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.

                                                                             Emile Chartier

This entry was posted in Books I'm Reading. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Cynthia Schroeder says:

    This blog post is meaningful to me in terms of the meditation practice I have followed for 18 years now. (It is called Recollective Awareness and information can be located at the website, www. The practice focuses on sitting with our thoughts, as they are, noticing what comes and goes, cultivating awareness and tolerance for the patterns which are present; allowing whatever comes up whether it makes me comfortable, uncomfortable, confused, interested…following the thoughts through their natural arising and diminishing as I am sitting. The basic instructions for this practice are 1) being gentle with oneself in practice, both physically and mentally, i.e. not using force or coercion to push away or insist on a certain reaction to what is happening. 2) Allowing whatever arises to be there rather than using an “object of meditation” such as the breath, labeling, looking for lights or another gratifying “experience” to become the focus of the sitting. This instruction is based on the practice of letting the mind find its own object, which it will, and that this also leads to concentration and focus. It also favors a kind of investigative approach to sitting practice. 3) Permission to do whatever one does in sitting practice. The instructions are guidelines and suggestions; if one follows the mind/thoughts and this leads to a breathing technique, for example, then that is what is arising; And then, this is also worthy of notice and even investigation if one is inclined.
    It is very interesting to be to have this quick response to your most current blog posting, HB. We have talked about these things a number of times over the years, of course, and I look forward to reading further on the blog and hopefully commenting now and then.

  2. Eugene Unger says:

    I’m too old to old to remember all those types of thinking. Besides our nureons work faster than we can know. Each decision is always a combination of our best considered thinking , as Ill conceived as they seem to be. Sometimes our best is terrible. Thanks H



  3. Eugene Unger says:

    Thoughts are best criticized by others with no no thoughts



  4. Eugene Unger says:

    When you are thinking with one the six styles do your thoughts tend to wander ? Combining styles? Immobilized? Are all six good used together ? How do you know ? Thinking is a non-cognitive process. Confused but friendly Gene



  5. Eugene Unger says:

    Does a batter have time to choose a thought type when looking at a 95 mph fastball ?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.