Language is not Innocent – How Thinking Patterns are Created


Language is not innocent, it determines how reality is interpreted. Words create logic bubbles that are difficult to escape from. The way we use words  may  prevent us from finding  solutions, restrict new ideas, and lead to wrong public policies.

In this blog post we will try in a simple way to explain how thinking patterns are created.

fig 1 language clour

Image a boy, looking at an old tree. His grandmother told him that old trees might at sunset turn into an old woman who will take him away. As a consequence of this accepted worldview, the boy  always returns home before it gets dark.

There is no problem, this arrangement works fine as long he is alone. But in many stories, as in the real world, a nice girl comes along.

fig 2 language clour

She was told by her granddad that old trees are perfect play-sets. As a consequence of this agreement to assign meaning to the world, whenever she spots a tree she runs towards it and starts climbing to the top.

As long she is alone in the world, appointing trees as play-sets trees works well for her. However, she meets the boy and they will both coordinate their behavior and actions,. As a result of this meeting,  they must reach consensus about what a tree is all about. They have to negotiate the definition of the tree in order to make sense of the situation.


If it is agreed that the old tree is an old ugly woman, who takes young boys away from their parents at sunset, the logical consequence of this agreement is to run away before it gets dark.

If it is agreed that the old tree is a marvelous play-set, the logical consequence of that shared meaning is to run towards the tree and play, perhaps by dangerously climbing into it.

If it agreed that the tree is a wonderful phenomena of nature, the logical consequence of that logic bubble is to sit down and to study the tree carefully as a natural monument, as visitors of a museum.

The message of this story is that the world is actively enacted individually. Essentially, there is no such thing as an objective world. There are only interpretations of it, perceptions. The world is inter-subjective defined as contrary like passively seeing  a movie. Meaning is actively constructed.

If coordination of behavior is necessary, as in companies, families, states is, there should be consensus attained about the definition about a situation. It is to be realized that an agreed definition of the situation is interactive of nature, and therefore, as soft as butter. Thus, changeable by default.

However, it is very tiring and annoying to constantly have discussions about how to interpret the meaning of a tree. The agreement how to interpret the tree becomes routinised, not any longer available for reflection and critique. And the agreed meanings about how to interpret the tree leads to behavioral consequences: running towards the tree, or just the other way, or laying  in the grass to admire  it.

Once agreement is reached about how to define a situation , behavioral consequences will automatically evolve as a result. Thus,unchangeable and hard as steel.

Compare the definition of an “unemployed” with that of  “someone looking for work”. Or “ someone who is not able to pay his social security” with “a defaulter, someone who is not paying his social security”. The policy consequence  (or even political) of each definition is very different.

If you are floating on a raft after a shipwreck, and you are not able to redefine a spoon as a paddle, you are in serious problem.

As the choice of wording confines the solution or idea space, it is very important to give sufficient attention to it, in particular during the stage of problem formulation. Language is not innocent, it defines the outcome of thinking.

The main concepts as told above are to be found in the theories of Cognitive psychology, IntersubjectivitySymbolic Interactionism and Sense making.

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Photo: “Deep Forest” by dan


Creative thinking for the living planet – ecospin doctors

Think of the word Forest bathing. What do you imagine? What images flash through your mind? What feelings vibrate in your body?

Then think of the word Environment and explore the images and feelings.


The words we use to express our ideas, emotions and thoughts are not neutral. Our language is not innocent rather it may alter how our reality is interpreted. And this in turn may change the way we act and react. Advertisers and spin doctors use words to manipulate us and to change our behaviour.

In an article by George MonbiotForget ‘the environment’: we need new words to convey life’s wonders” it is suggested that if we want people to engage with the living world, we should stop using certain words. The language is crucial to how we perceive the natural world and George wants help to find better ways of describing nature.

Consider this quote from the writer Robert Macfarlane.

“If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.”

So let us assume that we want to change how people perceive the natural world and also that we are prepared to live with the consequences and actions that may follow for a change. Let us play saving the natural world spin doctors.

