May is Metacognition Month at SOT

Wisdom, where and when it can be found, is a much more heightened state of awareness than Greco-Roman logical thinking which is heavily focused on reaction and judgement. Wisdom is metacognition.

What is metacognition?

Metacognition is the highest state of awareness. It’s actually thinking about thinking. Or being aware that one is aware. Metacognition is being aware of one’s thinking and directing one’s thinking in a deliberate and strategic way.

Starting on May Day, the first of May 2012, School of Thinking began celebrating Metacognition Month.

— Click here to participate and find out more …

The New Grey Borsalino

I’m going to Rome via Doha this year. I’ve never been to Qatar before and I’m very interested to visit. One hears so many interesting things about Doha.

Anyway, when I was in Rome, this time last year, I wanted to acquire a new grey Borsalino to replace the one I had just lost.

That morning I’d got up early for a walk and climbed the Spanish Steps to gaze back at the stunning laser fanfare of sunrise over the cupolas of the Eternal City.

Then, early breakfast in the Palm Court at the Hassler has been a long-standing tradition for me on my Roman holidays so I chose my strategic table, laid out my International Tribune and sipped my tea.

An hour later, fully restored, I stepped out and headed towards Piazza del Populo now on my important mission for the morning. I was going to get my hat.
I found my way to the elegant boutique. After introductions I carefully examined the shelves of exquisite chapeaux and tried on 4 or 5 of the famous felt fedoras.

O me miserum! The one I really wanted was not my size and the one that fit me was not the one I desired.

Disappointed. I missed out on that trip but I’ll be back late in June and this time I’m determined not to leave Rome without my grey felt Borsalino.



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 simply 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.

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 encouraged me personally and generously supported SOT by saying that he thought our work in teaching people to think, “may be the most important thing going on in the world”.

He was the inventor of the Gallup Poll at Princeton and the designer of market research. He was the first to map what today we might call ‘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. One of the world’s most remarkable survivors is Elizabeth II who is the Queen of Australia. She is currently celebrating sixty years in her job with big celebrations planned around the Commonwealth. She 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.”

Grey (Gray: US) Hat Thinking is the wisdom that emerges from the hard won, labour-intensive experience gained from having to solve life’s wide range of random and unexpected problems and having survived through multi-changing environments over several generations and for an extended period of time.

The long-term wisdom of Grey Hat Thinking may also be useful in raising one’s conciousness of Black Swans.

In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shares his personal insight:

The other day, looking at my gray beard that makes me look ten years older than my true age, and the pleasure I derived from exhibiting it, I realized the following. Effectively, the respect for the elder in many societies might be compensation for our short-term memory. Senate come from senatus, aging in Latin; sheikh in Arabic means both member of the ruling elite and “elder”.

These people had to be repositories of more complicated inductive learning that included information about rare events —in a narrow evolutionary sense they can be deemed be useless since they are past their procreative age, so they have to offer some antidote to the turkey problem and prevent the less experienced members of the tribe from being suckers. In fact the elders can scare us with a story — which is why we become overexcited when we think of a specific Black Swan.

I was excited to find out that this also held in the animal domain: a paper in Science shows that elephant matriarch fill the role of super-advisors on rare events.

In the US a person who is often admired for both her philanthropy and her own brand of wisdom is Oprah Gail Winfrey. She has claimed, “Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi”.

Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $51,000,000 for the underprivileged around the world. Behind the scenes Winfrey personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other show-business celebrity in America. In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America’s top 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $303 million.

Winfrey has also invested $40 million establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg, South Africa. The school opened in January 2007. Nelson Mandela praised Winfrey for overcoming her own disadvantaged youth to become a benefactor for others and for investing in the future of South Africa.

A Guardian article entitled The Wisdom of Oprah says: The beauty of Oprah’s story is that it is simple, inexpensive things – being taught to read by her grandmother and, later, her father’s discipline and his emphasis on her education – which gave her the tools she needed to become much more than just another statistic. That in itself is inspiring.

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 raise their consciousness and 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.

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.


At a leadership convention in Melbourne I was asked to add one more cap to the original 6 thinking caps developed by SOT in 1983. I have designed the 7th Cap for Wisdom which is the Grey Thinking Cap.

The book will be published later this year.

Of all the Thinking Caps–White, Black, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue–the Grey Cap is also the Senior Cap.


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


is all about the escape

from judgmental thinking to wisdom.


