The New Idea of ‘Thinking Instructors’

As an innovator in the new field of cognitive neuroscience, my own original idea was ‘thinking instructors’. My specific idea was: ‘Anyone can learn to think if they have a thinking instructor.’ Today there are over 6 million thinking instructors worldwide.

This innovation all started at HBO studios in New York in 1977 when I produced a 3-part video training series called ‘Train the Trainer’ for Equitable Life. Copies were made and sent to all 185 branches. It was the first nationwide corporate video training product in America.

The train-the-trainer techniques were based on my previous decade of experiences in and out of the military especially principles from the Australian Army’s clever ‘Scheyville Method’ for thinking way outside the box.

Later, in 1979, I researched and adapted ‘Train the Trainer’ for training ‘thinking instructors’ and designed the ‘Learn-To-Think Project’: to train 300,000 thinking instructors in America for teaching lateral thinking skills in schools, in businesses and in communities.


In November 1979, I presented the Learn-to-Think Project to Cambridge Professor of Investigative Medicine, Edward de Bono, on one of his visits to NYC.

Edward was very animated by the idea of ‘thinking instructors’. He said it was ‘brilliant because of the multiplier effect’ and offered to contribute his 60-lesson version of CoRT Thinking as content for the thinking lessons to be used by the thinking instructors.

Although the CoRT content was indeed excellent to get us started the instructors soon found that 60 lessons were impractical – being far too many skills to train and disseminate widely – and so we worked to replace these 60 with 6.

We then published our detailed plan for implementing the ambitious national project in a comprehensive train-the-trainer’s manual entitled ‘Learn-To-Think: Coursebook and Instructor’s Manual’ (Capra New 1982).

I got going in New York without government funding, grants or corporate sponsorship. The ‘teaching thinking’ idea was resisted for some time but I self-funded and persevered with training instructors in school districts in New York, Dallas and San Francisco and eventually the idea of thinking instructors got real traction.

With the help of a small but talented and mission-devoted team of senior instructors whom I personally trained the big breakthrough came in April 1983 when we collaborated with the Readers Digest (#1 audited magazine in the world) to publish our coursebook’s thinking lessons in a cover story across all international editions.

Anticipating the internet, this media Big Bang went viral and totalled a distribution of nearly half a billion thinking lessons in a major international publishing event.

It was a part of a cascading media phenomenon which was launched on January 9th, 1983 in our special 2-page supplement in the New York Times called Teaching Thinking: The new trend in education. The emphasis was on the importance of having thinking instructors in schools because “… without specific efforts there is no assurance that students will learn to think laterally”.

Dr Eric Bienstock was the first thinking instructor who I trained in New York in January 1980.

Today there are more than 6.6 million thinking instructors in the world. Over 3 million in primary schools and over 3.5 million in secondary schools. Many are still teaching the ‘Six Thinking Hats Method’ originally developed by the School of Thinking in 1983.

 


So, after 40 years of focus and energy and on this occasion of my retirement, I believe I can safely say: Mission accomplished!

But, the question is: do the efforts of thinking instructors really have a significant impact on schools, businesses and communities?

Yes they do and the evidence is both positive and plentiful. Like the flap of a butterfly’s wings or a pebble in a pond the sudden intervention of the ‘teaching of thinking skills’ in schools and businesses can trigger a concatenation of consequences that go on and on over long sequels of time.

SFUSD

For example teaching thinking (metacognition) disrupted the standard curriculum in schools in the Bay Area in the mid-80s with very valuable consequences not only for graduate students but also for their employers.

The sudden introduction of lateral thinking skills to the SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) in 1984 was signed off by Superintendent Robert Alioto. I was personally invited to train all the primary school principals. By 1985, all public primary schools began the special lessons for teaching metacognition (thinking about thinking) to students across the Bay Area.

In the 90s and 2000s a significant explosion of cognitive surplus took off in the valley. The majority of all male and female paid thinkers on the Silicon Valley payrolls were products of the SFUSD system, and among the first in the US to be taught by thinking instructors. The return on payroll for Bay Area employers was exponential far outpacing both the state and the nation in patents issued.

Many scholars have pointed out this overlap of education and economy in the Bay Area. Today, it is said that If the Bay Area was a country like Switzerland or Saudi Arabia its own GDP of $790+ billion (which outstrips them both) would be one of the highest GDPs in the world.

GE

In New York in 1985 Jack Welch of GE introduced teaching thinking to all GE senior executives and middle managers.

Jack read my book NewSell (Boardroom Books, NY 1984) and personally authorised the teaching of ‘x10 Thinking’ (cvs2bvs: software for the brain) across the GE enterprise. He wrote, “I wish I had a management team that really understood Michael’s x10 Thinking because it’s the value-creation skill in the management process”.

