Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of explains why everyone should make an effort to be creative, even though creativity is full of risks and uncertainties.

Motivation for Creativity

Why should anyone seek to be creative? Creativity has plenty of risks and uncertainties, such as the risk of failure and the need to persuade others. There is the necessity for political skills. It can be much easier to sit quietly and do what you are supposed to do.

If everything is OK, who needs creativity? If things are going so well, then there is no time for the uncertainties of creativity.

If you seek to be creative - and even if you use the powerful tools of lateral thinking - you cannot be sure of a result.

There is a further problem: all valuable creative ideas must always be logical in hindsight - otherwise they would have no value. So it is assumed that logic could have reached the idea in the first place.

This is absolutely untrue in an asymmetric patterning system like the human brain. But how many people know all about asymmetric systems? Therefore executives expect only ‘blue sky ideas’ from creativity and these are then labelled impractical.

If we think of creativity as a given talent, which some people have and others do not have, then we just look for creative people.

If we regard creativity as the ‘skill’ of using information in a patterning system like the brain, then everyone can develop the skill of creativity. To be sure, certain people will achieve a higher degree of skill than others - as with any skill - but this is different to being naturally creative. People who are not naturally creative could develop a higher degree of skill than those who have natural creativity.

Confidence is a key factor in creative effort. Those with a history of successful creative ideas are much more willing to make an effort creatively. They know from before that new ideas are possible. They have experienced the euphoria and achievement of having a new idea.

How do you build up confidence when school does not encourage creativity, and the workplace does not expect it?

The majority of people stick to doing what is expected of them. The recalcitrant few stray from that path. That is why creativity is often associated with rebelliousness. It does not have to be this way, though.

To get creativity into a business you have to make it an ‘expectation’. At the end of each meeting, the chair person must set aside the last fifteen minutes to ‘anyone who is exploring a new idea’. If no one has anything to say, they are told they are not doing their job.

A creative ‘Hit List’ of areas which need new thinking should be put together and made visible to everyone. Executives should then work on items from this list - either as individuals or as assigned teams.

Striving to have ideas is the most important factor. If new ideas are demanded, then people will make an effort to have new ideas. Their confidence will build and sooner or later there will be a creative organisation.

It is also imperative to learn how you can be creative. There is a need to learn the formal skills of lateral thinking which make creativity available to all.

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.