15055665_1462073137154162_6816874660365787746_n

Dear Lateral Thinkers,

I am often asked, “Can you really teach people to think outside their own box?”

What we are up against, as lateral thinkers, is the very wicked problem of ESCAPE. Edward de Bono used to often say, “The most difficult feat of human thinking is to escape from our own point-of-view”.

This is because the main Darwinian purpose of the human brain is to quickly lock-in a point-of-view, as situations arise, so we can react and survive.

If we add our strong judgmental bias, our cultural thinking habit of RIGHT/WRONG then it becomes not just difficult to escape from our set point-of-view but almost impossible, especially if we believe we are RIGHT!

Furthermore, if we are highly intelligent and articulate then we may be so able to defend the rightness of our point-of-view that we see little need to abandon it for something better. So we get trapped into argument and conflict. This can be very dangerous and costly.

A further problem in the Western education system is the ideological (liberal humanism) goal often stated as: we teach students to think for themselves. This is not enough. Students can be taught to think much better than that.

For example, in a ballet school they don’t say: we teach students to dance for themselves. In the air force they don’t say: we teach pilots to fly for themselves. In medical schools they don’t say: we teach doctors to heal for themselves. No. We can do much better than that!

The human brain is not designed to innovate so it has to be trained. The good news is that it CAN be trained to be much better at thinking than when it just thinks for itself. This training is called: metacognition skills.

This is what we specialise in at SOT. For those who are fortunate enough to be SOT students this is what we teach: not just to think for themselves but to think ten times better than that.

These days there are many people who are interested in lateral thinking. They have read books on the subject and may even understand this unique cognitive phenomenon. However, I have found in my work over the years that understanding is good, but not nearly good enough. People tell me they know they should think laterally but they just can’t do it very well.

Lateral thinking is not natural. It is an acquired skill. Like flying a plane. It even goes against our natural way of thinking and it is very often quite hard to escape from the box of our own personal point-of-view. Even if we have read and learned, in theory, how to do it.

Over the years I have written about this big gap between KNOWING and DOING. We know people who can sing at the top of their voice but we just can’t do it ourselves. In a group, we might sing a little more quietly so as not to be heard. We know people who can bake a luscious ‘death by chocolate’ cake but we can’t quite do it ourselves. We might cheat and buy a cake-mix box and throw a rather poor substitute together.

This gap between KNOWING and DOING, between knowledge and performance, is everything in business.

Business is all about creating value. On any given day in any given business there are value fountains and value drains. That day the value fountains created value for the shareholders. The value drains depleted shareholder value on that day. Our economy has serious productivity issues today because there are too many value drains and not enough value fountains. I tell my CEO clients that their job, as CEO, is to multiply the number of value fountains on the payroll … by ten!

Knowing all this is one thing. Creating actual measurable value is another. I have written about this many times and have called this gap, The Impossible Barrier, because so few people are ever able to cross over from one side to the other … from KNOWING to DOING. Watching the Australian Open is great but we are only spectators by the many thousands. Only the very few are actually slamming an ace on the line!

I suppose my own original idea in the 80s was software for the brain. At that time I was invited to give the keynote address at a series of IBM conferences in Monte Carlo. The purpose of the conference was the launch of the new “desktop computers” that IBM had recently invented. If we could now have personal desktop computers, I suggested that we could also recognise the fact that we already possessed our own “necktop computers”.

This joke created quite a chuckle amongst the IBM audiences of technocrats and IT executives. So, I continued to develop the metaphor and later wrote it all up in my best-seller, Software For The Brain in Australia in 1989.

When I first coined the meme it caused some controversy. For example, my co-founder, Edward de Bono did not like the idea at all and wrote against it in one of his books. More recently he is in agreement and has said so.

Many cognitive scientists agree that the brain is less like a magic box and more like a digital computing network with algorithms doing information-processing. If this is true then we need better software.

If you google the meme of software for the brain you currently get 300 – 400 million entries and you will likely see my book at the top of google’s list and it has now become common currency around the world. The meme is replicating!

