Collaboration and creativity with Susan Mackie - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Collaboration and creativity with Susan Mackie

Written by on October 28, 2015 in Learning with 0 Comments


Susan Mackie wants to reflect on the career and life of Edward de Bono. They met when thousands of platinum mine workers were striking in South Africa. Susan called Edward for help as he happened to be in South Africa, and he came down. 16,000 illiterate mine workers were taught these thinking skills, which led to better work conditions and a range of positive flow-on effects.

Susan had a stroke at thirty and used neuroplasticity and lateral thinking to recover and feels incredibly grateful to Edward for his life’s work.

“Edward explored the brain as a biological system that explores information in a much different way to a computer,” Susan says. Edward realised that in order to use lateral thinking we needed something to bump ourselves out of the ruts we form. We need tools to do something illogical to solve a difficult problem.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” Susan says. Edward realised we need a new language. “How can we bring the unknown into the known?”

“The first core construct of Edward’s work is parallel thinking,” Susan says. Edward wanted to know, Why can’t we just design ways forward? Ruthless judgment and putting things in hard boxes is a waste of time and energy. Edward’s idea was this: “Thinking in parallel to carry multiple views, facts and ideas together. Allow for diversity of ideas and to fully explore things collaboratively.”

We are all capable of six types of thinking. It’s putting your thinking down a pathway. Thinking hats are like a compass: they point you in different directions.

The blue hat sets the focus of the thinking. Get the meeting agenda down: clarify information on this topic, make a decision on this matter. Blue hat is the conductor of the orchestra – it keeps you on track when people accidentally go into other hats.

The white hat is information, facts, what’s missing.

The red hat is emotion, warmth, feeling, gut-feeling, intuition. ‘I am feeling…’

The yellow hat is optimism, benefits and value, the sense of potential. Early-stage thinking.

The black hat is caution and risk. It’s probably the most over-used hat. We use it to criticise and judge, however it’s about the logical basis for what is wrong.

The green hat is growth, creativity, solution-finding, new ideas and alternatives.

Tips for lateral thinking:

  • Start with the blue, then the white
  • Never put a black after the green
  • Blue are the bookends
  • For example, to evaluate something: Blue, white, yellow, black, red, green, blue

“Let’s celebrate Edward and his extraordinary contribution to thinking,” Susan says.


Susan Mackie is a De Bono Ambassador, leader in the areas of mindset and neuroscience, participatory design and innovation, and CEO of Be – Better People

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