Time as a Search Light for Deliberate Thinking


It is remarkable that neither in management nor in psychological literature much attention is paid to how time influences thinking. However, many expressions indicate the importance of time, like:

  • This is a window of opportunity
  • Let’s buy time
  • Don’t wait for time, make time!
  • Time is money
  • The boiling frog
  • A gram in the backpack in the morning weights a kilo in the evening
  • The Deep Time
  • Being in the Zone
  • Appropriate timing in negotiations
  • Deadlines

There is a highly subjective component to time, but whether or not time itself is “felt”, as a sensation or an experience, has never been settled.

When we are bored, time passes slowly but when we are excited time runs fast.

The passing of time seems to increase when we are getting older. If you are  involved in planning your own project, there is a tendency to be overly optimistic. An outsider is likely to estimates the time it takes as much longer.

Products can be introduced too early, or consumers can get accustomed to a new service slower than expected.

In the beginning of a jog, a distance of 2 kilometres seems to be insurmountable but after a few hours of running a 2-kilometre leg becomes peanuts.

Earth is around 4 700 millions years old, if this time was reduced to one year, human would have appeared 8.35 pm on the 31st of December. Despite that, we tend to think in hours, days, weeks, and seasons.

Time perception is a field of study within psychology and neuroscience. It refers to the sense of time, which differs from other senses since time cannot be directly perceived but must be reconstructed by the brain. Some researchers have tried  to categorize people by how they differ in their perception of time.

The perception of time is strongly tied to emotion, and thus to the body. However, the direction of the cause-effect relation is unclear. Does mood affect perception of time?  Or does an increased focus on time influence the embodiment of emotions?

Maybe our sense of time, as perceived signals from the body, produces the sense of self as a succession of moments that constitutes its duration. As such, the sense of time would be a creation of the body itself.

Time is a human construct. It is therefore not surprising that in different cultures people use time differently and attribute different values to it. The Aymara, a tribe in the Andes, think of the past as in front of them and the future as behind. This way of lookign at time  may influence other concepts they may have on life, such as economics and  social relations. The Yupno people, who inhabit a remote valley in Papua New Guinea, think of time topographically. No matter which way a speaker is facing, he or she will gesture uphill when discussing the future and point downhill when talking about the past. In contrast, the Amondawa, a tribe in the Amazon area, seems to have no concept of time at all.

It might also be that we exist in various scales of time simultaneously. We live in the moment, make plans about next week, remember what happened last year, study the history of ancient Rome and ponder the Big Bang billions of years ago.

A need for focus on aspects of time

Time is a neglected factor in evaluation, negotiation, decision-making, action planning and forecasting of future and trends. Mostly, we project ourselves at one point in time, the here-and-now, and will reason from that point into the future, thereby assuming that the present situation will remain the same. However, situations may change as time passes independently from our actions. Moreover, the situation could change because of our actions itself and the feedback loops it will activate.

We believe that there is definitely a need to make mapping the implications of time a deliberate mental activity. We need a Search Light to focus on aspects of time in a situation. At this moment, we are developing the contents of such a Search Light for our forthcoming book.

We encourage you deepen your insight in the concept of time, for example by studying various expression regarding time, as listed here.

If you would like to learn more about the use of Search Lights to enhance and broadening your thinking, read our E-book Thinkibility – Thinking about Thinking, Creativity, Innovation and Design Part 2 Positives and Negatives.

Photo: “Man Thinking Of Time” by digitalart

Robots, Evolution and Emotions


Can a robot evolve? Or is it chained to the insides of a program?

Names like Incher, Jitter and Wings, hit that the robots may not be simply ordinary robots.  The Cornell Creative Machines Lab has designed a program within which simulated robots “build” themselves out of cubes of virtual muscles and bones. They provided the computer program with  different materials and one rule. The materials resembled the basic components of our own bodies: bone, soft tissue and a couple of muscle. These flexible robots have developed unique gaits.

The rule is simple:

  • Robots that move faster get to reproduce more.

Over the course of 1,000 generations, you can see some amazing figures that flap and jump at various speeds.

So what is the point with making a programme like this? Well, the output from the programme was compared to scientists who were asked to design a better robot from scratch using the same parameters that the computer used. And the humans failed to produce soft robots like the ones that evolved in the computer simulation.

A combination of using soft tissues and evolutionary principles can help to design complex and interesting artificial life forms. Go here to read about how to use nature as inspiration for ideas.


Steven Spielberg’s film A.I.  has among several other films and books challenged us to think about the nature of human empathy when applied to a non-living thing such as a robot. And several studies have shown that children and adults can and will form emotional attachments to robots.

Using fMRI scans, researchers discovered that humans have emotional responses to how robots are treated. Based on the fMRI scans, the participants’ emotional responses to the treatment of humans closely mirrored their reactions to the good or bad treatment of the robot.

Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten said:

“One goal of current robotics research is to develop robotic companions that establish a long-term relationship with a human user, because robot companions can be useful and beneficial tools. They could assist elderly people in daily tasks and enable them to live longer autonomously in their homes, help disabled people in their environments, or keep patients engaged during the rehabilitation process.”

So what do you feel when you watch the video with the dinosaur robots used in the study?

Photo: “Hug” by graur codrin

Innovations, Emotions and Body Language

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Emotional insight is a key to innovation. Surprised? Well, it is often not the first aspect that is examined when discussing innovations but emotions fuels it in two significant ways. An understanding of the needs and desires helps an innovator to find breakthrough ideas. In addition, understanding the emotions that a new product or idea may evoke in the customers, offer marketers a way to optimise the design and marketing.

  • Convenience delivers pleasurable feelings.
  • Lower price make us feel good.
  • Environmental friendly aspects make us happy since we have bought something that is good.

Yet we often spend little time to explore emotions and feelings.

Let us imagine that you have this brilliant idea and you want to find out what your friends think about it. If you want to gauge their feelings, where do you look?

Many of us might suggest the face.

Yet looking at someone’s face when deciding how he or she feels is a misconception.  It is difficult to read positive and negative emotions by looking at someone’s face. And the research behind these ideas have often relied on posed prototypical facial expressions.


By using photos from a real situation where a person experience various emotions, for example, winning or losing a point in tennis, it was found that we are better at reading the emotion if we get access to a photo showing face and body as compared to just the face or the body. Facial expressions can be ambiguous and difficult to read when viewed independently.

This result challenges our presumption that our face best communicates emotions and feelings. Interestingly, extreme positive and negative emotions are difficult to tell apart.  When our emotions reach a certain intensity, the intricacies of facial expressions get lost. Just like when you turn the headset on too loud and the music becomes distorted.

“Illusory facial affect” means that we cannot tell the difference, even though we think we can. There are many aspects of body language that we are not aware of.

Go here to read more about facial expression and here to read about research that suggests that our facial expressions are inborn.  Our  blog post about Lying in a Creative Way has two videos about reading body language.

Photo: “Businessman Running Away” by stockimages

Happiness at Work


Arbejdsglaede is a Scandinavian word that means happiness at work.

Alexander Kjerulf recommends the following suggestions to help us perform at least one random act of kindness at work.

  • Bring someone a cup of coffee, without them asking
  • Leave a flower on someone’s desk
  • Leave a nice, hand-written note for a co-worker
  • Help someone carry their stuff
  • Pass out candy in the hallways

For bonus points, do a random act of kindness to total stranger on the way home from work.

What are the positive benefits of all this? Surely, the aim with working is to be productive and to earn money. Well, it seems like there are strong links between people being happy at work and productivity. Higher productively means more money, so bringing some happiness to the work place looks like a good idea.

The ways to achieve happiness may look different and different solutions may be required. A new group might need security for daring to get to know each other and help to move towards a common direction. An older group may have greater joy in experimenting in a playful way to develop and function better. Thus, ways of exploring feelings and emotions are necessary. Predicting trends is of always a risky business, yet, we predict that Red Hat thinking (emotions, feelings, intuitions, and hunches) will be provided with more attention. Just like values have been stressed by many companies during the last decades.Several methods have been designed to help companies search for values (go here to read  about the one method – the Six Value Medals). When we are thinking we deliver our values but our values are often vague and poorly defined. The same can be said about our emotions, feelings, intuitions, and hunches.

In the Six Hats Thinking framework, the focus on Red Hat thinking should last around 30 seconds and the feelings, hunches and emotions should be preferably described in a couple of words. This is to ensure that the expressed emotions and feelings are as raw as possible. There is no need to dwell into feelings and a person should not have to explain or explore the underlying feelings or emotions.

Many of us may believe that it is possible to clearly separate our  thinking and our emotions. The Six Hat method makes no claim to achieve a separation, rather optimising our attention and focus is what Parallel Thinking is all about. We will continue to explore this subject and provide some Thinkiblity Tips about how to use and explore Red Hat Thinking. For example using a dream scenario (utopia) and backwards thinking to explore feelings and thinking.

Photo: “Man Working On Laptop” by David Castillo Dominici

Feelings and Emotions are Not the Same

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neither are Thinking and Feeling. But many of us have difficulties describing the differences. And more importantly seeing the benefits of understanding the importance.

Let’s have a look what Alan Watkins has to say about it.  Alan Watkins is the founder and CEO of Complete Coherence Ltd. He specialises on leadership and human performance. Using insights from neuroscience, cardiology, medical technology and complexity theory to support his ideas and models.


At the base of our performance is our physiology, all the bodily data streams that are processed in our body. Physiological signals are generated by the body during the functioning of various physiological systems.  Electric, electromagnetic, chemical and pressure signals which sensor and control our bodily functioning. The signals hold information that can be extracted from these signals to finding out the state of the functioning of these physiological systems. The process of extracting information can range from feeling the pulse to find the state of heartbeats, or  it can be so complex that it may require analysis of the structure of tissue by a sophisticated machine.