— Click through here for the full article …

Life in the big Southern city!

Last night I was invited to a Public Lecture at Melbourne Uni. Since I’ve recently moved into downtown Melbourne’s CBD I went along.

It was in a stylish and modern lecture theatre in The Spot in the School of Economics and it was just a pleasant 5-minute stroll from my new apartment.

This Dean’s Lecture was by visiting Nobel Judge, Professor Erling Norrby MD PhD, who was Professor of Virology and Chairman at the Royal Karolinska Institute for 25 years.

Professor Norrby was deeply involved in judging Nobel prizes in Physiology and Medicine for 20 years. He’s currently Vice-Chairman of the Board of the J Craig Venter Institute and Lord Chamberlain-in-Waiting at the Royal Swedish Court.

He showed us how they decided who was ‘prize-worthy’ and it was a real eye-opener. They are not only rigorous in Sweden but also very clever. I got some useful tips for the future development of our own award for the Australian Thinker of the Year.

In particular he explained the spectacular advances in immunology following the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine to Sir Macfarlane Burnet and Peter Medawar and the achievements in the global control of infectious diseases was also discussed. He described Burnet as one of the great ‘scientific giants’ since the prize began in 1901.

The evening also honoured Australian “Mr Measles”, Emeritus Professor Derek Denton, who was there with his wife Dame Margaret Scott. His work is ridding the world of measles and so he’s saving a million babies a year. (How come we all know about Paris Hilton but we don’t know about this guy? I think the media needs to lift its game and get some perspective).

The evening was a science name-dropper’s paradise. All the biggies were there. I was able to present my guest to Professor Roger Short FRS, one of my science heroes and Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty; Prof Suzanne Cory, Pres of the Australian Academy of Science; and many of the big names in Australian Science. Then we all stood for the entrance of the Victorian viceroy.

Sundry luminaries like former Prime Minister, The Hon Malcolm Fraser and Science Minister The Hon Barry Jones were there, too, with a tribe of faculty and students from across the campus. Have I left anyone out?

After the mandatory post-lecture sherry and cheese we hopped on the tram for a couple of stops to our favourite little home-cooking cucina in Carlton for some pasta, cotolletta, panna cotta and grappa. I was home and watching telly in bed by 9. What’s not to love about life in Melbourne’s CBD!

Future XIO: Ten Possible Futures

cvs2bvs is the Universal Brain Software which frees the brainuser to hop across parallel universes with tenpower.

cvs2bvs also allows the brainuser to switch from one parallel universe to another.



A parallel universe is a possible future. At any particular moment you are heading to one possible future. But, you could escape from that possible future and head for a different possible future. We do this every day and every time we take a decision. For example, right now I am writing this sentence about a very embarrassing incident that once happened to me in New York when I …

However, I have just decided to escape from that sentence and instead of finishing it I have decided to write this sentence instead. A quite different but possible future.



There are, of course, a virtually unlimited number of possible futures facing us at any moment in time but so many futures may be too daunting to think about. So, let’s just limit the options to ten.

Future XIO is the brain app which says that at any time you are faced with a decision there are always ten possible futures from which to choose.

Usually there is the most likely future which will turn out to be the decision you are most likely to take. In this brain app we call the most likely decision choice: Future #10. We do this to draw attention to the fact that there are at least 9 other options or possible futures that we could consider if only we made the metacognitive effort to do so.

Just to spell this out we’ll call these options or possibilities or choices:

Future #10

Future #09

Future #08

Future #07

Future #06

Future #05

Future #04

Future #03

Future #02

Future #01


The Future XIO Brain App

The excellence and power of the Future XIO brain app is that at any NOW moment of the day you have an opportunity for cvs2bvs and to select any one of ten possible futures.

For example:
» You might get writer’s block while preparing a scientific paper — cvs2bvs.
» You might find yourself being a space glutton in a family meeting — cvs2bvs.
» You might be trying to help your child solve a problem — cvs2bvs.
» You might be googling the www looking for an opportunity — cvs2bvs.
» You might be worried and depressed about money — cvs2bvs.
» You might be about to decide what to have for lunch — cvs2bvs.
» You might be boring a client or customer — cvs2bvs.
» You might be being bullied by a friend or family member — cvs2bvs.
» You might be playing Angry Birds — cvs2bvs.

Practise and repetition ensures that the cvs2bvs switch will pop up at a time when you need to use it. And when it does pop up, what then?



