Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of argues that our education system places too much emphasis on academic subjects and too little emphasis on the practical skills needed in business.

Judgment, recognition and operacy

With judgment you come to an idea and then you judge it. You accept the idea or you reject it. For most parts of our life, judgment is essential and extremely useful. The judgment of recognition allows us to make rapid use of past experience and also the experience of others. The judgment of assessment prevents us from making mistakes. Without judgment, it would be difficult to exist. So it is hardly surprising that we have put all the emphasis on truth and judgment.

Is there anything wrong with this model? No. On the contrary, it is very practical and effective. But it is not enough. Instead of accepting or rejecting an idea, you look at the idea in order to ‘see where you can move to’. This puts a very different sort of usefulness on ideas. We need much more emphasis on design - for everyone.

Schools are involved with literacy and numeracy. They should also be involved with operacy, which is the skill of operating, or getting things done. In the real world, that is almost as important as literacy and numeracy. For many years I was president of Young Enterprise. This involves thousands of youngsters in Europe, Russia, etc, in setting up their mini-businesses.

They come up with a business concept, they devise the marketing and sales strategies and ultimately they learn the skills needed to operate a business. Some of them are very ingenious. Some of them are very successful. It is a wonderful scheme. For traditional reasons, based in the early medieval times, education has tended to look down on business as money grabbing, commercial and not concerned with the higher things in life. In those days the upper classes were not interested in business, because their serfs and tenants provided the money and labour. This is an absurd attitude in today’s world.

In the UK today, youngsters still leave school knowing the names of Henry VIII’s wives and even the date of the Treaty of Utrecht. At the same time, they have no idea how the corner shop works or how the world of commerce operates.

Every successful business started as a design in someone’s mind. In general use, the word ‘design’ has an element of visual design and graphic design. Sometimes design is seen as a sort of cosmetic luxury. We badly need to broaden the meaning of the word ‘design’ to cover all those situations where we put things together to achieve some effect. Whenever standard routine is not enough, we need ‘design’.

Operacy is about action and the skill of thinking for action instead of thinking for description. Design is part of operacy. Like action, design always has a purpose. With action we set out to achieve something. With design we set out to achieve something. Design is the basis for action.


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