The 5-stage thinking framework – TOLOPOSOGO


How should we approach a problem, think of solutions and take action?

We have a number of biases that affect us when trying to solve problems.

We might jump to a conclusion too quickly, select facts that confirm what we believe is true or allow the power balance within a group to control the direction we take.

One way to structure how we think is to use a framework developed by de Bono, which uses the mnemonic TOLOPOSOGO.

It has 5 stages.

1. TO where are we going?

First, think about the end result.

What are we trying to solve. Where do we want to end up?

Having an idea of the outcome can help keep us focused.

2. LOok at the facts.

What data do we have? What are our assumptions?

This is where we set out the information we have and consider it – analyzing and evaluating what it says and means.

This is where we need to be careful not to select facts that support our views and discard others that don’t.

We need to stay open and fit all the facts into the ideas and theories we have.

3. Think through the POssibilities.

Once we have the facts, we need to think of the possibilities – come up with options and alternatives. This is a creative, idea-generating process.

It also needs to be a provocative process – challenging existing thinking and seeing how we can do things differently.

In the picture, the mnemonic makes a right angle turn to remind us that this is not simply a straight line process – we may twist away and go in a different direction at this point.

4. SO what?

Now that we have all these ideas – which ones matter? Which ones help us answer the So what? question?

Which ones are going to make a difference to the outcome?

We need to select the ideas and approaches that we think can be implemented and should be tried out.

5. GO – take action.

If we have gone through the effort of thinking through the problem in this way, we should have a good idea of how we can solve the problem and the approaches we can take.

Now it’s time for us to act – to start making and implementing plans.


This may seem an easy and obvious approach – but all too often the thinking mistakes we make are basic – and we do them because we are trying to think under pressure.

Using this framework can help slow us down and improve our chance of coming up with good solutions.

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