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.

Escape from Black

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.

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EXPERIENCE + KNOWLEDGE = WISDOM

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

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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 out 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: I am writing a book called The Seventh Hat For Wisdom. 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 …

The Chinese character for Wisdom …

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One thought on “From BLACK to GREY …

  1. An amazing lesson!! I copied it out and gave it to many students as well as friends. I am over 50 now and agree wholeheartedly with the grey hat and intend on buying one for myself. Thanks for that.