Thinking about how to rethink! A framework for coping with change


Siegel defines Mindsight as the ability to see the world from another\’s point of view.  (2010)  This ability to empathise develops naturally within cultures, but is not a natural and taken for granted, normal aspect of multi culturalism.

To be able to accept another culture, one must have some experience of it. As people begin to understand the forms of another culture it is expected that they will develop an appreciation for different aspects of it.  This is why we say that people \”develop a taste.\”

People develop a taste for just about anything. Food, fast cars, addictive substances or romance books and politics can all become liked.  Through exposure and positive experiences people come to like and to anticipate liking various things.

When something is foreign it is natural to reject it, at least at first. Cognitive dissonance signals new things and ideas are not fitting in or not belonging to our original schema.   This is almost like saying that the more sheltered we are, the more sheltered we become.

However the world Australians inhabit is becoming more global, and the world more over populated and the environment is being denuded.   As the world changes as a result of this, world power as a concept is also shifting. (Power Shift. 2010)  It is time to think about Australia\’s place in world politics and to be more astute and discerning when talking about the \’refugee dilemma\’ that seems to be upsetting so many Australians.  Perhaps Ozzies are experiencing fear as a natural symptom related to perceived worldwide change.


Mindsight as Defined by de Bono

The Mindsight Institute offers an overarching, whole school approach to creating a meta curriculum about thinking. (D\’Angelo Fisher. 2006)  To do this it embraces 6 Thinking Hats and the CoRT programmes. By thinking broadly about thinking, creativity and creative action, schools are empowered do develop a culture of thinking about thinking.  Action Research, Narrative and Appreciative Inquiry are a few related examples of how schools are encouraged to Build Inquiry Cultures.

In this article, I would like to suggest a way to use the 6 Thinking Hats, as a thinking strategy teachers (or parents) could use to think through Australia\’s \’refugee dilemma.\’   It is important to point out that the refugee dilemma, although not simple, is very deeply laced with moral questions.

Causing the death of people, as a consequence of denial of assistance, would seem to most people (under usual circumstances) to be a very serious act. The deeper moral implications of the \”dilemma\” should be something that every Australian thinks about.  It is important for Australian citizens to determine just how complicit they are as individuals, if acts taken (or not taken) by our government cause injury to others.

6 Thinking Hats: An Illuminating Thinking Process


Teachers often feel they don\’t know where to start when asked to tackle sensitive issues in the classroom. Most teachers don\’t want to push their politics onto their students. And yet it is hard to escape noticing the topic as one goes through a typical day! Avoiding topics about refugee resettlement can become harder than acknowledging it.

The 6 lenses of de Bono\’s strategy provide teachers with a framework for thinking, which allows them to inquire into a topic in a balanced way.  It provides a safety net because it can help them \’bound\’ conversations.   If the debate gets heated, students can be redirected to the idea that there are many ways of thinking about absolutely any topic.

The White Thinking Hat – Gathering the Information

When students elect to wear the white thinking hat, the topic can become a lot of fun.  This is because the first question a teacher would ask is;

\”How do you know what you think you know about the refugee problem?\”

Usually students will say that their parents told them, or the read it in the Courier Mail, or the saw it all on TV. Even refugees themselves will have obtained their information through some kind of filter.

The Making of Julia Gillard, released in 2009, as a CD set by Louis Braille, is a wonderful resource for people who want to think through these issues. it is a wealth of valuable information, no matter what personal politics they adhere to, or swing around.  It traces one woman\’s struggle with the immigration issue.

I won\’t spoil the adventure by telling you her story. I will tell you though, that the history of recent refugee dilemmas such as Tampa is discussed, and through the CD set, listeners come to understand how difficult it can be to deal with such a volatile issue calmly, but with strength and determination.  Listening to the account especially on CD 4&5 could set students off on a trail of inquiry to find honest reliable information.

If you can recommend good resources that can be used as a springboard for discussion please leave a note on the comment board below.

Yellow Hat Thinking: What Are the Benefits?

The question is simple: what are the benefits of welcoming and working with refugee claimants as they arrive in Australia?   This is a question that does not often seem to be asked.  Do these people not bring gifts and talents with them as they come? Are they not able to work and build up community in what is actually an underpopulated country?

Or are the benefits to Australia going to come from another source?  Will we be better people and Australia a better country if we hold out a hand of support?  Will our country be better respected?  Will we have a better reputation in South East Asia?