What creative tools can we use to find new words and ways of describing the living world? How can we help people who care about the ??? to be more creative?

Let us begin with some examples of words and descriptions that estrange people from the living world.

  • Sites of special scientific interest, no-take zones and reference areas are words used to describe places on land and at sea in which nature is protected.
  • The term animal reserve is cold.
  • The word extinction does not suggest our role in the extermination.
  • Professionals often describe animals and plants as resources or stocks, this way of referring to them suggest that they are here to serve us.

Describing animals and plants as resources and stock may lead to  the idea that we can use them and also that when resource or stock disappear we can stock up with another animal or plant. We can also breed and manipulate them in whatever manner we like. Not all of us may agree with this way of treating and looking on animals and plants, nevertheless the choice of words lure us into this way of thinking.

An approach to change the words that is suggested by George in his article is to use our awe of nature in our descriptions. Such as calling protected areas “places of natural wonder” to show that they are not only beautiful places but also that we need to work towards protecting and saving these areas.

Instead of the word environment we could use “living planet” or “natural world”.

However, names like places of natural wonder, living planet or natural world are in our opinion still distant, objective descriptions. The words have a bleak  image and not enthusiastic action calling resonances that signal the moods you may have experienced while looking at the photos in this blog post.

Let us take an example from the world of cooking. Like it or not, word choice plays a huge role in the way we perceive food.

Stanford University California decided to investigate just how food affects our tastes. The study took place in a large university cafeteria and every day one new vegetable dish was labelled in one of four ways – basic (“green beans”); healthy restrictive (“healthy choice beans with no sugar”); healthy positive (“smart choice high-fiber beans”) , or indulgent (“sweet sizzling green beans)”.

The labels changed on a daily basis, yet, there were no changes with how the vegetables were prepared or served. Research assistants recorded the number of diners who chose the vegetable and weighed the mass taken from the bowl. In short, the study found that more people choose the beans when they were described as sweet sizzling green beans.

The new indications for environment and other related words should also be value/loaded. Compare the term extinction with exocide, as suggested by the lawyer Polly Higgins.

So, we should generate some new words and test them as is usually done in marketing research. Forest bathing is one of them. Perhaps meadow dancehall or the mountain place of love. But we are sure, you have better suggestions, let us know.

Need some inspiration, below is a poster with words to describe nature from culture around the world. A rich tapestry to inspire you to care and to experience these words for yourself.

“The earth has music

for those who listen”

William Shakespeare

Happy Thinking!



What’s (not) an Innovation?


Nowadays, innovation is very in fashion. As a person, you should be innovative (creative?). A product should be innovative to tempt you to buy it (why?). Research should be dedicated to innovations (instead of discoveries?). Or even worse, boards of directors feel compelled to proclaim a “year of innovation” or ask their employees for vibrant new ideas. . . But for what?

vibrant new ideas

But what is innovative, what is an innovation?

Fifteen innovation experts gave their definitions of innovation:  Executing an idea which addresses a specific challenge and achieves value for both the company and customer.

In our rather humourous Thinkibility nibble “Innovations that Complicate Things”, we suggested that some innovations seems to make things more complex, inconvenient, more costly or reduce value. Since then, we have seen tonnes of examples of so called innovations that actually reduces the quality of life. (P.S. Insert the last phrase into a search engine and you will get only examples of innovations that create value for people what illustrates the unconscious assumption that innovation is always good).

The definition contains four characteristics:

  1. An idea
  2. A challenge
  3. Value for the company
  4. Value for the customer

What is an idea? 

Apart from philosophical speculations – where ideas are usually seen as mental representational images of some object – ideas are in our opinion a result of breaking standard thinking patterns. A thinking pattern consists of a fixed entry point (definition of a situation) and a set of assumptions (things taken for granted).  Ideas that really break existing thinking patterns are often called disruptive, game-changing, breakthrough, blue ocean, out-of-the-box or even a new idea. Examples of this can be found in  “What Big Data, What Information Dominance?”.

