It’s An Ocean Of Ideas
Thoughts do not pass through consciousness as separate strands of experience, but they are constantly interconnected and modify each other as they go along. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
No thought is an island reminds me of John Donne’s famous poetry, “no man is an island, entire of itself,” written in 1624. My title and subtitle are borrowed from Robert Louis Flood’s 2000 book on systemic thinking, Rethinking the Fifth Discipline. He said his book could not be summarized to “an island of thought,” because with systemic thinking comes “an ocean of ideas.” This blog is a metaphoric look at thinking. Are you aware of your thinking style?
Systemic thinking is what I have been calling holistic, inclusive thinking and whole-mindfulness. I believe closed-minded, exclusive thinking reduces thinking to an island — separate, unconnected. Because your thoughts are so interconnected and complex, you need some powerful thinking techniques in order to get off an island and into an ocean of thinking ideas. Over the years my writing has offered some of these techniques (some of them borrowed) to help expand one’s thinking to be more systemic and holistic. Repeated here is a summary of Edward deBono’s Six Thinking Hats (1985). “Putting on” a hat focuses thinking, “switching hats redirects thinking.
WHITE HAT: Objective
Think like a computer. Emphasize facts and figures. Don’t permit opinions, guesses, intuition, feelings. The purpose of white hat thinking is to be practical.
RED HAT: Emotions
Employ non-rational thinking, the opposite of objective white hat thinking. Acknowledge that emotions, feelings and intuition are strong and real.
BLACK HAT: Negative
Use pessimistic thinking, logical and negative, but not emotional thinking. Be concerned with pointing out the problem but not with problem solving.
YELLOW HAT: Positive
Be an optimist thinker, the opposite of black hat thinking. Be concerned with generating proposals and building up proposals.
GREEN HAT: Creative
This is “lateral” thinking, being concerned with new ideas, with change, alternatives, and new ways of looking at things.
BLUE HAT: Control
Think like an orchestra conductor, in charge. Be a focused, monitoring observer. Set strategy for implementation and tell others when to switch hats.
Of course there are more than six thinking styles of thinking. Logical, conceptual, analytical, speculative, critical, foolish, divergent, convergent, reflective, visual, symbolic, metaphorical, ambiguous, constructive, concrete, fantasy, rational, conservative, liberal — to name a few. Can you think of others? Ask yourself if you use any, many, some or none of these types of thinking.
Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it is the only one you have.