Another thinking seminar in Pakistan

Yet again I have the pleasure of being able to talk about the work of my good friend Professor Shamir Faraz from Pakistan. He has given another seminar on thinking, this time one in which included both parents (15) as well as students (28).

He sent me some details of the seminar and some the responses from participants and given me permission to refer to them publicly.

Professor Shamir's seminar seems based on a simple proposition: That we need to be broader in our thinking. While others urge us to develop our reasoning skills, our critical thinking skills, our emotional sensitivity etc., Professor Shamir encourages us to widen our horizons before applying those secondary skills. It is hard not to agree with him: What is the use of polishing a perfect treatise on the wrong subject?

Shamir started off the lesson with some key questions and answers:

How to see?Don’t see through only one side
From where to see? Starting points matter a lot
How to become aware of starting points? See where those starting points take us.
Is there is nothing like good or bad perception? There are more ways of looking than good and bad
How perception is broadened? Deliberate effort, expansion of attention through tools
Tools to broaden one’s perception? Thinking Hats Direct Attention tools

The language may be simple, but the thoughts are powerful. Too often in education it is the other way around.

Like Master Thinker Edward de Bono, Professor Shamir thinks about thinking. In doing so, he has identified some key concepts. Some of them I am familiar with, some of them are new to me:


What we see and what we choose to see is key to what we will think.

Mrs Ashraf - Red Hat:

“I am surprised that how attention shapes the mind”

Mrs Hameed - Green Hat:

“At home I would like to be child and my son to be my parent, this will give much difference to see how we both see at our places.”

Mrs Naveed - Red Hat:

“I want to see my children to be perceptual thinkers”


Abstraction, or simplification, is key. We should recognise that we observe the world and simplify it according to our own prejudices. We have the option of developing improved simplification/abstraction techniques.

Shamir Faraz:

“The question of what to abstract and what to abstract from is ultimately decided by the nature of the objects under examination and the tasks confronting the investigator. Kepler, for example, was not interested in the colour of Mars or the temperature of the Sun when he sought to establish the laws of the revolution of the planets”

“Old patterns need to be redesigned, conceptual past never dies but negates or transforms itself to higher forms”

The Art of ‘Whittling’

Shamir described a specific abstraction technique he called “Whittling”.

Shamir Faraz:

“Whittling creates comfortability in dealing with massive interaction with information

Mariam Bhatti - Yellow Hat:

  • “Whittling can make the attention lighter and productive
  • Whittling works as a scissor or as a cutter for shaping quality ideas
  • Whittling can make the attention focused
  • It can narrow down the vague ideas into practical thought”

Saba Khan (Parent) - Yellow Hat:

“I like the concept of whittling it is very useful and unique technique to reach where we want to go, it is goal oriented, it sharps the attention and takes the attention to the place that one needs. In bulk of information it serves as a tool to ease one’s attention out of unnecessary stuff of data”


A good way to understand something is to compare it to something else.

Shamir Faraz:

“A comparison is not an explanation, but it helps us to explain things.”

Shamir Faraz:

“In the operations and modes of thought comparison is the mother of knowledge.”

Distorted reflections

Shamir suggested that human propensity to juxtapose ideas is a valuable source of creativity. Eg. Woman + fish = mermaid.

Shamir Faraz:

“If a child comes with distorted reflections he or she should be encouraged because it’s a stepping stone towards design thinking”

Mrs Bukhari - Yellow Hat:

“Distorted perceptions are discouraged in children at early ages, why not to encourage them to have more new insights”


Mrs Hameed - Green Hat:

“After these techniques I would love to create new patterns by using perceptual and abstract model of thinking”

Saqib Nawaz - Yellow Hat:

“Opportunities are blessing, and opportunities like training one’s own mind is the biggest pleasure, this training isn’t [just] effective for our children but it is equally effective for us. If we set our mind right our children will also set their mind right.”


I found it heartening to read how people in Pakistan can be awakened to the possibilities of improving their thinking.

As with all fine teachers, Professor Shamir was eager to learn from his students.

Pakistan is lucky to have Shamir - I wish we had more people like him in Australia.