Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of argues that the human race has done little to advance the skill of thinking in the last 2,400 years.

Learning To Think

Plato, Socrates and Aristotle came up with our current thought software 2,400 years ago. The human race has stuck with this and, as a result, has never really learnt to think.

While we have made huge progress with mathematics, we have done nothing with our ordinary thinking for 2,400 years.

Because of the achievements we have made in science and technology, we are proud and complacent about our means of thinking. Therefore, we have made very little progress in human affairs.

Most of the time we use the thought model of analysing a situation, identifying a standard element and then coming up with a standard answer.

When Europe adopted Greek thinking, at the time of the Renaissance, church people ran the schools and universities.

There was no use for perceptual thought because the starting points were not matters of human perception but fixed dogmas. They didn't need creative thinking or design thinking in religion.

There was a necessity for thinking that was concerned with truth, logic and argument. They needed this to prove that the heretics were wrong. That is why this kind of thinking became the standard software for Western thought.

It is possible to analyse the past. However, the future must be designed. Certain people do provide the ‘design’ element in society, but design has never become as important or as central as analysis. Design is a matter of producing value by combining known ingredients.

Creativity is always involved in design in one sense. Something new which delivers value - that is the essence of creativity. However, the design can also be logical.

For example, applying current computer technology to home shopping could be a new design, but the combination of the elements might be totally logical. Usually, architecture design is perfectly logical despite the overall idea being new. Design is sometimes opposed to routine.

Creativity might be involved in providing a new objective or overall concept. The objective might be reached in a logical way. On the other hand, the overall concept or objective might be logical, but require some new thinking and creativity to be achieved.

It is futile to separate logical and creative approaches. Logic and creativity are both parts of thinking that need to be exercised. Also, in hindsight, logic can be found in any valuable creative idea - that is the nature of asymmetric patterning systems. However, because you find logic in hindsight, it doesn't mean that the idea could have been reached by logic in the first place.

Design always carries with it some risk. You can't be certain a new design will work and deliver the desired value. Judgment and routine behaviour is the preferred method of thought because it is low risk. That's not a problem so long as the importance of design is recognised. It is even more essential to recognise the situations where design is demanded because the routine approaches have failed.

It is important that the basic difference between judgment and design is recognised, as well as the importance of design. Design skill and creativity have to be developed, and then we can increase the scope and power of our 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.