To Look Is To See

If you decide to look for a BVS, you will see it. Yes, you really will see it.

INSTRUCTION: What time is it?
(Check your watch and record the time here ________.)

Isn’t it amazing! The time is always there, BUT you only see it when you actually look for it. Think about that for a moment! Through training and practice, your brain learned (developed the cognitive pattern) to tell the time, long ago. One just needs to use the trigger question: What time is it? and Hey! Presto! … We get to see the time! The same applies to a BVS.

It’s your attention that controls your behavior. You need a trigger to manipulate your attention from merely focusing on your CVS and to get it to switch to a BVS. This is also called lateral thinking or creative thinking or X10 thinking. You’ve done it many times before but you need to do it better and much more often — on command! The key to creativity is remembering to be creative at any particular moment, remembering to use the switch cvs2bvs. Remember: What time is it?

Seek and You Shall Find

cvs2bvs will dramatically increase your odds of finding ideas, because you will be actively looking for them, habitually, as a matter of personal policy. You can get a good idea today, a better idea tomorrow and you get the best idea … never! There’s always a BVS! This means that you can have a perfectly valid CVS, but there must always be a better one because you always have ten options from which to choose. And, for repetition sake, here they are again:

Future #10

Future #09

Future #08

Future #07

Future #06

Future #05

Future #04

Future #03

Future #02

Future #01

There’s Always a BVS!

The difference between the way you use your necktop now, and the way it could operate, is up to the software you use. Each time you do your 100 repetitions of cvs2bvs, it guarantees that you are keeping yourself, your family, your school or company, on the road to a much better future, the road to a BVS.  Here are 100 repetitions of cvs2bvs:

cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs

cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs
cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs cvs2bvs


When 2nd is better than 1st

From Michael Hewitt-Gleeson’s new book ET 123: English Thinking, The Three Methods for publication in August 2012:

Chinese thinking is different to Western ET 1 thinking because they do not both share the same cultural evolution. Chinese thinking methods obviously did not evolve out of a medieval bellicose Roman church.

For example, a dominant strategy of ET 1 thinking is to be First. This seems logical to the Western mind because, after all, I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong.

But to the Chinese mind the preferred strategy is not to be First but to be Second. In the words of the father of modern China, Deng Xiaoping;

“Keep cool-headed to observe, be composed to make reactions, stand firmly, hide our capabilities and bide our time, never try to take the lead, and be able to accomplish something”.

There are some Western leaders who also understand the beneficial paradox of the 2 strategy and Jack Welch of GE was a good example. Except in the very few situations, like boxing or poker when it’s a zero sum game, 2 is often a far superior strategy to 1. Have a think about it.

There is much that Western business can learn from Deng Xiaopeng’s ideas.

My personal experience is that many Westerners, even in 2012, are still pre-Enlightenment ET 1 thinkers. While they may know about the Enlightenment and be able to describe some of its breakthroughs their default position is still ET 1 thinking.

On the other hand, while it is true that the Chinese clearly have much to do and many issues of their own to work through and to improve and further develop, my own observation is that they are largely post-Enlightenment ET 2 thinkers.

They deeply understand the ET 2 evolutionary approach compared with the West’s ET 1 revolutionary approach and this gives them a great advantage going forward into the many possible futures. It will be interesting to see where this takes them in the next few decades.

The First Scientist

Today I’m in the State Library of Victoria working on my next book and I picked up a new addition to the library. It’s a fascinating book by Carlo Rovelli  who is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Marseilles. His book is called The First Scientist: Anaximander and His Legacy.


Here’s a quote from the Introduction:

“Human civilizations have always believed that the world consisted of the Heaven above and the Earth below. Beneath the Earth, to keep it from falling there had to be more Earth; or perhaps an immense turtle on the back of an elephant, as in some Asian myths; or gigantic columns like those supporting the Earth according to the Bible. This vision of the world was shared by the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Mayans, the peoples of ancient India and sub-Saharan Africa, the Hebrews, Native Americans, the ancient Babylonian empires, and all other cultures of which we have evidence.

“All but one: the Greek world. Already in the classical era, the Greeks saw the Earth as a stone floating in space without falling. Beneath the Earth, there was neither more Earth without limit, nor turtles, nor columns, but rather the same sky that we see over our heads. How did the Greeks manage to understand so early that the Earth is suspended in the void and that the Heavens continue under our feet? Who understood this, and how?

