Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of points out that language can be a limiting factor in creativity.

Overcoming the Limitations of Language

Language is fine at inventing and accepting new words for new things, such as helicopter, television, computer, etc. However, language isn’t nearly as good at inventing words for mental behaviour. New words are needed to describe certain types of mental activity.

We are generally complacent regarding the adequacy of language. We do not realise that creative thinking is limited by the language available to us because we think we can express what we want to express. If we are limited to thinking in the language available to us then what we want to express can indeed be expressed in the same language.

We have thesis and antithesis and the argument or fight between them, whereby if you want to change something then you have to show that thing is wrong, inadequate or deficient in some way.

However, sometimes, the thing that needs changing is excellent. It is not wrong or faulty – it is simply insufficient.
With ordinary language, it is impossible to criticise something and admit that it is excellent at the same time. You can do it with a whole phrase or sentence, but there is no simple way of doing it. Therefore, it is necessary to create a simple new word that carries out this function of saying: ‘That is excellent – but not enough.’

I have invented the new word ‘ebne’ (pronounced ‘ebbneh’): Excellent But Not Enough.

Creative thinking is often considered an inborn talent which some people have and others can only envy. However, the formal and deliberate tools of lateral thinking can be learned, practised and used in the same way as, say, mathematics. Some will be more adept at it than others, as with any skill, but it is always possible to acquire a usable level of competence.

Argument is used in parliament, the law courts, in discussions and negotiations. We appear to be quite content with it. However, argument is primitive, crude and inefficient at exploring a situation.

Rushing to judgment is another failing of traditional thinking. In a conflict situation we rush to judge who is at fault and then look to pressurise that party. However, we should be looking to ‘design a way forward’, which requires different thinking.

In order to make decisions we seek more and more information. While we do require all the information we can get, it is insufficient. We also need different ways of looking at the information and acting on it, because information is ebne.

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.