On Monday we celebrated our 29th birthday as SOT entered its 30th year.

In New York, on November 17, 1979, at JFK International Airport, the School of Thinking was born and at that meeting I outlined my plan to Edward de Bono to create Thinking Instructors to teach thinking skills in schools, businesses and families around the world.

In 2007 School of Thinking–now based on the internet at http://www.schoolofthinking.org–exported over one million Thinking Lessons from Australia to 46 countries worldwide.

For the past 29 years this idea has spread around the world and has now become the second largest program for the teaching of thinking in the world.

The Vatican’s 500-year mission–exporting its own European thinking system know as logic–is still farandaway the largest program in history.

Graduate SOT
Since its inception SOT has been pro bono and will continue to be so in 2009.

However, there is a need (and a demand) for deeper and broader offerings in this field of study which will require fees and greater commitments from trainers and trainees. To help meet this need we will be establishing the Graduate SOT in 2009. Further details will be published early in 2009.

“Science is the most subversive thing that has ever been devised by man” … “Science runs on ignorance” … “There is no philosophical high-road in science” ….

This might not be what you thought science is like but, when you think about it, it’s exactly what science really is. Dark, blind and messy! Here are three posts I have chosen to discuss the question: What is ‘science’?

After you read them, have a think and then you can add your own post below.

Matt Ridley, 1999 Genome: the autobiography of a species:

The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing that we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view. . . . A true scientist is bored by knowledge; it is the assault on ignorance that motivates him – the mysteries that previous discoveries have revealed. The forest is more interesting than the clearing.

Max Born (1882-1970), Nobel Prize-winning physicist, quoted in Gerald Holton’s Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought:

There is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our roads behind us as we proceed. We do not find sign-posts at cross-roads, but our own scouts erect them, to help the rest.

Philip Morris Hauser (1909-), Demographer and Census Expert, as quoted in Theodore Berland’s The Scientific Life:

Science is the most subversive thing that has ever been devised by man. It is a discipline in which the rules of the game require the undermining of that which already exists, in the sense that new knowledge always necessarily crowds out inferior antecedent knowledge. . . . . This is what the patent system is all about. We reward a man for subverting and undermining that which is already known. . . . . Man has a tendency to resist changing his mind. The history of the physical sciences is replete with episode after episode in which the discoveries of science, subversive as they were because they undermined existing knowledge, had a hard time achieving acceptability and respectability. Galileo was forced to recant; Bruno was burned at the stake; and so forth. An interesting thing about the physical sciences is that they did achieve acceptance. Certainly in the more economically advanced areas of the Western World, it has become commonplace to do everything possible to accelerate the undermining of existent knowledge about the physical world. The underdeveloped areas of the world today still live in a pre-Newtonian universe. They are still resistant to anything subversive, anything requiring change; resistant even to the ideas that would change their basic concepts of the physical world.

Japanese researchers said Thursday they had created functioning human brain tissues from stem cells, a world first that has raised new hopes for the treatment of disease.

Stem cells taken from human embryos have been used to form tissues of the cerebral cortex, the supreme control tower of the brain, according to researchers at the government-backed research institute Riken.

The tissues self-organised into four distinct zones very similar to the structure seen in human foetuses, and conducted neuro-activity such as transmitting electrical signals, the institute said.

Research on stem cells is seen as having the potential to save lives by helping to find cures for diseases such as cancer and diabetes or to replace damaged cells, tissues and organs.

The team’s previous studies showed stem cells differentiated into distinct cells but until now they had never organised into functioning tissues.

As a tool for search, the web is the greatest thinking tool that humans have ever invented for processing information at the speed of light.

Question: How many days is it since Sir Tim Berners-Lee made the first webpage?

Answer: 6,500.

Can it be possible that all the innovation, the disruptions in traditional media, the millions of Wikipedia entries and the creation of all the new wealth, jobs and global infrastructure – an unthinkable scale of human endeavor – has been created in just 6,500 days?

Some of the highlights from the Web 2.0 meeting in San Francisco last week were:

– Facebook is building a new loyal base of socially networked fanatics. In his interview at the conference, Mark Zuckerburg revealed that 50% of Facebook users use the site daily. That’s serious addiction.

-  The second trend is even more unexpected. In the last year, YouTube has become the second most popular search tool for consumers. By August of this year, search queries on YouTube reached 9.2 billion (a 123% increase year on year), surpassing Yahoo! sites which had 8.5 billion queries.

