Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of argues that even when there is no complacency, managers still find difficulty in thinking about things that are perfectly satisfactory.

Good is the Enemy of Best

There is nothing to criticise about the rear left wheel of a motorcar is excellent. It is excellent. However, if you thought that all that was needed on a motorcar was the rear left wheel, there would be something wrong with your thinking, not the wheel. This analogy is useful in demonstrating that our existing thinking methods and habits are excellent but not enough.

There are too many executives who believe that management thinking consists of continuity and problem solving. They believe they just have to keep things going as they are and then solve the problems that arise from time to time.

There is more to management thinking than just problem solving. So what if something isn't a problem?

Even in cases where there is no general complacency, there is difficulty in thinking about things that are thought of as satisfactory.

At least three situations are at work here:

Situation one: 'The good is the enemy of the best'. This means once we have reached a 'good result', we stop thinking. We might have found an even better result had we gone on thinking.

We shouldn't stop thinking once we have an adequate answer. Quite often there are many answers, not just one. Therefore, we should look to develop the habit of thinking beyond an adequate answer.

So how much time, energy and effort should we put into finding the 'better answer'? There is often a need for choice, for decision and for action. We might spend some time looking for a better answer, but this time is limited. However, even a little time spent looking for a better answer is not a waste of time. Sometimes a better answer will still be found.

Situation two: Here, we think we know that there are other possible answers but there is a difficulty in persuading others to explore them.

It's impossible to start from the deficiencies of the present approach, because none may be apparent. We have to focus on the values and benefits involved in the other ways.

You can then make a comparison between the values offered by the other methods and the values offered by the existing approach. You might now see big differences.

Situation three: In this third situation, the matter being considered is excellent in itself, and isn’t going to be changed or replaced. It is now a matter of saying that 'it is not sufficient'. One wheel on a car is excellent – but not sufficient.

Likewise, traditional thinking is excellent. But it is not sufficient.

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