Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of argues that in our information-obsessed organisations, ideas are at risk of being ignored.

We Still Need Ideas!

The creative director of one of the world’s leading advertising agencies told me recently that clients no longer wanted new ideas - they only wanted the research data. Ideas are never a substitute for information. At the same time ideas are essential in order to look at data in different ways. Ideas are also essential in order to put different pieces of data together. Ideas are essential for designing ways in which to deliver value.

The notion that information is enough stops progress. Ideas are possibilities. It is clear that new ideas are needed all the time, just as financial control and production efficiency are needed all the time. It is also possible to look at specific situations where new ideas are even more necessary. Some examples are...

SERIOUS CRISIS: It is worth looking for new ideas - but only in addition to the other analytical thinking that is going on. The best time to look for new ideas is before the crisis.

THREATS: A threat is not yet a crisis. A threat would be serious competition from a competitor or from some other country.

STAGNATION: The company is doing reasonably well. There is no growth and there is no perceived need for growth. The motivation for change is low. Is there a need for new ideas here? Probably not. Would the corporation benefit from new ideas? Certainly. There may be a need for creativity to simplify existing procedures and so get more profit from a stable market.

GROWTH: There are strategies for growth that do not need new ideas. There are classic moves, mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, etc. There may be a need for some new ideas to look into the future and to foresee further possibilities, because this may influence the choice of growth direction.

OPPORTUNITIES: There is a pressing need for creativity both to perceive the opportunity and to fashion it into profitable shape. If seen in the right way, any change is a potential opportunity. Analysis is very important, but it is not enough. Analysis is a commodity available to everyone. If you can have an idea which others do not have, that can define your opportunity. Even beyond ‘spotting’ the opportunity there is a need for new thinking in turning that opportunity into a profitable venture.

START-UP: Most start-ups arise from an idea. It is possible to do the traditional thing in a cheaper or better way. It is possible to offer better customer service than anyone else. It is possible to find a gap in the market and still do the traditional thing. But there is also the possibility of a new idea as the basis for the start-up. New ideas are needed both for the very basis of the business and for the running of the business and the delivery of value (marketing, production, etc.).

Many organisations and executives are threatened by the idea of ‘creativity’. They do not like the suggestion that they are not sufficiently creative. They even regard creativity as a ‘blue sky’ exercise and believe that data analysis is enough. At the same time, the history, culture and idiom of any organisation determine its ideas. It is almost impossible to step outside this framework - no matter how valid it might be - to have different ideas. These different ideas may not be much use. Or they may be better than existing ideas in some areas. Or they may influence existing ideas.

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.

  Edward de Bono