husbands’ thinking is more like traditional Gang of Three thinking: accept or reject at this point before packing it.

 

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# 178 Choice

If you have a map showing the different roads, then you choose the road you want to take according to your needs and values.

You may want the shortest route.

You may want the route with least traffic.

You may want the most scenic route.

You may want the road with the best surface.

You may want the fastest route (not necessarily the shortest).

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It is not the purpose of wisdom to choose your values for you or to change your values.

Different readers of this book will have different values.

The purpose of wisdom is to allow you to apply your values effectively.

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It is possible that over time wisdom may get you to alter your values.

Wisdom may suggest that a value you now hold high is really rather superficial.

But changing values is your task.

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The important point is that at any moment you are making the choice.

If you choose to let someone else or circumstances make the choice for you, that is also your choice.

If you prefer to take a step and then let the consequences make a choice for you, that is also your choice.

If you choose to follow a leader who is going to make the choices for you, that is also your choice.

If you do not want to make a decision — that itself is a decision.

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Wisdom accepts that there are times when you do not have a choice or when you only have the illusion of a choice.

That is perfectly possible.

But wisdom suggests you examine those situations carefully in order to see whether this is really the case or an excuse for inaction.

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The ‘edge effect’ suggests that the first step may be very difficult or very tempting.

Wisdom insists that you look forward into the future.

If the first step is tempting, wisdom may find the later consequences to be not so attractive.

If the first step is difficult, wisdom may find that the later consequences are very beneficial.

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The whole purpose of wisdom is to lay out the inner world and outer world in such a way that you can make choices.

 

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# 179 Values

The purpose of wisdom is to serve your values, the values of your local community and the values of the world.

So values are central.

You can explore your values with wisdom.

You can develop a ‘broad’ sense of values in terms of width, depth and richness.

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There are the positive values which you seek and the negative values which you seek to avoid.

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In any situation there are the values of the actor (usually yourself), of the people directly affected by your action and of those indirectly affected (perhaps through the environment).

A broad map of values is what wisdom tries to draw.

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There are the obvious values that are easy to remember.

Then there is a wide range of less easily noticed values.

These are often to do with relationships, position, status, etc.

Being given attention and recognition is a high positive value.

Boredom is a high negative value.

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Not all values are equal.

Some have a higher priority than others.

Values may need sorting out.

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There can be contrary values, either within the same person or between different persons.

We can seek to accommodate the contrary values, combine them together or alternate between them.

We can ‘trade off’ values, giving up some in order to enjoy others.

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It is the role of the ‘design’ process to take the values and the broadly perceived situation and to design the way forward.

This may be a single design, or the result may be a set of alternatives.

You then have to choose between the alternatives, using your values and priorities again.

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Design may involve working forward with the key values and then seeking to fit the other values in.

Design may involve trying to work forward with all values at the same time.

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The elements of design are:

What is desirable?

What is possible?

What are the models?

What are the difficulties?

Is this satisfactory?

 

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# 180 Emotions and Feelings

Wisdom acknowledges the validity and powerful reality of emotions and feelings.

Wisdom attempts to use them for their value and to avoid their negative effects.

Overreaction is one obvious negative effect.

So is biased perception.

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Imagine a square tray suspended by a spring at each corner.

In the centre of the level tray there is a motionless ball.

A simple channel in the surface runs from the ball to each of the sides.

Which of the four channels will the ball follow?

You put some weights on the tray in one area.

The tray tilts in that direction.

The ball rolls down the channel that benefits from the tilt.

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In a similar way our feelings and emotions alter the chemical balance in the brain so that certain areas are more sensitized and therefore ready to be activated.

Our perception then follows this sensitization or ‘biasing’.

It is not that we ‘choose’ to see things in a way that fits our emotions.

That is the ‘only’ way we can perceive at that moment.

We therefore need to recognize this biasing property of emotions and make a deliberate effort to bring to the surface some alternative perceptions.

They will not just occur by themselves.

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Logic is unlikely to change emotions and feelings, but changed perception can.

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Emotions and feelings overlap with values but are not always the same thing.

Your material value system may tell you that you have done well to sell your house at a large profit.

Your feeling may be one of sadness as you move out of the house.

You may even feel delighted when the failure of your business frees you up to do other things that you have always wanted to do.

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Awareness of the ‘edge effect’ may distinguish between temporary feelings and the more valuable long-term ones.

 

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#181 Judgement

We can only move through life because the judgement of ‘recognition’ tells us at every moment 

what things are; 

what things to seek; 

what things to avoid; 

what things to use as means to get other things.

Without judgement we could not proceed at all.

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The danger lies in the harsh, quick and rigid judgements that we require of ourselves and that are required by our traditional thinking habits.

Too often we use stereotypes to ease our judgement.

Too often we put up false either/or choices to force ourselves, or others, into a certain position.

All this is an integral part of the Gang of Three thinking system, with its emphasis on: 

rejection of the ‘untruth’

the search for absolutes

and an inclusion/ exclusion box type of logic with the avoidance of contradiction.

This is an excellent system for many purposes but it has its limits and its dangers.

In a changing world the ‘boxes’ derived from the past may no longer be adequate to describe a changed present.

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The dangers of judgement lie both in the rejection aspect and in the acceptance aspect.

Something rejected drops out of attention and perception.

It is no longer an ingredient in our thinking.

Something accepted may be accepted too wholeheartedly, when acceptance should be milder, doubtful or related to circumstances.

While acknowledging the practicality of simplistic black/white judgements, most people are coming to realize that the world does not work that way.

