Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of www.thinkingmanagers.com considers the pros and cons between working in a team or by yourself.

More Than Problem-solving

When do we need creative thinking? Where should we use creative thinking?

Our current thinking habits are overly concerned with problem-solving. In fact, many people mistakenly believe that all thinking is ‘problem-solving’. So this is, in fact, a problem.

The word ‘problem’ usually means a fault, deficiency or something undesirable. While these are legitimate grounds for thinking, there are other areas where no obvious problem is visible and nothing is lacking or wrong. We need to apply creative thinking to these areas as well.

Problem-solving has some obvious attractions. It can simplify the task of convincing others of the value of a new idea. If a new idea can be demonstrated to solve a problem, then it will be welcomed by anyone who wishes the problem to disappear.

However, if there is no apparent problem to solve, it is still possible to come up with powerful, useful new ideas.

Sometimes you can add value by taking a product and making it more convenient, more flexible or easier to operate.

Usually, things that seem not to require much attention do not receive a great deal of creative thinking. Satisfaction and complacency are the biggest enemies of creative thinking.

You can broadly divide creative focus between two types: purpose focus and area focus.

The most familiar of these is purpose focus. We have a definite need and then look to use our thinking to satisfy that need. We know exactly what we are thinking about, and we know what we want to achieve. The classic example of purpose focus is ‘problem-solving’.

We might need to use creative thinking for this if the usual analytical approach breaks down. Or we might want to employ creative thinking even when the problem has been ‘solved’ with an adequate solution but we wish to carry on looking in case we can find a better solution.

Creative thinking could also be needed in order to achieve a defined task. Creative thinking is essential if there is no routine way of carrying out the task. In this kind of situation, creative thinking is part of design thinking.

A third type of purpose focus is ‘improvement’. Perhaps we are carrying out an operation and decide that the process can be improved upon. It is useful to have a definite direction of improvement. Perhaps we want to do things faster. Or we might want to do things less expensively. We might want to do things in a simpler way.

There is a significant difference between area focus and purpose focus. It is not necessary to focus on one particular area with area focus. You focus on a particular area as a matter of choice. You do not have a problem to solve or deficiency to correct. You are not even looking to make an improvement. You are just making a choice to define an area as your focus for creative thinking.

You define any area you want to with area focus. You look to come up with ideas within a defined area. However, you do not determine the nature of those 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.