In SOT we also talk about apps for intelligence and emojis for thinking and no-one has a problem with these ideas. They are very powerful cognitive algorithms.

Today, 30 years later, my necktop computer joke is supported by most of the current research in the life sciences which demonstrates the fact that the brain really is a meta-network of digital algorithms doing information-processing with nothing essentially mysterious going on.

However, in a practical way, I first was taught algorithms for perceptual manipulation in the Australian army in the late 60s although they didn’t call it brain software they called it aide memoire.

https://www.otu.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/img0011.jpg

The method was used to train soldiers new skills like how to react in the event of an ambush or how to teach pilots to eject from a plane. These are both highly counter-intuitive skills that the brain would not normally allow you to do. So it requires PRR – Practice, Repetition and Rehearsal. At that time I was surprised to see how different military training was to what I had experienced at school.

SLO to SPO

This is partly because the Western education strategy is so focused on knowing. In academic education, where the bottom-line is to pass an exam, lessons are often designed using SLOs (Student Learning Objectives). The evaluating question is asked: What will the student know?

In military education, where the bottom-line is life or death, lessons are often designed using SPOs (Student Performance Objectives). The question is asked: What will the student do?

There is a BIG difference in outcomes between these two methods of instruction. It is all about developing a thorough understanding and conviction of the difference between merely having knowledge on a matter and owning a skill of performance in it. The virtue of virtuosity. Understanding the strategy of practice x10 and repetition x10.

The School of Thinking was founded in New York in 1979 by an Australian soldier and a Maltese doctor who were both interested in promoting and teaching the idea of lateral thinking. The doctor, a Cambridge University Professor of Medicine, had specialized knowledge about cognitive neuroscience and the soldier, a Vietnam War veteran, had specialized knowledge about military train-the-trainer pedagogy.

For five foundational years, from 1979 to 1984. it was the juxtaposition of these two careers that led to the unique design of the School of Thinking. In 1995, it became the first school on the internet. SOT has now given out over half a billion lessons worldwide on lateral thinking.

Edward de Bono and Michael Hewitt-Gleeson in New York in 1980

The two co-founders of the School of Thinking share May birthdays. I turned 71 last month and Edward turned 85. We are able to reflect that lateral thinking is now here to stay.

It can’t unhappen. It’s a unique story.

In 2018, lateral thinking is no longer just an interesting, trendy idea for people to know about, but millions of practitioners are now using either de Bono Global training or SOT lessons so that they are actually able to perform lateral thinking … with skill … at will!

cvs2bvs,

Michael

dr michael hewitt-gleeson | co-founder

 

All rights reserved. Copyright © 2018. School of Thinking

2018 marks the 30th Anniversary of the School of Thinking in Australia …

Prime Minister Bob Hawke at SOT launch in Canberra, 1988, with SOT Principal Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

On 30 May 1988 in Canberra the School of Thinking was officially launched in Australia by Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson in the presence of the then Governor General of Australia, His Excellency Sir Ninian Stephan AK GCMB GCVO KBE, at the Bi-Centennial Convention of 600 of Australia’s commonwealth, state and municipal statespeople.

After his foundation address, in which Dr Hewitt-Gleeson challenged that “critical thinking” as a school subject should be put on the curriculum for every school in Australia, Sir Ninian stood and said to Dr Hewitt-Gleeson, “You have just given the best keynote address I have ever heard!”

Sir Ninian was then presented with a Clever Brainusers Software Kit by Dr Hewitt-Gleeson.

Next to speak was the Prime Minister of Australia at the time and Rhodes scholar, The Honourable Robert J Hawke AC, GCL who commended Dr Hewitt-Gleeson for this initiative and agreeing,

No longer content to be just the lucky country, Australia must now become the clever country!

Prime Minister Hawke was then presented with a School of Thinking certificate by Dr Hewitt-Gleeson proclaiming him to be “Australia’s Number One Clever Brainuser” and to symbolise the vast potential of the power of Australia’s 16 million brains.

