Thursday, September 21, 2006

SETT: Edward de Bono Keynote

The Powerful Effects of Teaching Thinking Explicitly as a Skill

Top hat
Top hat
originally uploaded by julia_adelle
Edward de Bono's opening words were, "Good afternoon blonds, ladies and gentlemen!" He said he'd explain why later. {I guess I must have missed why. Did any other blogger pick this up?}

He said: for 2,400 years we've done little about thinking. About 2,400 years ago there were the GG3, the Greek Gang of 3. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. Plato came up with the ideas of categorising things - a logic system that puts things in boxes. It works well with things like doctors diagnosing and deciding treatment. Based on judgement, it works well, but we need to think about design - about the possibilities rather than just the facts.

Judgement <<------>> Design
Truth <<------>> Possibility

People think you can collect the information on computers and make decisions based on this information - but this is not enough. You need creativity. EdB is interested in designing software for the brain. He defined a new word - Operacy: The ability to make things happen - skills of doing. (c.f. literacy, numeracy, etc.)

The teaching of thinking skills has a measurable effect. For example, a school for violent teenagers taught thinking skills. A 20 year follow up study found a huge reduction in offending rates. Also, big impact on self-esteem. Gave another example of a tenfold increase in the number of lines of text produced by primary school children taught the six hats methods.

For 2400 years we have used argument to explore a subject but this is a very poor way of doing things. For example, if you are arguing, "Is it A or B" you don't think of the possibility of C, D or E. Sometimes, when we have people who are arguing - both can be right from their perspective, but they need to see the other side (or sides). This is called parallel thinking. The idea is that all the parties in the argument all look in the same (i.e. parallel) direction at the problem. Then they all change perspective and all look in a different, but still parallel to each other, direction. While working on a problem, everyone puts on the same "hat" so that everyone is looking in the same direction. They have tried this with juries and they found they reached decisions much more quickly.

Six hats:
  1. White hat: Information. What do we know, what do we need to know.
  2. Red hat: Emotions and feelings without a need to justify.
  3. Black hat: Caution. "This wont work. That's wrong"
  4. Yellow hat: Value sensitivity.
  5. Green hat: Creativity. Look for new ideas and possibilities - lateral thinking.
  6. Blue hat: Organising - overview of situation
As a way of exploring a subject, this is much more effective than argument.

Logic errors are rare in thinking. It is much more likely that the problem is from perception (90% of the errors). A mathematicians has even said that it is impossible to prove things from first principles because we have to start with certain assumptions that we take on faith. {I think I may made this last bit up... I kind of lost what he was saying because the laptop sent a battery warning.}

CORT program creates some tools for perception. For example, C&S Consequence and Sequel.

{At this point my battery died. I took notes on the rest by scribbling in the margin of the conference programme booklet. I'll transcribe and upload as soon as I get a chance.}

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Kenneth said...

Hi David, I didn't get to SETT on Thursday as I was teaching.

However 2 thoughts spring to mind as I was reading your summary of the De Bono speech. Firstly, if 2 people are look in parallel then technically they are not looking at the same object. They are looking at objects in the distance an equal measure apart as they are from one another. Parallel lines never come together. This may be a little pedantic on my part :)

The other point is in relation to the 6 hats. I wonder if Dr De Bono has read any of Peter Checkland's work on Soft Systems Methodology. There seems to be similarities in thinking.

Other than David Weinberger I was very disappointed with SETT this year. Seminars that over ran, speakers ill prepared, seminars that didn't match the description or title. The funny thing is I only went to 3 on the Thursday. It's about perspective, I know, but this is a blog so I get to say that.


David said...

The key thing with the parallel looking is that both are looking in the same direction, whereas in arguments, people tend to be looking in opposite directions. If I can be pedantic too, I suppose it is impossible to ever really walk in someone else's shoes and see exactly the same as they do. Perhaps the best one can hope for is to both be looking in roughly the same direction. :-)

I'm not familiar with Peter Checkland, so I can help you there. How old is Checkland's work?

I suppose with an event that big, and with so many seminars, it is bound to be a bit hit and miss. Perhaps I was lucky (although I would go for discerning) but the two seminars I attended, the Interactive Chatting Teddies and To Blog or not to blog, were excellent.

Gordon McKinlay said...


This was a good summary of the keynote. I thought it was very interesting and am with you on the parallel point. I thought it was just me that missed the explanation of the "blondes" bit in his presentation as well.

What I thought was particularly interesting was the way he used the overhead projector! Not a powerpoint slide in sight and most of the use of the overhead didn't illuminate very much.