Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of points out that people often limit their options by limiting the approach the use to finding solutions to routine approaches.

New Track Thinking

If you have a problem you can solve quite easily using a routine approach, why do you need new ideas and creativity? The answer is, because the obvious solution might not necessarily be the best one.

An obvious solution makes it very difficult to look for alternatives that might be quicker, simpler or cheaper. This is what I call ‘being blocked by openness’.

There is a real need to spend some time thinking creatively in an attempt to find a better solution, even when there is a routine solution to a problem or a routine way of doing something. You are not forced to do this, but you should have the desire to do it and to invest the creative effort that is required.

Creativity is often a requirement of improvement. If there is no obvious problem or fault, you might not believe an improvement is needed. However, a new creative idea could save money and time as well as providing new value.

Opportunities also require creativity. Creativity might be necessary to discover that an opportunity exists when it is not obvious and no one else has noticed.

Even when the opportunity is clear, a creative approach could be more effective than the routine one. You would also have less competition with this approach.

There is an obvious need for creativity in the design of new products, new services and new values, but this is normally applied in a very superficial manner.

The human brain is particularly good at adapting to its surroundings, and very good at setting up routine patterns. The most effective people have adapted perfectly to the culture, idioms and values of their organisation.

So we have the term ‘out of the box thinking’. However, I do not like this term because it implies that the other thinking is ‘in the box’, which is quite unfair.

Because of this, I favour the term ‘main track thinking’ for the effective thinking that runs the organisation. So creative thinking is ‘new track thinking’ – also very necessary.

Cars need reverse gears as well as forward gears. The driver chooses the gear to use. It is not a combination of forward and reverse gears. In a similar way, main track and new track thinking are both necessary. The need for main track thinking is clear, but there is not always an obvious need for new track thinking.

You can’t obtain ideas through the increased use of logic, even though they are usually logical in hindsight. This is the nature of an asymmetric system. Logicians and philosophers only deal with words rather than self-organising systems, so they always miss this point.

Very effective and successful new ideas can be incredibly simple. So why weren’t these ideas developed before? Sometimes the route to them has been blocked by openness, in the way I described above. There are times when a very different approach only becomes clear in hindsight.

Creativity and new ideas offer massive potential, but our complacency with existing ideas can block the way forward.

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