Many creative thinking techniques produce hundreds of ideas, but what’s a good idea? To explore this topic we wrote the posts: “What is a Really Good Idea?” and “Thinking outside the Sea Map”.

It takes time and effort to transform an idea into an innovation. That is why a distinction is made between the stages of idea generation, innovation development – making the idea practical, prototyping it, calculating the business case, setting up production, pre-marketing- and implementation. Each of the stages requires different organisation, cultures, project management tools.


A challenge

An idea – to be practical- must satisfy a need. That might be:

  • a problem:  a gap between an existing situation and the desired situation
  • an improvement
  • an opportunity


Seven triggers or sources for innovation are mentioned by Peter Drucker:innovation_sources

The usefulness of this overview of sources and triggers for innovation is not in the summary or description. You can actively check your product or service against a trigger: an occasion or even a necessity to innovate?

To read more about what the main triggers are that push people to innovate in the technical area, look here for an interesting article by Valeri Souchkov.

The biggest problem, however, remains the tendency to ignore challenges because it is unknowingly assumed that they are impossible. In “The Thinking Habits of Steve Jobs” we wrote: Jobs did not settle for less than more than best. He simply ignored practical objections. That drove his designers to extraordinary, hitherto considered impossible performance. Moreover, the ability to ignore generally accepted impossibilities was the main criterion to select employees.


Challenge implies that there is a call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength, or that a task or situation is waiting that tests someone’s abilities. This is rather passive, but challenges can also be created deliberately: Create Opportunities. 

Value for the company and value for the customer

Some posts that explore the concept of Value are:

In general, values are not coming by itself, they should be designed.


Can you design something so that people stay politically engaged? How would you design a fabric that is made out of waste? What if it was possible to design a spot where people feel safe? Or a game that provides people suffering from Alzheimer game with a channel of communication? (To our post about New Brave Design Thinking Approach)

What is at heart of design when you design a hospital or health care systems? (To our post Empathy and Design Thinking)

In summary

In other words, we could say that an innovation consists of a new combination of

  • a function – the innovation has the purpose of satisfying a need
  • a principle – there is a mechanism or idea how to deliver that function
  • a market – the innovation has a value that can be traded.

But still remains the question: “When is an innovation really breaking patterns more than other innovations?. When is an innovation incremental? When radical? When is a technical solution just more-of-the-same routine engineering? What is the difference with a scientific invention? When is it patentable?


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Absurdity as Inspiration


Photo Kusa shoes

Love this short film about absurdity!

Apart from making me smile, this is also a great visual thinking exercise.  Challenging yourself to explore possibilities and new scenarios can lead to not only new insights but also be a starting point for an innovation. Absurd ideas and visual images can help us to practice the skill of not taking ourselves too seriously. Work fast and let your visualizations run away with you.

Absurdities also teach us about ourselves.

“I dislike absurdities.”
“I love absurdities.”
“I disliked them at first but like them now.”

In a beautiful little book, Variations of Normal, the British designer  Dominic Wilcox, has drawn absurd, yet perfectly logical innovations. Taking ideas to the extreme can lead to not only wonderfully funny ideas but also to breakthrough ideas.

“Dominic Wilcox’s drawings aren’t just witty and beautifully drawn, they are serious challenges to the real world to keep looking at itself with innocent eyes, wondering what else is possible.” Thomas Heatherwick

Not all crazy and wild ideas are good ideas but they are fun! And after all, we got printing and books when Gutenberg put a coin punch and a wine-press together.

Cold Cases –


What could we learn from solved cold cases? What has caused that the case is solved after years of investigations without results? What were the reasons that a solution was waiting for discovery, but never did? Solved cold cases are illustrative for how we think wrongly.