– John Battelle, author of The Search said that YouTube’s growth was consistent with the trend of search being the navigational interface to information.

-  Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini, said, by 2011 you could expect that a low cost chip as powerful as a current desktop PC would be available for your mobile device. Moore’s Law still reigns says Otellini and no CEO of Intel wants to be the first to break it.

So, what about the next 6,500 days of the web?

Search! Search! Search!
As a tool for search, the web will still be the greatest thinking tool that humans have ever invented for processing information at the speed of light.

Think google! Think youtube!

Beyond that? Cloud computing, massive scale driven platforms, semantic webs, ubiquitous mobile devices, augmented reality.

Hang on to your thinking hats!

FROM BLACK TO GREY is all about the escape from judgmental thinking to wisdom.

Judgmental thinking is black hat thinking. Judgmental thinking is authoritarian thinking. Judgmental thinking is the 2500 year old Greek logical thinking. Judgmental thinking is the I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong thinking. Judgmental thinking is inside-the-box thinking. Judgmental thinking is slow thinking. Judgmental thinking is intellectual fundamentalist thinking. Judgmental thinking is destructive, inhuman and deadly thinking.

We can escape from black hat judgmental thinking and move to grey hat thinking.

Wisdom is grey hat thinking. Wisdom is humour. Wisdom is tolerance. Wisdom is plural. Wisdom is human. Wisdom is independent. Wisdom is fact not fiction. Wisdom is I-am-right and-you-are-right thinking. Wisdom is outside-the-box thinking. Wisdom is fast thinking. Wisdom is intellectually inquisitive and flexible. Wisdom is constructive, green and life-enhancing thinking.

NOTE: The above strong statements are not always true. There are, of course, many exceptions. However, in the context of thinking about thinking there is value in comparing these modes and using tools like hats, to develop skill in differentiating cognitive modes. See also Greyscale Thinking.



wisdom n. experience and knowledge together
with the power of applying them critically or practically
Oxford English Dictionary


Survival is clever and requires intelligence. Long term survival endows wisdom and this is a very clever thing, indeed

From the hard-won accomplishment of longevity emerges broad experience and special knowledge. 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.

(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.

My mentor, Professor George Gallup, was acknowledged worldwide as one of the greatest leaders of change. George was also a wonderful American gentleman and a very nice man. He was 84 when he died at his place in Switzerland in 1984.

He was the inventor of the Gallup Poll at Princeton and the designer of market research. He was the first to map the Human Meme Pool. George Gallup’s great personal wisdom was supported by his long experience of measuring, in scientific detail, the opinions of more people around the world than anyone else in history. In The Miracle Ahead he wrote that:
Change cannot be brought about easily by leaders, except in those situations in which the changes advocated do not disturb present relationships. In fact, it is the leaders who typically become the most bitter and the most effective foes of change. The public, therefore, must take the initiative and assume responsibility for progress in the affairs of man. The public must force change upon its leaders (who) command more respect today than perhaps they deserve… The leader is expert in his small world as it presently exists, not expert in the world as it might be. Although he plays an important role in modern society, it is not realistic to expect him to advocate change. This is the surest way for him to lose his status … The hope of the future rests with the citizen. To be effective, he must be well informed, and he must discover ways of making better use of his own great capacities and those of his fellow man. He cannot expect his leaders to give him much help in his upward march.

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.

Elizabeth II says: “One of the features of growing old is a heightened awareness of change. To remember what happened 50 years ago means that it is possible to appreciate what has changed in the meantime. It also makes you aware of what has remained constant. In my experience, the positive value of a happy family is one of the factors of human existence that hasn’t changed. The immediate family of grandparents, parents and children together with their extended family is still the core of a thriving community. When Prince Philip and I celebrated our Diamond Wedding Anniversary last month we were much aware of the affection and support of our own family as they gathered around us for the occasion.” – click to view her Christmas Message 2007 here.

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.

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

Wisdom, wrote Albert Einstein, “is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it … The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while … How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of goodwill! In such a place even I would be an ardent patriot.

NOTE: If you have any suggestions or comments on this topic, please post your ideas below and if your comment is included in the book you will be given appropriate attribution and a free copy of the book.

See also: The Original SOT Thinking Caps Concept …

Chinese character for Wisdom