“The man who made this enormous leap in understanding the world is the main character in this story: Anaximander, who lived twenty-six centuries ago in Miletus, a Greek city on the coast of what is now Turkey. This discovery alone would make Anaximander one of the intellectual giants of the ages. But Anaximander’s legacy is still greater. He paved the way for physics, geography, meteorology, and biology. Even more important than these contributions, he set in motion the process of rethinking our worldview–a search for knowledge based on the rejection of any obvious-seeming “certainty”, which is one of the main roots of scientific thinking”.

Wow! Sounds like Anaximander should also get credit for metacognition and for being the first to put forward the idea of cvs2bvs!


How SOT Moderates Your Comments

We sometimes get questions about how we moderate all the comments that are posted by SOT students. Currently there are over 40,000 comments posted on our school.

In SOT we are not trying to promote agreement or disagreement but thinking. It is not important whether students agree or disagree with the lessons. What is important is that they go away and think about them. That’s all.

So, which of your many thousands of comments do we post? Which ones do we leave out? Why don’t we reply to each comment? What is our policy for moderating comments?

For example, we received the following excellent question from one of the SOT students today:

From John: I appreciate your regular newsletters, Mr. Hewitt Gleason, and particularly the opportunity to comment on the various thinkers you feature in them. I am wondering, however, why so many of my own comments have been censored. It has come to seem that there is a pattern to this: You don’t like to post comments that disagree too strongly with your own views. If this is true, it seems to run counter to the most fundamental principles of your School of Thinking. I would be interested to hear what you have to say about this.

We replied to John:

Dear John,

Thanks for your message and question about how we moderate the comments for School of Thinking. There are a number of factors involved in how we currently do this.

First, SOT is a school not a chat room. Therefore, we don’t undertake to post every comment from every person. We are selective towards the aim of the lessons but are not censorious. This means we are biased towards comments that assist in the pedagogy of the lessons and biased against comments that distract from this aim. It doesn’t matter whether the comments agree or disagree with the lessons as long as they are relevant and supported by evidence.

Some of the SOT lessons, for some people, may be quite provocative but they are always supported by evidence that can be independently checked out by the students.

We tend to leave out comments that are just peeved, irritated or even angry about the lesson unless they make a point that is supported by evidence. When they do this we check out the evidence and if it’s valid we leave the comment in. When necessary we may change or correct our lesson to update to the new evidence. We do this many times.

We don’t promote debate or streams of abuse or endless I-am-right-you-are-wrong interchanges. These can be found elsewhere all over the internet.

We are also mindful of the amount of time students have for the lessons, which are already time-consumng,  so we are forced to be selective in the comments we post. We also make choices regarding quality, diversity, participation and fairness. Having said that we do have biases of our own, limited resources and don’t always do everything to please everybody all of the time. We also make mistakes.

In your case John, we have posted 66 of your comments to date and we do value the quality of your work and the thought you put into them. However, for example, we did not post your comment below on the Hawking article:

John: “The idea that there is no afterlife of any kind is one of those theories for which there is no possible evidence, nothing which could support the concept. If you want to believe this, you just have to accept it on faith, which makes it a curious notion for a scientist to put forward with such confidence!”

The reason this comment was not posted is because, as far as we can tell, the claim of an afterlife is not a scientific claim. Since this idea of the afterlife is not one that has been put forward by science, it is not a scientific theory, so it is not one that is required to be supported by scientific evidence. Evidence of an afterlife must be supplied by whomever puts forward the theory of an afterlife. In your comment if you could provide the evidence that supports the theory then your comment would be considered for inclusion. It is commonly accepted that the burden of evidence lies with the one who initiates the positive theory. All Hawking is doing is making that point. Should any individual like yourself, or a scientist or group claim the existence of an afterlife of some kind and support that claim with evidence that can be tested independently then I would expect Hawking to change his view as would many other thinkers.

Again, because of the lack of resources, a limitation of SOT (which must be frustrating to students) is the lack of commentary we can make on all their contributions. Many students wish they could get more personalised feedback on their comments. When we tried this in earlier years each comment on a comment would lead to a further comment which would need yet another comment and that sets off chains of time-consuming commentary which seemed equally frustrating so we have limited the system to what we currently have. Should Bill Gates or some other well-heeled and generous philanthropist provide resources for SOT one day then we could expand the pro bono services we provide to our students.

Thanks again for your interest and support John,

Best regards,