In teaching thinking skills I’ve often been asked, “Isn’t this just the same as positive thinking?” My answer, of course, is NO.

Everything in life is not positive. Many things are indeed negative. Pretending they are positive can be a barrier to effective thinking.

Quite far from positive thinking the kind of design thinking we promote in SOT (with tools and apps like cvs2bvs) is how to take the things that you have and design ways to add value or make them better. Just pretending things will be positive is not design thinking.

Hope (or prayer, for that matter) is NOT a strategy.

If you’ve got ten minutes, here’s an animated discussion of the negatives of “positive thinking” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

All cultures have their unique perspective and Australia is no exception.

While humans all share the same gene pool there are many different human meme pools and many different human cultures.

Australia’s unique history and isolation has sometimes been a source of fascination for others around the world. Soviet Russia’s Vladimir Lenin once observed: “What sort of peculiar capitalist country is this in which the workers’ representatives predominate in the upper house….and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?”


Those Australians who have been clever enough and lucky enough to survive 50 years or more (400,000+ hours) of life have learned a thing or two. Here are some examples of their Grey Hat Thinking … from Australians, old and older:


Kerry Packer – billionaire: Never complain, never explain.

Australian proverb: The bigger the hat, the smaller the property.

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn – Nobel Laureate: I got it for curiosity.

General D.M. Mueller: As a leader you must celebrate life, you must celebrate success and paradoxically, you must celebrate heroic failures.

Baron May of Oxford – President of The Royal Society:  The existence of a supernatural being in the form of a god who can dish out punishment in the afterlife may have been an important force in the past that helped to keep societies together as co-operative entities – but not so in the future.

Henry Lawson – poet: I’ve never seen anyone rehabilitated by punishment.

Jack Lang – Labor premier: Always back the horse named self-interest, son. It’ll be the only one trying.

Ann Daniel – Emeritus Professor of Sociology: Be gentle, become creative.

Douglas Mawson – scientist and polar survivor: It’s dead easy to die; it’s the keeping on living that’s hard.

Dame Nellie Melba – opera singer: The first rule in opera is the first rule in life: see to everything yourself.

General Sir John Monash – WW I military strategist: Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs … the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline.

Australian Aboriginal saying: May as well be here we are as where we are.

Danielle Wood – Author:  My grandfather, the remarkable man who inspired my first novel, The Alphabet of Light and Dark, once said to me: “There’s no such thing as biting off more than you can chew–you just take a big bite, and then chew like buggary”.

Rt Hon Bob Hawke – Prime Minister: Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don’t exude morality.

Ian Kiernan – organiser of Clean up Australia Day: Ordinary people need to lead and not sit there and think that governments are going to spoon feed them.

Saint Mary McKillop: Never see a need without doing something about it.

Harry (Breaker) Morant – executed soldier and poet: Shoot straight you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it.

Joan Kirner – Labor premier: There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you.

Convict saying: The law locks up the man who steals the goose from the common, but leaves the greater criminal loose who steals the common from the goose.

Ned Kelly – bushranger: If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away.

Errol Flynn – Hollywood star: Flynn is not always in.

Sandra Cabot – physician and author: Real women don’t have flushes, they have power surges.

Hon Arthur Calwell – politician: It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.

Oenone Wood – Champion cyclist: As a child my mum told me I could do anything. I believed her.

Australian observation: If the guy next to you is swearing like a wharfie he’s probably a billionaire. Or, just conceivably, a wharfie.

Australian observation: There is nothing more Australian than spending time in somebody else’s country.

Anon: It may be that your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

Dame Edna Everage: Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.

Rt Hon Sir Robert Menzies – Prime Minister: A man may be a tough, concentrated, successful money-maker and never contribute to his country anything more than a horrible example.

Tom Dystra – Aboriginal man: We cultivated our land, but in a way different from the white man. We endeavoured to live with the land; they seemed to live off it.

Phillip Adams – journalist: The most intense hatreds are not between political parties but within them.

Australian Aboriginal proverb: Those who lose dreaming are lost.

Australian proverb: Its like the axe that’s had two new blades and three new handles but otherwise is just as it was when grandfather bought it.