In subsequent years GE executive have been sought out by Fortune 500 companies because they were considered the ‘creme de la creme’ of the US leadership crop.

For over 30 years cvs2bvs has been used by princes, presidents and prime-ministers around the world. By Olympic champions, scientists, soldiers, salesmen, parents, teenagers and kids.

In particular with the under-25s, because of their PFC Deficit, the teaching of thinking skills adds a big and lasting benefit to lives of teenagers and young people (see my book The 4th Brain (2019).

Why? Because one of the biggest discoveries of cognitive neuroscience is the inchoate teenage brain. It is now a significant fact that the PFC, Pre-Frontal Cortex, does not mature in the human brain until the mid-twenties!

The PFC is the critical decider, it’s where the executive decisions are made. It’s where you game your life.  Life choices. Career decisions. Lateral thinking. Those who get the training have a big advantage over those who do not.

With regard to the corporate sector it started in 1984 when IBM became the first of the Fortune 500 companies to introduce the cvs2bvs lateral thinking skill to senior executives. Then Jack Welch made a corporate mission three-year commitment to training all GE senior executives.

The investment for this project was $50,000 and I was retained for top fees to design a 30 x slide projector multi-media training experience to teach – cvs2bvs – the universal brain software and we flew this unit around the GE world from New York to Crotonville to Acapulco training GE executives in ‘x10 Thinking’ from 1985-1987. At that time it was the biggest investment any US company had ever made in teaching lateral thinking skills.

Looking back since then it’s worth noting the following facts:
• Jack Welch of GE was himself a master of x10 Thinking. He nicknamed it ‘boundaryless thinking” and also “boundarylessness’.
• By the time he left Jack had grown the world famous General Electric Company from a market value of $14 billion to a market value of $410 billion making it the most valuable company in the history of the world. Thinking way outside the box he had transformed it from not only a century-old manufacturer but also a national broadcaster and a bank!

• “Our dream for the 1990s,” Welch wrote in GE’s 1990 annual report, “is a boundaryless company where we knock down the walls that separate us from each other on the inside and from our key constituencies on the outside.”
• In his book about his time at GE Jack: Straight From the Gut (2001) he wrote about cvs2bvs: “It would make each of us wake up with the goal of “Finding a Better Way Every Day”. It was a phrase that became a slogan, put up on the walls of GE factories and offices around the world. It was the essence of boundaryless behaviour, and it defined our expectations”.

• Famous for the little handwritten notes he would send to people, Jack sent me several and the one I prized most said simply: “Michael, you are a friend of our company”.
• In 1999, Fortune magazine named him “Manager of the Century”.
• Since then, thousands of companies in the US and around the world have used ideas from the GE Model. Scores of Fortune 500 companies emulated the leadership example and transformation model set by Jack Welch at GE.

• Many business volumes, Harvard Business Review articles and other media have been written about Jack’s value-driven transformation of his company.
• Using his cutting-edge strategies like Work Out, Boundarylessness and Six Sigma, Jack has developed more leaders than any other CEO in business history.
• That I know of, the Jack Welch era at GE produced CEOs for Honeywell, 3M, Boeing, Intuit, Symantec, Home Depot, Chrysler, Siemans and Merck. According to USA Today the top three companies for producing CEOs of other Fortune 500 companies are GE (26), IBM (18) and McKinsey (16).

Today, Larry Page of Google is the best proponent of x10 thinking and today Google is the most valuable company in the world. Page says he “lives by the gospel of x10″. (WIRED, Feb 2013, Cover).

Like Jack Welch, Larry Page has also nicknamed x10 thinking. He calls it … ‘moonshot thinking’.

These two case studies – SFUSD and GE – show the compounding value and return on payroll of using thinking instructors for the direct teaching of metacognition – of lateral thinking and critical thinking skills.

 


There have been many other case studies like The Clever Country in Australia and thousands of other experiments in business and education still going on around the world today.

Going forward and in a Darwinian world where human intelligence is now being seriously threatened by artificial intelligence (AI) we may need the idea of ‘thinking instructors’ more and more than ever before.

Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

Emeritus Principal

School of Thinking

17 November 2018

 

 



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SOT COPYRIGHT NOTICES

 


A wicked problem is one which cannot be solved using human logic, our current and dominant way of thinking.

The rapid acceleration of global climate change, the unprecedented scale of the nuclear threat and the rising hegemony of artificial intelligence are all examples of wicked problems that cannot be solved with logic.

At the level of human2human relationships, many causes of daily conflict are not solved but even exacerbated by binary I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong logic-style thinking.

Logic is natural to the human brain’s limbic system because it is driven by the emotion of fear. In particular, the fear of ‘mistakes’.

In contrast, lateral thinking is not natural to the human brain. It is counter-intuitive. It requires re-wiring. Rather like driving a car, It must be acquired as a skill with deliberate practise and repetition over time.

