Thinking Managers

Creative thinking may still be needed, even if the solutions to a problem are obvious, says Edward de Bono.

Creative Focus

It doesn't matter how skilled you might be with creative (and lateral thinking) techniques - if your focus is lacking, the results will be poor or even useless.  Both focus fixing and harvesting are very poorly done, in my experience, even in cases where there is reasonable skill with the techniques.

If there is an obvious problem and you have a solution, is there a need for creative thinking?  Yes, there is, because an adequate solution is not necessarily the best solution. Too frequently, a merely adequate solution blocks a better one.

Improvement is really an obvious area for creative effort. You can improve anything and everything. Potential improvement lies in many directions.

It is possible to simplify practically everything. There is a natural tendency over time for things to increase in complexity. There is no natural pressure to simplify, so we should make an effort to apply the pressure ourselves.

There is a need for creativity at several points of opportunity development. You need creativity to spot the opportunity in the first place. If you are following a ‘me-too’ strategy, then you need creativity to make your business competitive. Once the opportunity has been spotted, you need creativity to design how the opportunity can be developed in a practical and valuable way. Lastly, you need creativity to look to the future to predict what might happen.

A lot of attention is paid to decision-making, and this attention is necessary. Too often, though, it is assumed that the alternatives are obvious. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Of course, there might be some obvious alternatives. But that doesn't mean there won't be more that aren't so obvious. That's where creative thinking comes in. We might have to 'design' the alternatives ourselves. Designing a possible way forward is every bit a part of decision-making as assessing the values involved.

Creative thinking can become a habit of mind where we are constantly looking for possibilities and not easily satisfied with the obvious - we come up with a multitude of alternatives before choosing the best one.

As well as the ‘habit’ of creative thinking, there is also the discipline. This means putting in a determined effort. We set out to use a creative technique in a deliberate fashion to determine a focus. We can do this as a means of achieving a result. It is essential to separate discipline from habit.

There is a danger that those who pick up the habit of creativity make no effort to use the discipline because they think there is no need. This is an error. The discipline of creative thinking often results in ideas much better than those that arise from the habit of creative thinking.

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.