Professor Geoffrey Blainey – historian: Nationalism is both a vital medicine and a dangerous drug.

Sir Don Bradman – cricket player and Captain of Australia: When you play test cricket, you don’t give the Englishmen an inch. Play it tough, all the way. Grind them into the dust.

Janet Holmes à Court – CEO: The company was quite hierarchical. I often think it was like a pyramid with Robert (husband Robert Holmes à Court) at the top and lots of us paying homage to him. I try to turn the pyramid upside down so that I’m at the bottom and bubbling away and encouraging people and energising them so that they are all empowered so that they can do what they need to do, now that’s the dream.

Rt Hon Julia Gillard – Prime Minister of Australia: The concept of social inclusion in essence means replacing a welfarist approach to helping the underprivileged with one of investing in them and their communities to bring them into the mainstream market economy. It’s a modern and fresh approach that views everyone as a potential wealth creator and invests in their human capital.

 


DFQ: What is your favourite example of Grey Hat Thinking?

You can post your comment below …

My proposition in this post is that the generation known as the Baby Boomer generation may be the wisest generation in the history of the world!

One thing is obvious. Baby boomers are no longer babies.

OK. I’ll declare up front that this claim may seem self-serving since I’m a founding life member of that geriatric generation (born 1947). Now that we have that little secret out of the way let me suggest two legitimate reasons as to why this is a valid claim. One reason is quantitative and the other is qualitative. And, if it’s true, what is the point of this insight anyway?

Quantitative Evidence

It is widely acknowledged that the Boomers, the baby boom generation, is still the biggest generation in the history of the world. In terms of years lived, Boomers have more 50+ members than any other generation. It is the largest of all geriatric generations. And most critically of all, Boomers have a vast database of memory. More memory-power than any generation in human history.

“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.”      – Elizabeth II

Qualitative Evidence

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

The life experience of surviving for a complete 25-year generation through childhood, adolescence and adulthood endows metacognitive memory and long-term perspective that a child’s brain simply cannot match.

To do this TWICE (to achieve 50 years of survival through two or more generations) allows the brain to build a deep database of experiential memory 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 of survival and making a living. So, Boomers are Grey Hat thinkers.

What is Grey Hat Thinking?

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 be able to think beyond the short-term of 1o – 100 months. 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 (Gray: US) 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 and decades of real-life problem-solving in the four major areas of health, wealth, productivity and security.

Boomers have failed many times along the way. Boomers have made more mistakes than any other generation. You can’t acquire wisdom without lots of mistakes and without the memory of those mistakes. Wisdom emerges from mistake-memory. From the hard won, labour-intensive experience gained from having to design solutions for life’s wide range of random and unexpected problems and having  survived life’s experiments and mistakes across multi-changing environments over several generations and for an extended period of time.

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

So, what’s the point?

• All this grey wisdom may be a very useful and timely strategic resource for the future.

• There is an accelerating need for more grey hat thinking than there has ever been before.

• Some of the most difficult decisions in history will have to be made in the next few decades.

• The quality of the future will be a direct consequence of the quality of the decisions that are made.

Go ahead. Ask a boomer!

German expert on Thinking Skills–Florian Rustler–asks Michael about teaching thinking and the universal brain software – cvs2bvs …

Michael, you created the School of Thinking (SOT). For some people that might be an unusual concept that you need a school that teaches you how to think. A lot of people are of the opinion that they know already how to think. Why is there a necessity for having a School of Thinking?

••• Click through here for the interview …

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One of the complaints I hear again and again from most people in business is the amount of time that they waste each and every day in business meetings.

These are meetings where the truth is never told, where decisions are never made and where everyone plays along until the meeting ends so they can rush off to their next meeting.

It’s a very rare business meeting where one finds that there’s not an elephant lurking in the room.

My own experience has been that in nearly every business meeting the room is so full of elephants that there seems hardly enough room for those in the meeting. And, what’s more, the elephants are all naked!!

I’m planning to shortly publish an article called Elephant Spotting: The Art and Science of Spotting Elephants in the Room

DFQ:  In your next meeting, instead of paying attention to the ‘Agenda’,  you can see if you can find how many elephants there are in the room.