Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of considers the difference between analysis and design.

New Words, New Thinking

I f there is a need for a new word for some behaviour, some concept or some state of mind, then introducing that new word is hard.

My use of the phrase ‘lateral thinking’ was introduced in 1967 and is now very widely found. One of the reasons for this acceptance is that the phenomenon is easily recognised. Another reason is that a used adjective was joined with a used noun.

One new word that is badly needed is one that describes ‘a fully justified venture which for reasons beyond your control did not succeed’. The project's lack of success is seen as a ‘failure’ or ‘mistake’. Because of this, people are unwilling to take risks.

However, at this point I want to introduce a completely different word: dettle.

It is a verb: ‘to dettle’, while a ‘dettler’ is someone who dettles a lot. To dettle means to be obsessive about ‘detail’.

There is the phrase, ‘You cannot see the wood for the trees’, meaning that as you concentrate on the individual trees, you cannot get the big picture of the wood.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin. Where contracts are concerned it is often said that the ‘devil is in the details’. There are people who are able to see the broader picture, but are not good at working out the details.

‘Can you do some dettling here’; ‘Can we dettle this?’; ‘We need more dettle here’.

‘Dettle’ is a general verb that means focusing upon and working with details. The word ‘dettler’ may be used in both a positive sense and also a negative sense: ‘We should give it to him - he’s a very good dettler’, or ‘He’s just a dettler - he can't see the big picture’.

The central meaning of ‘dettle’ is: to work out the details; to focus on the details; to be obsessed with details; to be concerned with details.

The different nuances of meaning are provided by additional words or context: ‘He is just a dettler’;‘Give it to him - he is a great dettler’; ‘We need some good dettling here’; ‘More and more dettling will not change the strategy’.

A new word creates a new concept that becomes integrated into our thinking behaviour. The new word finds a location in the brain. A description is like an itinerary compiled by the travel agent. It only exists for as long as we are using it.

A new word has permanence, like a town.
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.