In a recent interview I was asked to add one more thinking hat to the original ‘6 thinking caps’ developed by SOT in 1983.

I suggested the Seventh Hat for Wisdom, the Grey Thinking Hat.

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Survival is clever and requires intelligence. Long term survival endows broad experience and knowledge and is a very clever thing, indeed. It cannot be taught.

The Grey Thinking Hat is for Wisdom.

The experience of surviving for a complete generation through childhood, adolescence and adulthood endows knowledge and perspective that a young brain cannot match.

To achieve 50 years of survival, through two or more generations, allows the brain to build a database of experience which offers a perspective of history, an understanding of long term consequences, a faculty for prediction and a wisdom that cannot be acquired in any other way. It takes half a century!

VG200102~Self-Portrait-with-Grey-Hat-Paris-1887-Posters.jpg
(Master Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Grey Hat, Paris, 1887)

Grey Hat Thinking is the ability to see consequences, immediate, short term and long term. It is the ability to look back over history and to see forward into the future. To understand cycles, passages of time, the passing of fashions, eras, eons and the many possible futures including extinction, the possibility of no future at all.

Grey Hat Thinking also means the wisdom to see other points of view. It includes the sagacity of patience to see beyond one’s own immediate viewpoint and the wisdom to see the viewpoints of others involved in situations: your partner’s viewpoint, your children’s, your children’s children, your neighbour’s, your customer’s, your enemy’s.

The wisdom of Grey Hat Thinking comes from long term survival.

It is the wisdom that emerges from the hard won, labour-intensive experience gained from having to solve life’s wide range of problems through multi-changing environments over several generations and for an extended period of time.

One of the well-known paradoxes of wisdom is expressed by Mark Twain’s admission: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years”.

Even though we may not be able to teach children to do Grey Hat Thinking we can still teach them to understand what it is–to recognise it–to appreciate it, to consult it, and to seek it our wherever it can be found.

Of all the original Thinking Hats–White, Black, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue–the Grey Hat is also the Senior Hat.

See also: The Original 6 SOT Thinking Caps

6 thoughts on “The Seventh Hat for Wisdom

  1. Trans-formative thinking is an essential precursor for trans-formative action. To know how and why we think like we do and the influence our thinking has on our individuality and our collectivity is empowering.

    To enable better appreciation of diversity of thinking towards designing our futures where all are able to contribute to discussions and be a part of the design team is desirable.

    Thank you Edward De Bono for validating how I think.

  2. Knowledge is different from information. Knowledge is contextual, theory- based, and data-supported ideas that make the best current explanation for reality. Knowledge will help us survive and it will be the clever and the intelligent ones who will last long in understand the difference between knowledge and information, only he will be able to wear the Grey hat.

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