Lateral thinking is a skill that we should be teaching our children … because they are going to need it!

In this recent DEAKIN University Talk Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson draws attention to “the greatest problem on Earth”.

It’s a wicked problem that’s a hundred times bigger than the problem of global warming and many orders of magnitude greater than the problems of health, water or population. It’s also the greatest opportunity on earth!

If you have 2 minutes you can eavesdrop in on the greatest problem on Earth

Without any doubt whatsoever, cvs2bvs combined with x10 is just about the most powerful concept I have ever come across. When I first read about this brain app, it was like a very bright light switching on in my mind. I intend to make this idea a permanent part of my everyday life.
- Secondary Teacher

For instructional purposes, the human brain is often called the triune brain because it has three layers that evolved over many thousands of generations.

  1. The reptile brain runs the automatic body systems.

  2. The mammal brain is the emotional brain.

  3. The human brain is the thinking brain.

(The ‘triune model’ is not literal but is metaphorically useful)

Reptile Brain

Your inner-most, smallest and most ancient reptilian brain may well be your most treasured possession. It controls everything you value most, your life systems. It runs your body temperature, blood sugar levels, heart rate and blood pressure, your respiration, releasing hormones for all the daily house-keeping and maintaining homeostasis or balance. Your reptile brain regulates deep evolutionary maintenance and self-healing. It’s hard-earned digital wisdom has been curated over the course of a million successful generations. It’s IP value in dollarized terms is simply priceless.

Mammal Brain

Your life systems reptilian brain is in constant conversation 24/7/365 with your emotional mammalian brain. Your wide repertoire of emotions ranging from fear, anxiety and anger to sexual longing to surprise, joy, sadness, trust and disgust. These are all triggered and/or switched in the mammalian brain. These mood changes and emotional switches are in sync with high speed parallel processing in the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain can stimulate the mammalian brain … and, of course, vice versa.

Human Brain

Enter your BIG human brain! This newest brain, the neocortex, is also in conversation 24/7/365 with both the older brains. As you would expect, their conversations can stimulate responses in the human cortical brain … and, again, vice versa. All three evolutionary brains are in constant digital engagement up and down the neuronal layers of the triune brain (reminder that this is not literally accurate but is practically so, metaphorically).

So what?

So what does this mean to you on a daily basis? It means that real fear and imagined fear both work the same way in stimulating stress responses in the triune brain.

When you are walking alone through Hyde Park at night and you suddenly hear a sinister sound behind you, your heart will suddenly pump faster, you will be flooded with adrenalin and other stress hormones, your blood pressure will spike and your skin will crawl. You will have a stress response whether Jack the serial killer is actually there … or not.

The Human Stress Response

Daily Stress

The problem on a daily basis is this: what if you are turning on the stress response too often and too long for imagined or psychological reasons and doing this on a daily basis?

In other words, chronic stress.

The answer is: Imagining Jack every day will kill you just as surely as the real Jack will, only it will take a little longer.

The stress response doesn’t have to be fear of Jack, of course. It can be other stress inducing causes like fear of mistakes or failure in career, business or job-related situations, fear of family crises, relationship conflicts, social media, fear of political or global issues etc etc etc.

The take away is that the reptile brain’s stress response is there to save your life from the real, but rare, life-threatening crisis like a sudden ambush from a Jack or a charging elephant. But, continuous imagined or psychological crises in the mammal brain, on a daily basis, will cause cascading stress responses that can give you depression, alcohol dependence, ulcers and heart disease.

Lateral thinking avoids stress

The greatest opportunity on Earth, for cognitive fitness, is lateral thinking. The numerical synonym for lateral thinking is x10 thinking. Although it is not natural for humans it can be taught and learned.

Lateral thinking (x10 thinking) is our best tool for creating value, our best hope for solving wicked problems, our best defense against imagined fears, fear of mistakes, fear of failure in career, business or job-related situations, fear of family crises, relationship conflicts, social media, fear of political or global issues etc etc etc.

Click: for Principal’s/CEO’s information pack

INVITATION

You are now invited to start your lessons. Go to the right hand side of this page (or scroll down on your smartphone) and register with your name and email address and start learning today.

BENEFITS OF SOT LESSONS

  • Be more mindful of opportunities

  • Be resilient and better at solving problems

  • Enjoy making much better decisions

  • Be more effective at planning ahead

  • Get much better measurable results in life

  • Be more interesting to other thinkers

  • Find it easier to be innovative and creative

  • Be a more flexible thinker and less fearful of changes in circumstances

  • Get things done with much less stress

  • Enjoy greater mindfulness and worry less

  • Own a basis for a higher communication with others

  • See information in new and more useful ways

  • Learn the skill of x10 Thinking

  • Generate better and better alternatives

  • Raise the level of every other thought-based skill you possess

  • Apply these new skills to your career, personal and family life.

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