Thinking Citizen Blog — Orion: a Multi-Purpose Tool, a Universal Wrench, a Swiss Army Knife

Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day

Today’s Topic: Orion — a Multi-Purpose Tool, a Universal Wrench, a Swiss Army Knife

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, what is the best thinking tool of them all? For about thirty years my best idea was the three-by-three matrix. Ubiquitous at scientific conferences in the form of three-by-three poster boards, the three-by-three matrix is a staple of the highest paid humans on the planet — consultants and investment bankers. The “hamburger” essay is an elementary, middle, and high school incarnation of it. My mentor, Stanley Hoffmann, legendary Harvard professor of government, used it in every lecture he ever gave (that I know of). For the last three years it has provided the structure for my daily posts which I call “triptychs.” But I have become an apostate. I think I have come upon a better mouse trap. Today, three reasons for this belief. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

SEVEN IS THE LIMIT OF HUMAN MEMORY (top two, middle three, bottom two)

1. Seven stars define Orion.

2. If you have more than seven things to say, take another look.

3. Choose between them. Or condense several into one.,_Plus_or_Minus_Two

THE TOP THREE SHOULD BE HIGHLIGHTED (the belt — Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka)

1. Seven may be the outer limit.

2. But three is really the practical limit.

3. That’s why the “Rule of Three” has passed the test of time.

THE RULE OF ONE is the most important rule of all — Alnilam — the bottom line (Thank you, Professor Shigehisa Kuriyama)

1. Analogue: monogamy.

2. Analogue: monotheism

3. Analogue: so what’s your point?

NB- If there is one thing you want your interlocutor to remember, what is it?


The Orion game can be played with any topic — however broad or narrow. Orions can and should be nested — like so many Russian dolls. Will somebody out there give it a try with some topic that matters to you?

FOOTNOTE — An Orion Refresher Course (and update — the Seventh Orion)

1. My most important Orion — the Seven Micro Virtues. Alnilam = gratitude.

2. Next most important — the Seven Joys. Alnilam = music.

3. Next most important — the Seven Tools. Alnilam = the journal.

NB: The three Thinking Citizen Orions: Seven Macro Virtues (Alnilam = truth)

Seven Disciplines (Alnilam = ethics), Seven Issues (Alnilam = education).

The seventh Orion: Learning Principles: visualization, quantification, customization, prioritzation, standardization, verbalization, organization. (Alnilam — prioritization)

What is your Orion of Orions?

Le Professeur

Shigehisa Kuriyama


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.