The historic event was reported in Australia’s largest circulation newspaper, The Sun – (Melbourne, Australia, Fri May 27, 1988): “The education for 600 of Australia’s notable statesmen will begin on Monday (30 May 1988) when Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson delivers the keynote address “TEACHING CRITICAL THINKING IN AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS” at the Bicentennial National Congress in Canberra.”

“The Clever Country” mission of the School of Thinking has been to get critical thinking taught on the Australian school curriculum as a core subject.

“If Dr Hewitt-Gleeson has his way, Australian schoolchildren will, by 1992, have the study (of thinking) as much a part of their curriculum as the traditional subjects of maths and English,” recorded Australian author, Peter Fitzimons, in the Sydney Morning Herald (Wednesday September 5, 1990).

In his book, Clever (1993), Dr Hewitt-Gleeson wrote,

If we are to become a clever country and ensure our economic future and our stability as a nation, we may have to focus more on the productivity and potential of Australians as individual thinkers. As a national service, to provide training in thinking to every Australian would be less than the cost of one army tank!

The motto of the School of Thinking is

Nemo Nascitur Sapiens Artifex

“No-one is ever born a skilled thinker”


How it all got started in New York in 1979 …

SOT’s original mission was the Learn-To-Think Project began in 1980 “to teach critical thinking as a skill in schools”.

SOT’s long-term, sustained effort has meant dealing in the USA and Australia with many foundations, government and educational institutions, corporations publishers and media in Washington and Canberra and also with individual educators, parents and students in 45 countries around the world. It’s an interesting story.

Here’s how the ‘critical thinking’ meme actually went viral in the USA in 1983.

At that time, an invitation arrived from the University/Urban Schools National Task Force to speak at their last quarterly conference in San Francisco.

This was a task force of school district superintendents from major American cities – Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Chicago etc. and was headed by CUNY’s Dr. Richard Bossone.

Dr. Bossone told me that their grant had run out and San Francisco was to be their last meeting as they had lost their raison d’etre and after the San Francisco conference, the task force would fold. He invited me to talk about the SOTs activities and our idea of ‘teaching thinking in schools’.

Our presentation was a big hit and as a result they passed a motion that their new raison d’etre would be to promote the teaching of thinking skills and they would apply to have their grant renewed.

Dr. Bossone was successful in getting the University/Urban Schools National Task Force grant renewed and he immediately convened a special conference In San Juan, Puerto Rico to focus only on teaching thinking in US schools.

I was once again invited to open the conference and give the keynote address, “Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Schools”.

At this conference the leaders of education in the US including Dr. Frank Macchiarola, Chancellor, New York City Public Schools, and Mr. Gene Maeroff, President, New York Times Foundation and Dean of Education Journalists. Gene Maeroff’s presence was strategically important because his was the top voice on education trends in America.

In a long afternoon discussion by the pool in San Juan I explained to Gene how metacognition can actually be taught as a skill in ten hours of training and showed Gene the cvs2bvs brain software which we were using with corporations like GE and IBM. Gene became genuinely excited by the idea of teaching kids to think critically for themselves.

This later turned out to be a highly valuable conversation.

Like the New York Times theatre critic who can make or close a Broadway show in one article, what Gene Maeroff writes in the Education Supplement of the New York Times, inevitably comes to pass. Gene was very impressed with the San Juan discussions and also the financial commitments given to the task force so in a special two-full page pull-out feature he subsequently wrote:

“Teaching to think: A new emphasis at schools and colleges A major new effort to teach thinking skills is planned by the University/Urban Schools National Task Force, which will soon initiate a program in the public schools of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis. The College Board will provide $300,000 for the project… The School of Thinking in New York is the base in this country for teaching de Bono’s theory, disseminated from its headquarters in London, which includes breaking out of traditional thinking patterns. This means trying to devise new ways of looking at problems … it affirms the belief that without specific efforts there is no assurance students will learn to think laterally.”

(New York Times: Education Winter Survey. January 9, 1983.)

This was the story that was taken up by the press around the nation and a new fad was created – teaching thinking as a skill.

The media have been generous in supporting SOT and its activities, and as a group, journalists deserve a lot of the credit for SOTs success in achieving its mission.