The CD set called Power Shift might shed some light on why we as a nation might find an urgent need to shoulder our fair share of responsibility in this part of the globe.

Ask the students to think, look, and research before brainstorming with the class.

Black Hat Thinking: What Are the Drawbacks?

This is the time for the negative feelings, facts and fears.  Even those of us who believe that Australia will be a better place once we rethink the way we welcome refugees to our country, understand that it will require effort, commitment and not a little self sacrifice.  In the black thinking stage list the drawbacks, as they are part of the equation.

Be sure to check the kind of thinking that happens when negativity enters the discussion.  Is the thinking circular?  Are the suggestions backed with facts?  If, for example, students say it will cost too much, be sure to factor in to the equation the costs of running detention centres.  Are detention centres costly to run?  You will find information about this on the Making of Julia Gillard, CDs.

Another point of view has been put forward by Jacobs,  Echoes of the past in asylum seeker policies.(2010)

Red Hat Thinking: Intuition, Instinct and Gut Feeling

This is a great time for role play and role reversal.  Sometimes through the creative arts, students are able to first access, and then to articulate, what they are feeling.  Remember that it is still a time when emotions, fears and triggers must of necessity be \’bounded.\’  Be sure that all sessions are very well facilitated and there is adequate debriefing.  Jacob’s Dance Strategies

Students might want to write poetry or write a haiku or a song.  Some could paint a picture of their feelings before they try to articulate what is going on for them. It is very important that all students are respected and listened to at this stage as they may feel quite vulnerable.

Green Hat Thinking: Alternatives and Creative Ideas

The experiential nature of the intuitive red thinking stage leads very gently to the green alternative cycle of thinking.  This is the creative stage; it is the stage of synergetic thinking.  How can we, the Australian people, rise above this problem?  How can we, in the style of Gestalt Philosophy, harness the power of resistance and use it to empower a constructive and creative atmosphere of empowerment?

At this stage lead your students towards texts, which point out that sometimes it only takes the slightest shift to tip a situation into empowered creativity.  You may choose to read some of the opening of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Or you may want to show them the penetrating analysis of Counting for Nothing, by Marilyn Waring.

If the students are brimming with ideas, let them write, script, enact and even dance if they want.

Blue Hat Thinking: Intuition, Instinct and Gut Feeling

This is the time to check in to see how the students are going.  Have they changed their minds about aspects of the problem? Have they developed strategies, or gained an interest in citizenship and politics? Suggest that they begin a journal if you have not done this already.  It might be interesting to have them journal whenever there is a flash point in the Australian media.


Be aware that where students go with their thinking might surprise you.  But this is great, teachers are not employed to tell students what to think, they are rather, educators who care enough to cause their students to question and to dream.

An Afternote: Thinking About Julia Gillard

In The Making of Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister says that she doesn\’t think that women who govern successfully will be different from men in the way that they govern.  She says, this is because the whole point of governing is to just get right on \”down to it.\”  And yet throughout the CD set, she is described as someone who always wants to strike a compassionate and balanced, compromise.  She seems to value compassionate compromise.  She seems to be thinking about a better Australia for tomorrow\’s children.

In the book, Half the Sky, How to Change the World, authors describe a momentum building in the struggle for equality for women and their daughters around the world.  They say that the struggle that will ultimately be won when women are able to be empowered and to come to power.  Does Gillard\’s background, and her experience as Shadow Minister for Immigration suggest that eventually her sense of, and desire for justice will win through?  Is that an interesting point that teachers could make to their classes?


How could Australians challenge, but at the same time still support, a leader who might be persuaded to take a softer, more inspired approach to refugee resettlement in Australia?


  • de Bono,E. (2009)Think before it\’s Too Late. Vermillion. Lon (AU Griffin Press)
  • D\’Angelo Fisher,L. (2006)  Rethink. The Story of Edward de Bono in Australia. Wiley
  • Gladwell,M. (2002) The Tipping Point. BackBay Books
  • Jacobs,R. (2010) Echoes of the past in asylum seeker policies
  • Jacob’s Dance Strategies Educate for Compassion and Empathy
  • Kent.J. (2009) The Making of Julia Gillard. Penguin. Released by Louis Braille. (2010.) Read by Rodgers,L.Kristof,N.D, & Wudunn,S. (2010) Half the
  • Seigel,D. (2010) Mindsight. Bantam.
  • Waring,M. (1999) Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
  • White,H.  Power Shift: Australia’s Future between Washington and Beijing. Quarterly Essay 39