In September 1961, 25-year-old Lucy Johnson, mother of one, was at her home in Surrey, British Colombia. She was not seen the next day. Or the next. Or for the next 52 years.
For one reason or another, Lucy was not reported missing until four years later. Obviously, this raised questions, and suspicion fell on her husband Marvin. Police even dug up the husband’s backyard in search of a body, but they found nothing. Decades passed, Marvin died, and there seemed no hope of solving the case.


According to Wikipedia, a cold case is a crime or an accident that has not yet been fully solved and is not the subject of a recent criminal investigation, but for which new information could emerge from new witness testimony, re-examined archives, new or retained material evidence, as well as fresh activities of the suspect.

However, it is not always new and fresh information that helps to solve the case, but new perceptions. Even new information tends to be interpreted in old perceptions. Information is not perception.

Lucy’s daughter Linda, a small child at the time of her mother’s vanishing posted ads in newspapers and other media outlets in search of clues. Then in 2013, she received a phone call. The woman on the other end of the line claimed to be Linda’s stepsister, whom she’d never known existed. The woman said their mother Lucy was alive and well, living with a whole new family in the Yukon.


Sometimes a viable suspect has been overlooked or simply ignored due to then-flimsy circumstantial evidence, the presence of a likelier suspect (who is later proven to be innocent), or a tendency of investigators to zoom in on someone else to the exclusion of other possibilities (which goes back to the likelier suspect angle)—known as “tunnel vision”

However unbelievable the claim sounded, Linda followed up it. Sure enough, her mother was not the victim of foul play as suspected. She’d simply fled to another life. Marvin had abused her, claimed Lucy, and when she’d tried to leave with her daughter, he’d stopped her. So she just took off on her own.


In our view, solved cold cases are excellent vehicles to study thinking methods, as what students and scientists are supposed to do at the  Thinkibility University. At its East Wing they are excellent in Reverse Engineering of Thinking Strategies we wrote earlier about.

When Linda visited the caller to check whether the woman in question was indeed her Laura, she recognized her mother immediately.


The people working there are not trained as criminal investigators but will use systematic and deliberate creative thinking techniques. Not only to improve forensic investigations but improving thinking methods in general. For scientific research as well for daily practical thinking.

As you might notice in the following mind map, little attention is given to the role of perception in this example of a  Crime Scene Investigator Job Description:


The following books could be good starting points to be studied by the East Wing:

Solving cold cases happen when limiting thoughts and behaviors are challenged.

But how to challenge “limiting thoughts and behaviours”?






Ways to Recognize Concepts

How to recognize concepts?

A concept can be described as a perceived pattern or regularity in events or objects. We form groups of different events or objects into a single category on the basis of some underlying similarity. We are often not aware of what aspects or characteristcs that are underlying the categorization of events and objects into concepts. In a sense, when becoming manifested, the embodiment of an concept will become clear. conceptwords Concepts or categories can be associated with a single word. The development of  “single word” concepts in young children is fascinating, as Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander show in their book Surfaces and Essences.A child forms their first concepts between birth and three years of age. The construction of concepts begins before the acquisition of language. Hofstadter and Sander discusses how categories associated with a single word are constantly having their boundaries extended by analogies, the word  mum is extended when the child acquires words like grandma, fairy-queen, and surrogate mother. Other single word concepts are words such as town, village, room, seat, table, store, but also more abstract words like society, liberalism, economics, law, money In addition,  there are multi word concepts, like Achilles heel, that seems to indicate a whole complex of meaning that could be used to describe a situation in only two words (“A serious weakness that may lead to someone’s undoing”). Many proverbs and fables are multi word concepts, like we earlier discussed in Sayings and Proverbs as Thinking Patterns. Examples are A picture paints a thousand words or Penny wise, Pound foolish. There also much more abstract concepts and spontaneous categories, that somehow make a reference to a situation experienced before or to an analogous situation. Examples are “she hit me with her question” or “it’s no different than moving the deck chairs on the Titanic”. New categories are constructed every day to give concise meaning to situations or phenomena. Sometimes they have the form of a caricature such as uncle Dagobert stands for greed, a Kafkaeske situation for bureaucratic loopholes. what is a concept As you may have noticed, in this blog we write a lot about thinking patterns. That is: patterns of concepts that are used in thinking. One of the ways to discover thinking patterns is to pay attention to the words that are used, especially if some words come back regularly. When we pay attention, it becomes possible to identify the “thinking pattern behind a policy paper”, that is, the basic concept of the policy. We mentioned earlier that language is not innocent, and that concepts function like filters of reality, at the same time they will give meaning of reality. If we are able to concisely describe the basic thinking  of a policy maker, then we make it vulnerable for constructive criticism. That will be one of our next posts about concepts. To read more about Thinking Patterns in science: click here

