His Answer Was Shocking

When people pre-phrase a sentence with ‘I think…’ the chances are they haven’t really thought at all.

In 2002 I attended The International Conference on Thinking in Harrogate.  I’d started my career by speaking at the Singapore Conference in 1997 and was excited to hear that the UK was hosting the event.

With my video camera in hand, I asked as many attendees and speakers as possible, ‘What makes people brilliant?’

I received a plethora of answers, many of which I researched further and use in my work today.

But one great sage shocked me with his answer.

He was Dr David Perkins; a super brain, Professor of Teaching and Learning at Harvard University and author of 20 books, including the beautifully titled, Archimedes’ Bathtub and Outsmarting IQ.

After asking him the question he paused, closed his eyes and began to think.

And I mean really think.

Beneath the lids I could see his eyeballs looking up, then left, scanning the higher cortex.

Later, re-watching the film, I realised he’d had his eyes closed for a full minute.

He then gave the most thoughtful, well-reasoned answer I received all week.

Having the confidence to stop, close your eyes in a public place and spend a minute in quiet consideration – really thinking – is something I’ve only witnessed once.

The next time you start a sentence with, ‘I think…’ just take a moment to ask yourself if you really have.

Be Brilliant!


PS I posted a short film on my LinkedIn page of me travelling to work. It’s had some lovely comments and ‘I think’ you’ll like it.  You can watch it here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/road-michael-heppell-michael-heppell/

(and connect with me on LinkedIn too, if you’d like).


  1. February 22nd 2018 by Philip Raby

    But what did he say?? 🙂

  2. February 22nd 2018 by Helen Beaton

    I love this story. Really love it. Especially the bit where you were watching his eyeball movements. Yessssss!

  3. February 23rd 2018 by cdaventry

    I don’t agree with this. Saying ‘I think’ isn’t like ‘with respect’, which usually means ‘I-am-about-to-decimate-your-foolishness.’ ‘I think’ can be playing for time, but also a buffer, a diffuser from appearing aggressive or contradictory. It’s also a more usually ‘feminine’ usage, as male conversational tactics are (generally) more outwardly assertive. This is often down to confidence and the habits of generations as much as actual knowledge. To say ‘I think’ could arguably be a delaying tactic but doesn’t mean you haven’t thought. I’d suggest (and I really am suggesting) that ‘I think’ indicates thought process exactly as much as the speaker is a thoughtful person, no more or less.

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