If you choose to take a black and white photograph of the world this does not mean that the world has no colors.

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Instead of judgement the emphasis is on ‘design’.

How do we put things together in order to satisfy our values and needs?

Design may be much more difficult than judgement but the results will be better.

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Many problems can be solved by analysis.

You identify the cause of the problem and then you seek to remove that cause.

But when the cause cannot be found or, if found, cannot be removed, then we are paralyzed because more and more analysis will not solve that problem.

We need to be able to ‘design the way forward’, leaving the cause in place.

While we are excellent at analysis we are not nearly so expert at design — because design requires creativity.

 

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# 182 Design

How do you design a meal?

How do you design a dish?

People are designing things every day.

Design is not something which only architects and dress designers do.

There are times when design may be complicated and difficult but most of the time it is relatively easy.

How do you put things together to achieve what you want?

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It is true that in traditional thinking you may seek to put together the ‘thesis’ and ‘anti-thesis’ in the process of ‘synthesis’.

This means that you seek to combine opposing views.

But this is only one small aspect of design.

There may be alternatives which are not present in either point of view.

There are times when the combining of opposing views is enough, but in general design is a much broader process.

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With wisdom we seek to design the way forward rather than ‘judge’ the way forward.

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What is the purpose of design?

To satisfy our own and other people’s values, in a practical way.

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Traditional education systems put far too little emphasis on design.

There is a belief that the ‘lawyer-type’ search for the truth of the Gang of Three is sufficient.

Arguments around this matter make use of exactly those habits which the argument is trying to change.

It is like speaking French to teach the French to speak English.

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Design is the necessary final stage of parallel thinking.

We lay things down in parallel in order to provide the ingredients for design.

Sometimes the outcome is obvious and reveals itself. 

At other times a more deliberate design process is required.

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Does this mean that design is always better than judgement?

Not at all.

That would be contrary to the spirit of wisdom.

There are times when judgement is required.

There are times when judgement is faster and better than design.

There are times when judgement is needed even within the design process.

In the end judgement is required to assess and choose the outputs from design.

We come back to the ‘salt curve’.

No judgement is bad.

Some judgement is good.

Excessive judgement is bad.

What do we mean by ‘excessive’?

The belief that judgement is sufficient by itself. 

It is only that arrogance which needs challenging.

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Just as we need a better word for ‘perception’, we also need a better word for ‘design’.

The word ‘design’ has strong connections to interior design, graphic design, dress design, etc.

All these suggest visual appearance and, perhaps, something added on to the essentials.

In its broadest sense design means ‘putting things together to serve our values’.

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Consider two architects.

The first architect sits in his office with a great folder of standard designs.

The client goes in and explains his or her needs.

The architect pauses.

Then, like the doctor diagnosing measles, the architect says: ‘It is design number 71 that you will be wanting.’

So the architect opens the file at page 71 and shows the client what he or she will be getting.

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The other architect listens carefully to what the client wants in terms of living space, use, access, working environment, storage, cost and appearance, and then asks the client to come back at a later date.

The architect then sets out to design a house.

It is true that this design may resemble other designs.

It is true that the designed house may contain sub-elements that are standard.

Nevertheless, there is a design effort.

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We have got far too used to considering only the ‘doctor model’ of the first architect, who seeks to recognize standard patterns, instead of considering the ‘architect model’ of the second architect.

The reason we have done this is that the historic tradition of thinking in the Western world was concerned with ‘discovering the truth’ (as required in theology) rather than in ‘designing for value’.

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One of the difficulties of design is that we feel compelled to ‘design for perfection’.

How can we get this absolutely right?

This makes design very much harder than judgement.

As a general policy it is best to aim for a ‘simple and practical’ design.

Then you seek to improve this design.

If you cannot improve the design then use it as it is.

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Knowing that a ‘judgement’ is right is almost an emotion.

The brain is set up to make judgements.

When we recognize something, the processes in the brain provide a sort of ‘click’, just as humor generates a laugh.

Occasionally this happens with design.

At other times our emotions start to come into play.

We get to like the design.

We like it more and more.

At other times we are left to make the practical choice between designs, none of which inspire us.

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Not all meals have to be memorable experiences.

Most meals are designs for a practical purpose.

They achieve that purpose.

This does not exclude excellence but it does not demand excellence on every occasion.

 

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# 183 A new super-pattern: What would Merlin do here?

If you find wisdom a ‘plus’, then use it.

If you believe that you are sufficiently wise already then congratulations either on your excellence or on your self-deception.

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Wisdom is not instead of logic.

Wisdom is the operating system of ‘perception’.

Logic only begins when perception ends.

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How are you going to put wisdom into practice?

You can read this book and reread it.

You can integrate some of the thoughts and suggestions into your own habits of thought.

What is put forward here is based on more than twenty-five years’ direct involvement in the teaching of thinking to schoolchildren, adults and the senior executives of some of the world’s largest corporations (employing up to 400,000 people).

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As a practical step you may even wish to design for yourself a new super-pattern.

Just as King Arthur of the Round Table was always rushing off to the wizard Merlin for wisdom, so you can create your own Merlin.

What would Merlin do here?

What would the ‘wise person’ do here?

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You would then use this super-pattern as you wished, just as you use the gears as you wish when driving a car.

Perhaps, in time, you will progress from a manual gear-shift car to an automatic one.

Wisdom will now become part of your behaviour.

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If you find that wisdom has no value for you, give this book to someone who needs it as much as you do.

 

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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 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

 

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

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 figure out a coping plan for 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 starting point

 

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