Ish – Thinking – Thinkibility Boost

As an introduction to a series of blogposts about conceptual thinking we will start by paying attention to “ISH-Thinking”. A concept is an abstract pattern in the brain that stands for some regular, recurrent aspect of the world, and to which  any number of different words can be attached. Sometimes ago we already pointed out the relation between thinking and language, as in our posts How Thinking Patterns are CreatedBanging the World into Sorting Boxes and Key Concepts as Optical Filters. As we see in the picture below a toddler is confronted with a an almost insoluble problem. He has to place a square block in a box, which, however, only has openings in the form of a circle and a triangle. ISH-thinking

Perhaps the toddler might solve the problem by redefining the block as two pyramids stuck together. The block is “pyramid-ish” and might fit the triangle opening.

In our daily lives, we often try to give meaning to a diffuse situation by drafting a metaphor that is more or less “like-ish”. Mostly the metaphor does not fit exactly, at least not literally.

  • by doing that he stuck a knife in my back
  • I feel butterflies in my belly
  • at this moment she is very instable
  • their relationship is stormy

Mostly we don’t have any problem at all in using these ill-defined concepts. It helps us to articulate confusing and in particular emotional situations to “get grip on them”. Less prevalent is “ish-thinking” to describe seemingly well-defined physical objects. You will rarely hear someone who discusses a concrete thing (a bridge, a museum, a coffee shop) as ” thing-ish” like bridge-ish, museum-ish, coffee shop-ish). Yet, Starbuck is coffee shop-ish. Also, a kind of museum which would work like a modern library could be called museum-ish or library-ish: Art-works will be transported from the basement to the museum room at the request of the museum visitor, like in libraries with books.

And this is surely “bridge-ish”:


In this instance it’s about inviting people to cross a body of water in an unconventional manner… by using an inflatable bridge equipped with giant trampolines.

Is it a bridge or is it a gigantic trampoline? Or both, or more or less?

We are sure that the moment you begin to think about an ish-bike, an ish-refrigerator, sunglasses-ish or a sweater-ish for the winter, you will get rid of existing preconception on how they should look. Instead, you may  start to think about alternative forms and functions. That is because by adding the suffix “ish” to the noun, you give yourself permission to think in alternative designs. We came across a similar idea (Ïsh-thinking- ish”) in Fuzzy Concepts:

A fuzzy concept is a concept of which the boundaries of application can vary considerably according to context or conditions, instead of being fixed once and for all. This means the concept is vague in some way, lacking a fixed, precise meaning, without however being unclear or meaningless altogether. It has a definite meaning, which can become more precise only through further elaboration and specification, including a closer definition of the context in which the concept is used.”

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. fuzzy conceptTo follow our future series on Conceptual Thinking, subscribe to the blog

More, More Information, Yes, Sure, But Relevant?

In this blog post, as you can see in the upper left hand corner, we will focus on the quality of information, an essentially white hat thinking activity. Quality of information as a distinctive focus area or Area of Improvement (API) could be vital for many information intensive enterprises, but also for any other thinking situation, such as drafting a plan, preparing a decision, exploring a situation.