Within a year from that New York Times story, we had accomplished our mission of getting thinking into US schools.


 

One of the great challenges to democracy in Australia and internationally is to understand the lack of political engagement among the young.

Young people are less likely to vote, to join a political party, or to engage in interest groups than at any time since democratization.

http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/nusdigital/image/images/20515/original/Ampp3d%20and%20The%20Daily%20Mirror%20Graph%202.jpg

The 2016 Australian Election Study is designed to address this question by examining engagement in and attitudes to politics, as well as replicating many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies.

Australian Election Study logo

Other sections cover the respondent’s interest in the election campaign and politics, their past and present political affiliation, evaluation of parties and candidates, alignment with parties on various election issues, evaluation of the current economic situation, and attitudes to a range of election issues including global warming, taxation, education, unemployment, health, and refugees.

Opinions on social policy issues including abortion, equal opportunities, same sex marriages, and Australia’s security were also covered in the 2016 Australian Election Study.

 

 

“If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”

Albert Einstein

What is a genuine experiment?

A true experiment is blind. It is when you try something not because you know what will happen but in order to see what will happen. These are two entirely different strategies. One is inside-the-square and the other is outside-the-square.

My view of the lack of real experimentation in selling and business has been because of a dominant preference for short term gains. So, there is not such a strong tradition for genuine blind experimentation as there is in science.

Intelligence is something we are born with. Lateral thinking is a skill that must be learned. – Professor Edward de Bono

There is nothing on Earth more powerful than lateral thinking. – Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

 

Lateral thinking will make you better …

https://ih1.redbubble.net/image.91889681.9847/flat,800x800,075,f.jpg

Wealth

https://t4.ftcdn.net/jpg/00/96/48/45/160_F_96484584_Xk73QpOLiB05yo7vBZ0e99jMY613Vfit.jpg

Health

http://weclipart.com/gimg/635E7289678082F4/card-icon-heart.jpg

Productivity

http://www.freestencilgallery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Playing-Card-Suit-Spade-Stencil-thumb.jpg

Security

https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HTB1.mONKFXXXXbbXpXXq6xXFXXXQ/Club-font-b-Playing-b-font-font-b-Card-b-font-Suit-Symbol-Funny-JDM-Vinyl.jpg

 

Mentoring is not how good you are now;

it’s about how good you are going to be …

 

https://t4.ftcdn.net/jpg/00/96/48/45/160_F_96484584_Xk73QpOLiB05yo7vBZ0e99jMY613Vfit.jpg

Wealth: Better decisions = better bank balance

Your career, business, investment and commercial success is directly related to the quality of your decisions. Every day you make decisions that will either increase your wealth or decrease your wealth. Lateral thinking will make you better.

 

http://weclipart.com/gimg/635E7289678082F4/card-icon-heart.jpg

Health: Poorer choices = poorer health

Your physical, mental and emotional health cannot be separated from the pattern of choices you make. Every hour of every day you are designing your future. If your designs are weak your future cannot be strong. Lateral thinking will make you better.

 

http://www.freestencilgallery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Playing-Card-Suit-Spade-Stencil-thumb.jpg

Productivity: Faster strategies = faster results

The possibilities, options, strategies, tactics, pathways, networks and environments that are available for you to think about will either accelerate or inhibit your own personal productivity and results. Lateral thinking will make you better.

 

https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HTB1.mONKFXXXXbbXpXXq6xXFXXXQ/Club-font-b-Playing-b-font-font-b-Card-b-font-Suit-Symbol-Funny-JDM-Vinyl.jpg

Security: Deeper thinking = deeper security

Your survival and growth, in a darwinian sense, cannot be separated from how you make your decisions over time. If you don’t do your own thinking others will do it for you. These other people, institutions or authorities may not do it well at all or even in your best interests. Lateral thinking will make you better.

 

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/spoonflower/public/design_thumbnails/0051/5506/rrrrJP_InWonderland_Hearts_clubs_diamonds_n_spades300dpi_shop_preview.png