Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of www.thinkingmanagers.com tackles the problem of improving on the excellent.

When Things Are Good Enough

If you take one car wheel, you could say it is excellent and not find anything to criticise. But of course you need four wheels on a car, so the wheel by itself, although excellent, is not enough.

This example demonstrates that existing thinking methods are good but not sufficient. Because of this, business strategy must focus on improving areas thought to be excellent.

There is a belief among executives that management is simply concerned with continuity and problem-solving and that the best business strategy is to maintain things as they are and deal with the various problems encountered along the way.

However, if that is the case, then what about all the things that aren’t considered to be problems?

Even if there is no general complacency, there is still a difficulty in focusing on things which are thought to be excellent, or even satisfactory.

There are three situations relating to this:

NUMBER ONE

When we come to a ‘good result’ we are satisfied. However, if we continued our thinking, possibly we would find an even better result.

If you find an answer that is adequate, don’t stop thinking. There is often more than just one answer so you should carry on thinking after you reach an answer with which you are satisfied.

So how much time and effort should you spend looking for that better answer? When do you stop if time is limited?

Even a small amount of time spent looking beyond the first satisfactory answer won’t be wasted and it could make a big difference to your business.

NUMBER TWO

We know there are other ways but it is difficult to convince others that it is a good business strategy to look into them.

It is impossible to highlight the shortcomings of the existing approach because there appears to be nothing wrong with it. Therefore, you have to concentrate on the benefits that alternative approaches would bring.

Then you can contrast the values of the new approach with those of the existing one. Perhaps then you will see big differences.

NUMBER THREE

The existing approach is excellent and won’t be changed. But in isolation it is insufficient – just like a solitary wheel of a car.

Similarly, traditional thinking is excellent but not sufficient on its own.

The three situations here all lack criticism as a driving force. Most of the time you can point out where something is wrong or highlight a problem, then use its existence as motivation for change.

The lateral thinking technique of ‘challenge’ can help people in business management look further than the existing patterns of thinking.

Challenge is a powerful tool but you need discipline to use it. Focusing only on weak ideas and faults will lessen its power.

Even the ‘best’ ideas can be improved upon with challenge.

About the author
Edward de Bono is the world's leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the teaching of thinking as a skill.