We will take you along the mindmap below to explain this – clockwise. A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

Caught up in social ties

Look at the top and right hand corner of the mindmap: In most thinking situations there is a need for information from outside the standard pattern of logic and perception. We have to look for unexpected information. In order to do that, we should enlarge our perception of the situation, looking for more aspects in the situation, to diversify our thinking. CoRT-tools like the PMI, CAF or C&S are excellent tools to stretch our perception space around a situation in the mind map upper right hand corner. Especially helpful is to actively look for actors which could be involved or would affected.

Center right of the mind map: It makes a difference if information is needed or is given. Given information tends to be egocentric. Ego-centrism is characterised by preoccupation with one’s own internal world. Egocentrics regard themselves and their own opinions or interests as being the most important or valid. To them, self-relevant information is seen to be more important in shaping one’s judgments than are thoughts about others and other-relevant information. Nevertheless, given information can be very convincing and one can easily be lured in a narrow defined thought path. Also, information could be left out information, deliberately or by accident, Hence, it is very useful to do some perception widening thinking before  looking at the information available, before you get locked in the thinking pattern of the information given.

Right hand corner: Doing some preliminary perception thinking is even important when there is a need for information. Many people, when confronted with a problem, begin a broad search for information. They assume that enlarging the information space inevitable will lead to uncovering the information needed to solve the problem. By doing so, a lot of information waste is generated

At the bottom of the mind map: A far more better approach was suggested in our blog post Cassandra Information. There is a distinction between available information and relevant information.

  • Available information but not relevant could be left out. It is egocentric information from the sender of the information;
  • Unavailable information and also not relevant can be completely ignored;
  • Available information and relevant is Ebne: Excellent but not enough. This is information that belongs to standard thinking, unchallenged;
  • Relevant information but not available is Cassandra information. It is information that is left out by the information provider, but still relevant. The task is to design a strategy to obtain this hidden information.

It is a good habit to assume that any piece of  information that we have is biased. Especially, as we earlier showed in our post Press Patterns, information from the Main Stream Media: those media that disseminate information via the largest distribution channels, which therefore represent what the majority of media consumers are likely to encounter. The term also denotes those media generally reflective of the prevailing currents of thought, influence, or activity.

Business Woman Climbing a Pile of Files

Change a Point of View – Thinking Strategy

Recently we came across a handsome book by Jodie Newman called Business Creativity. In the chapter about  Creative Toolkit, we found five tools that we clustered around the theme Change Point of View, because basically they come all down to the same principle.

As we earlier pointed out each of us looks at the world from our Point of View, based on our experiences and agreements made by relevant others regarding how to attach meaning to the world. Everyone creates a kind of bulb around him or herself, wherein the world manifests itself as completely logic. How these logic bulbs are created – individually and collectively –  is described in our blog post Language is not Innocent – How Thinking Patterns are Created.

fig 1 language clour

A way to escape from your own logic bubble is to  do something what is like an out-of-your-body experience. Something that detaches yourself from your body, like visiting a distant location. This could lead to a change in perception on a challenge or problem you have, which is – per definition – creative thinking.

There are several ways to do this, as illustrated in the mind map below.

Change POV

  1. Prepare a list of 8-11 brands,customers, jobs, celebrities or stakeholders. Use logos, photos and images.
  2. Imagine (or ask directly) how this brand, customer, jobholder, celebrity or stakeholder would solve the challenge in question.
  3. Capture ideas that come to your mind until you have nothing more to add. Then pick up another brand, customer, jobholder,celebrity or stakeholder.

Other Thinking Strategies that we have paid attention to in this blog are:

There are more to come, so subscribe to  make sure you do not miss any!

Controlled Behavior by Design


Design has been used throughout history to control our behavior. Hausmann designed  the broad avenues in Paris with the aim to better control riots and revolutionary uproars. There are designs  that prevent you from lying on a bench, so called anti homeless benches. Citizens have built low viaducts to prevent buses going into the town to prevent low-income inhabitants to enter the town. These kinds of designs aims towards controlling behavior in  a man-made environment.

Sometimes designs are used to  encourage safe or healthy behavior.

