FLORIDA, June 1, 2012 — If there is one thing in short supply these days, it surely is independent thinkers.
From politics to economics to advertising campaigns, rehashing old ideas has reached the level of art form. Partisans, ivory tower drones, and Madison Avenue executives might beg to differ, but judging from our current state of societal affairs — with which very few seem happy one way or the other, according to polling data — the proof is in the pudding.
If only there were a way to turn this around by doing something constructive in the most academic, intellectual sense possible.
Well, if you mean actually learning how to think outside of the box, there is.
For decades, Australian cognitive scientist Michael Hewitt-Gleeson has been teaching businesspeople, government officials, and other inquiring minds how to do just that. Along with Edward de Bono, he set up the School of Thinking in 1979. Their objective of “teach(ing) people to think for themselves” was described by George Gallup — speaking of polls — as what “may be THE most important thing going on in the world today.”
The School (of which I am an alumnus) survives to this day, though without de Bono. Based in Melbourne with Gleeson at the helm, it seems to be secure in its position on the cutting edge.
During our peculiar era of stateside doldrums, it seemed a good idea to find out about Gleeson’s views on lateral thinking and how this key subject relates to more than a few current events, from the allure of ideology to the spread of multiculturalism. His ideas — which run so far away from the box that one can easily forget it ever existed — are truly something to talk and think about.
Joseph F. Cotto: Lateral thinking is not a concept with which many are familiar. Particularly in the West, most of us have been taught to think in a critical fashion. What is the difference between these two methods of problem solving, and why do you think that the former is a better bet?
Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: A simple way of describing the strong difference between Greco-Roman Logical thinking and Lateral Thinking in colloquial terms is that logical thinking is inside the square thinking and lateral thinking is outside the square thinking.
Another way to describe the difference is to say that logical thinking is a tool for judgment and lateral thinking is a tool for design. The logical operant is OR (black or white, Republican or Democrat, gay or straight, us or them) whereas the lateral operant is AND (me and you, black and white, Republican and Democrat). OR is for critical thinking. AND allows you to go beyond critical thinking. These are both very powerful and useful tools and an effective thinker knows how and when to use them both.
Cotto: One of the gravest concerns you have cited with modern thinking is the Plato Truth Virus. What is this, exactly? Why is it such a problem?
Gleeson: Mindviruses or memes can be very powerful especially when introduced into very young brains or when used with a great deal of repetition. The Plato Truth Virus (PTV) is the notion that there is such a thing as “absolute truth.” Plato, in Western culture, was the thinker who promoted the idea of TRUTH. To be fair to him, he was promoting the search for truth. But as time passed St Thomas Aquinas and the Roman Church switched this over to the defense of truth.
This led to the Inquisitions, persecutions of heretics, the arrogance of exclusivitiy and the narrow hardsell thinking of the I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong merchants. The Enlightenment and The Scientific Method helped soften these mindviruses and provide an alternative to the defense of certainty. It is interesting to compare Western thinking with Chinese thinking (which did not evolve out of a medieval European Church) and is often far more Post-Enlightenment that Western thinking. This may be also due to the influence of Confucius compared to that of Plato.
Cotto: Some might perceive your opposition to Aristotelean logic as irrational, or even self-defeating. What, from your perspective, replaces logic as a form of reason?
Gleeson: As I mentioned before, I don’t see any value in replacing logic per se. I am more interested in complementing it. I use the term “software for the brain” or “apps for the brain.” Logic is brain software that is 2500 years old. So it is obviously very good at surviving and we wouldn’t get very far without our judgmental faculties. However, that’s not enough.
Judgment is useful for looking back over the past but we also need design for creating the futures we want to be in. In my new book nearly finished ET 123: English Thinking The Three Methods I explain the evolution of English Thinking and the value of ALL three methods which are inside-the-square thinking and outside-the-square thinking plus apps for intelligence.
This does indeed scratch the surface of lateral thinking, but what about applying its principles to everyday life’s barrage of complexities? That, and much more, is coming up in part two.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.