Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson co-founded the School of Thinking (SOT) together with Edward de Bono in 1979. He is author of numerous books, consultant on thinking, selling and leadership as well as speaker and trainer.
Florian Rustler: Michael, you created the School of Thinking (SOT). For some people that might be an unusual concept that you need a school that teaches you how to think. A lot of people are of the opinion that they know already how to think. Why is there a necessity for having a School of Thinking?
Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: That is a very good question, Florian, and one that I have been asked many times especially when we started it 29 years ago. Thinking is a human skill, like singing, running or breathing. Certainly breathing is something that all of us can do naturally. If you, however, want to become an opera singer you need breathing skills beyond the natural skills. You will have to develop beyond that natural ability and become a virtuoso. You will need to learn twists, and shortcuts and tricks. These tricks a coach might show you so that your skills develop above the normal level. It is all about the difference between a natural ability, that we all have, and a developed skill that makes you a virtuoso.
Let’s look at that natural ability to think. People by nature start out on different levels of that natural ability. Some are more sophisticated, others less. Could SOT training help the person who starts from the lower level to eventually overtake the other?
Yes, it can. That is actually quite easy to achieve! The bigger challenge has to do with the different wiring of the brains in terms of culture. We all have a genetic brain that comes with certain evolved abilities that have been selected by nature over the millennia. But how the individual brain becomes wired up is very much determined by the culture it find itself in. For example, a Chinese brain may be wired up along the Confucian lines whereas a European or even Australian brain is strongly influenced by the logic-system which was developed by the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle and later spread around by the Europeans via the Christian church. This main software was been spread around by Christian missionaries and eventually also imported into Australia. This Greek software operates as the right/wrong model–that the world made up of right and wrong and that you should always avoid wrong answers and choose the right answers. So it becomes very interesting to train thinkers who have such different brain wiring in terms of their cultural background.
Does a different brain wiring in terms of cultural background require different thinking skills for people to develop? Do western logic-based brains require different training than Confucian-based brains?
Yes, you can, of course, specifically look at the cultural wiring and develop bespoke trainings for a specific background. Or, you can do what we have done which is to create a generic universal brain software. The universal brain software is based on the genetic model of the human brain, so regardless of what your cultural background is, universal thinking tools or brain software are still useful for you to know and to use.
This universal brain software is part of what you teach in the School of Thinking. Is that related to what you call CVS2BVS? What does that mean and why do thinking tools have these cryptic names and abbreviations?
(Laughs) The concept of using abbreviations is widely used in training and I got it out of the military leadership training I received during service in the Australian army in the Viet Nam war – the most amazing training I have received so far. When you train 20-year old men to go into battle and to lead other 20-year old men you have to have very powerful training techniques. One of them is to tag a complicated set of instructions with very quick and easy trigger commands. In battle, complicated and often counter-intuitive skills had to be exercised in highly emotional circumstances where you don’t have time to say a long paragraph but you might just say something like “ambush left” or “eject, eject, eject”! That command must immediately trigger a rehearsed and competent skill or reaction. So what you learn in the military is practice, repetition and rehearsal (PRR) and to learn powerful skills that can be triggered with a very short trigger pattern.
CVS2BVS symbolizes a digital switch which flips from one position to another position. The first position is CVS, which is the “current view of the situation”. So whatever you are thinking at the moment, that is your CVS. Everyone has a CVS, no matter what your cultural background. CVS is a generic situation. The switch can now be moved from CVS to BVS which stands for the “better view of the situation”, which is measured as a ten times better view of the situation. We use this formula CVS X10 = BVS.
CVS2BVS enables you to escape. You can escape from your current view of the situation to a ten times better view of the situation. This BVS again is individual and unique for each individual thinker.
From my own experience teaching thinking, that is not an easy thing to do for many people, to consciously escape from the CVS and look for a BVS.
That’s true. Especially logic-based thinkers tend to defend the ‘rightness’ of their CVS rather than to escape from it and search for a BVS. However the more you practice the skill the better you get at it and the easier it will be for the trained thinker to do it.
Let’s get back to the right-wrong system you mentioned which is so dominant in the West …
Plato was one of the first in history who came with the concept of TRUTH, an arrangement of information that is so perfect that it would be called THE TRUTH. He noticed the more we thought, the more we explored and the more we examined, we could get closer and closer to what he called the truth. Plato wanted to promote the idea of thinking, exploring and experimenting so he established that concept of TRUTH. But, let’s be fair to Plato: He claimed that humans could never get all the way there only the gods could have total and complete truth. The problem was that later the church monopolized the TRUTH concept and claimed that only they had THE TRUTH. Now, with this claim, we have an entirely different exercise which is defending the truth instead of exploring and searching for the truth.
That is the kind of behavior we can nowadays see in a lot of discussions …
Yes that is what we call the dichotomy, the dialectic of right versus wrong. There is no gray in between. You are either right or wrong. That can develop into an extremely narrow position as we see with various kinds of fundamentalists: We are right and god loves us and everyone else is wrong. Possibly so wrong that we may even justify killing them. That’s of course an extreme version of this kind of thinking. Most people of course don’t think that way and are open enough to change their mind but in an extreme version this kind of thinking can be very dangerous.