  • Speed bumps slow down cars without any need to have a police man present. In some countries speed bumps are called sleeping policeman.
  • Red strips along a road mark the way for cyclists and increase their safety.
  • Sidelines on roads produce sounds when you drive over it, to warn you to stay on course.

Other examples are less innocent, schools, prisons and military barracks are examples of disciplinary architecture.

The arrangement of chairs affects our behavior. Each arrangement produces different interaction patterns.

  • Chairs in a meeting rooms could be arranged along a large table, at the end of the table is  the chairman.
  • The chairs could also be arranged in a full circle, or U-form.

In many merchants ships the quarters of the crews are deliberately designed to enhance possibilities of encounters with other crew members.

In government buildings, the automatic doors are  adjusted in a way that forces the entrants to slow down their speed, which in theory should have consequences for their behavior inside the building (they should act in a calm manner).  Some interpret this as a kind of systemic violence.

Artifacts  have politics. Langdon Winner says: ” The machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions to efficiency and productivity and their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority”

We will take this idea somewhat further into the digital age. Are there architectures of control in the digital environment? Could it be that the lay-out of software programs and apps forces specific behavior and exclude other behavior?

Recently we experienced  the downfall of the de Bono Society, an information based and social networking site for people interested in de Bono’s approach to thinking. We assume that the members were familiar with the principles of Parallel Thinking – a fundamental concept in this thinking framework. Parallel Thinking is an alternative for “adversarial” thinking. The aim is to open up possibilities, to explore situations and to escape linear thinking.


However, the approach to thinking in the de Bono Society was all but Parallel. Often contributors fell into  the trap of proving that statements were wrong, classifying arguments as false or true and blocking discussions that seem to be going in unexpected yet interesting ways. We described this mechanism already in our blog post Dialectical Thinking or Kick-Box Thinking  as basically linear thinking.

Why then was the de Bono Society a failure and a disaster for proving the value of Parallel Thinking? Were the members not skilled enough?

We don’t think so. The contributors were lured into dialectical thinking because of the linear design of site. The lay-out of the site did not encourage parallel thinking. It might even have discouraged it.  The site used the standard dialectical lay-out as used in sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  It was not designed for Parallel Thinking. As such it had unintended consequences for the thinking performed by its members.

We desperately need software and apps that are deliberately designed for Thinkibility. Software and apps that control our thinking behavior in a more constructive way.


How Many Things Are We Missing?


In an earlier blog post Language is not Innocent – How Thinking Patterns are Created we suggested that  people construct thinking patterns from their earlier experiences and the agreements they make with their fellow humans about the meaning of behaviour and things. This is convenient because this ways of engaging in the world produces predictability, routine and coordination. At the same time, it prevents other definitions of the reality. Thinking patterns block alternative views.

As early in 1500 AD Leonard da Vinci identified the necessity of introducing random and chance events to produce variation in one’s thinking patterns. He used random subjects to get inspiration for the thinking task that he was working on, combined with a sharp mindfulness for the unusual he was able to imagine things that later turned into invention centuries later. A good way to develop your skills to imagine and invent is to go somewhere and tell yourself to perceive! Better: take a notebook or a camera with you, and try to spot unusual things. Even better: build it in your daily routine when commuting to work, walking your dog, or watching TV.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

From the blog The Long Now. There are several interesting comments on that blog post.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station. This event was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. See for the whole story Pearls for Breakfast.

How many great ideas do you miss because a child suggested them, the person is not in your usual circle of friends, the person lacks a certain education, degree. . . Also is beautiful music only beautiful in certain environments because we never really listen and cannot really judge the skills of a musician? Do you recognise a great painting, singer. . . suggestion. . . invention. . .

How many great ideas are lost because we do not take time to consider them and to listen to people. . . We may try to trick ourselves by using random inspirations such as random words to help us get great ideas, yet we may miss many things because we do take time to stop and perceive things.

Photo “Violinist Man Playing Violin” by Iamnee

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