Emotion is the name of a specific energetic signature, a configuration of bodily signals. For instance, the emotional state of anxiety is made up from rapid heartbeat, a dry mouth, and perspiration.

The awareness of what our body experiences is called feelings. Feelings determine largely what one is thinking, although the interpretation of feelings (thinking) influence – in a lesser degree – what you are feeling. Thinking about oneself, others, and one’s environment determines behaviour – what someone does- which in turn determines performance.

It is interesting that each level in the scheme of Alan Watkins has its own psychological  intervention approach to enhance performance of results of someone.

  • Encouraging, as in football matches, is directly aimed at the result.
  • Behavior therapy focuses on modifying overt behaviour and helping clients to achieve goals. This approach is built on the principles of learning theory including operant and respondent conditioning.
  • Cognitive therapy seeks to help the patient overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behaviour, and emotional responses.
  • Change of the bodily context and control of one’s physiology can change emotions, feelings, thinking, behaviour and consequently  performance.
  • Heart Rhythm Coherence  is directly aimed at controlling one’s physiology, mainly by awareness and conscious control of the breath, as in many forms of meditation.  Nowadays this control is possible by using biofeedback.

Models and theories that are hierarchical are often deceptively simple to understand. There is something attractive about simple models, and they are a good starting point to continue exploring the subject. Yet the underlying relationships between the factors may in reality be complex and multifaceted.

Consider the relationship between feelings and emotions. An emotion is a physiological experience (or state of awareness) that gives you information about the world, while a feeling is your conscious awareness of the emotion itself.  Feelings lead to us to establish a long-term attitude towards reality, while emotions establish our initial attitude towards reality. Are happiness and sadness emotion? It could be argued that sadness is an emotion and that people can identify what caused them to feel sad, they lost their job. While happiness is often more difficult to link to a specific event. You may say that you feel OK and there is nothing specific.

Lisa Feldman Barrett  says that there is more going on when a person feels an emotion than just a physiological response. Some kind of processing must happen between the physiological response and the perception of the emotion. We may have to make sense of the meaning of the physical responses before knowing what emotion we are experiences. Yet meaning is based on our prior experience, context, and social cues.

Photo: “Heart Rate Monitor Showing Cardiac” by Stuart Mile

World Thinkers’ Ideas – Panic and Icy Roads

Have you ever driven on icy roads and slammed the brakes? The best approach to icy roads is to avoid sudden braking, turning the wheel, or acceleration. Antonio Damasio interviewed a patient with brain damage who had driven to the hospital by applying the rules for driving on icy. Yet the man had difficulties deciding between two dates for his next appointment. The man spent half an hour listing advantages and disadvantages for each of the proposed dates. This is an illustration of the limitations of pure reason.

Hannah and Antonio Damasio are known for studying things like economics, education, and governance from a neurobiological perspective. The Damasios are pioneers that have introduced new perspectives and concepts.  Antonio Damasio’s research has had a major influence on our current understanding of the neural systems that underlie emotion, memory, language, decision-making, and consciousness. Hannah Damasio is famous for her brain-imaging work and she made the first brain atlas based on computerized imaging data.

Historically logical reasoning has been regarded as an activity that is conducted in a highly evolved part of our brain. Brain structures responsible for reasoning were regarded as distinct and separate from our body and certain regions in the brain. The lower regions of the brain were linked to biological functions. In the book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, Antonio Damasio argues that this is wrong. Admittedly, the role of emotions in thinking was recognised when the book was published among many scientists, but Damasio provided an integration of emotions into the mainstream explanatory schema of cognitive neuroscience.

Emotions and cognition are not opposites – emotions deliver cognitive information. Damasio suggested that reasoning without emotions is a damaging as reasoning with heightened emotions.  Reasoning without emotions may be the case in some neurological conditions where there have been brain injuries.

His theory is based upon a framework originally derived from work on the visual system – an object in our environment triggers patterns of activation of retinal receptive cells.  Damasio suggested that emotions are nerve activation patterns that correspond to our internal world. If we see something dangerous while we are walking home from the cinema, this image leads to an activation of our sympathetic nervous system. This activation affects the internal environment of the body – it changes hormone levels and smooth muscles. Emotions could be described as cognitive representations of body states. Thinking about a dangerous situation can also activate our sympathetic nervous system. Many of us like so read or watch thriller since it frightens us.

Emotions can be powerful experiences, sometimes they make us do things we later regret. The image that emotions lead us astray is prevalent. But Damasio and his colleagues showed that negative emotions could improve decisions. They designed a gambling task, involving risks. The participants were initially attracted to the risky decks because of their large positive payoffs.  But they soon retreated to the safer decks because they experienced negative emotions that accompany large losses. A cautious attitude is not always the best option and negative emotions can also hurt our decision-making.

Photo: “Panic Word” by Stuart Miles