Boxes & Hats, Lots to Think About

We spend a lot of time talking and thinking about how we think, if you think about it.  Conscious thought set humans apart from most other species way back in the early years, although we are now finding out more and more that we are not entirely alone in this skill.  Of course some people think more than others, some think that what they think about is more important and some turn thinking into obsession.


I could go on tangling your thoughts with increasingly convoluted sentences, but that isn’t my intent today.  (But if you look at the number of times that I used some form of the word think in the previous paragraph, you begin to better understand why we came up with different words that have similar meaning – to prevent the repetition of a single word, to keep the meaning clear and keep the reader’s eyes from glazing over.)


I believe that I have mentioned before that I read this really interesting book a few years ago – Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats – concise and fascinating.  I stumbled on it quite by accident during a break in a 3 day management seminar.  (Most memorable part of that class happened right near the beginning; the facilitator told us that we’re all just big children.  Yes!  I agree, that was worth the price that my company paid just for that point alone, as long as I keep it in mind in my interactions. Any other good points are lost in my notes, made during the remainder of the 3 days.)


Mr. DeBono poses that we should stop putting so very much value in thinking appositionally, instead adopt parallel thinking with various members of the groups wearing different (figurative) hats  – neutral/objective (white), emotional/intuitive (red), careful/cautious (black), sunny/positive (yellow), growth/creative (green), and cool/organized (blue).  It brings a game aspect to discussions and removes the barriers that right vs. wrong constructions tend to instill.


Parallel thinking is very inclusive and puts the “emphasis on designing a way forward” which I find particularly appealing in our era of mounting outrage, umbrage and conflict for the sake of conflict.  All people in the meeting are intended to wear the same color hat, regardless of their own characteristics – a naysayer must wear the sunny/positive hat during that part of the meeting discussion for example.  This adds to the game aspect and also deepens the discussion because people can provide real insight when they are required to think outside their own comfort zone.


And then we get to the box – inside the box, outside of the box – moving the cat over to find room in the box.  As a species known to be independent thinkers, cats really do like boxes.


We’ve been told so many times, in so many ways to think outside the box for the last few decades that we should be well out of that box by now.  And yet, we aren’t, why?  For the same reason that those independent cats get in every box that they can, even if they don’t quite fit – because it is somehow comforting.  Even the wildest among us recognizes something necessary about boundaries.  (I can’t find it right now, but there is a picture of a cheetah sitting in a box – yes, Google has let me down.)


I know that I’ve written about box thinking – rote thinking – and this must be the box that everyone desperately wants us to get out of, which is a position that I do hold.  There is a place for rules – ones that have a compelling argument driving them – but rote thinking spins wheels.


I have to thank a fellow blogger (Wordsmatter – post called Walls) who put me on to Dan Heath and his presentation about thinking inside the box.  Here is an article overview – Dan Heath: Think Inside the Box.


Dan recognizes our need to have parameters imposed and he also rejects the rote thinking that is normally considered the box, and then he takes it a step further and tells us to find our own box.  The one that suits are current needs.


I’m going to go think a bit about why Google let me down by not producing that cheetah in the box.  I’m going to push my cat over and share her box to do my pondering.  I’ll be wearing my yellow hat.


Late breaking: I’m glad I didn’t post this right away, Yahoo came through for me – big cats play in boxes.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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