Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of says that there is a mistaken belief that creativity should be totally free and unfettered - that restrictions or barriers will limit and stifle the creative process.

Structured Creativity

In many cases, creativity becomes easier with some sort of structure. Take a look at the following statements:

           ‘I would like you to write a book about aliens’.

           ‘I would like you to write a book about aliens who all behave like monkeys’.

The apparent restriction of the second request in fact makes creativity simpler as the request has focus and therefore helps you channel your creative energies.

In general, exclusions force a bigger change than inclusions. If you said you wanted a new game of football without the use of a ball, then your thinking would have to go much wider. If you said you wanted a new sport where there wasn’t a limit on the number of players in each team, then you would need to think rather hard.

In some cases a request might involve a very small change. That then raises the question as to when does creativity become problem-solving - and vice versa? The answer is that there can be plenty of overlap. If you want an idea to solve a specific problem, then that is problem-solving. For example, if you asked for a method of speeding up the checkout process in a supermarket, then that could be problem-solving. However, if you asked for a way of making the checkout process more enjoyable, then that requires creativity.

The only reason for separating problem-solving from creativity in general is that with problem-solving there is a particular problem to be solved. With creativity there is an area in which new values are being sought.

The distinctions listed here might seem philosophical rather than practical, but the point is that creativity works best when it is applied in a disciplined manner – you need to know what you are attempting to do.

Far from limiting creativity, the introduction of restrictions and focus actually enhances the process. What’s more, each new idea feeds into other new ideas in a continuous process.


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