Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of points out that language is a history of the past and that it would be helpful if we invented some new words to describe concepts that are otherwise in danger of being overlooked.

Excellent But Not Enough

How do you go about implementing change? The usual method is to show that something is wrong or inadequate and therefore a change is needed. You might try and offer a better idea but unless you can show that the existing idea is deficient, it is unlikely that your better idea will be adopted.

This habit of thinking comes directly from the idiom of argument. You must set out to show that the existing idea is faulty in some respect.

There is a real practical need to have some way of saying: ‘This is excellent – but not enough’. There are lots situations where we need to say this. A politician might make the most wonderful speeches. That is excellent, although not enough. Action is also important.

So I have invented the word ‘ebne’, which means ‘Excellent But Not Enough’.

Now, when you want to express that sentiment you just say ‘That is ebne’. This precludes a whole paragraph of explanation.

The willingness to acknowledge something as ‘excellent’ is important but this is different from spurious attempts to show something as inadequate in order to suggest change. Something might indeed be excellent and yet change could still be necessary.

Our traditional thinking habits are ebne. While excellent, they are not enough. Truth, logic and argument just aren’t enough. We also need perceptual thinking. We also need creative and design thinking. We also need the genuine exploratory function of Six Hat Thinking instead of always relying on argument.

Ebne can also be used in the sense of: ‘That is indeed good but possibly we can do better.’ This indicates that improvement is possible. Note that this is not the main use, which indicates not an improvement in what exists, but the need to add something else.

Generally speaking, ebne covers the situations where there is no direct attack on what exists but the suggestion is that other things may be needed. In a court of law there exist only two possibilities: ‘Innocent or guilty’. In real-life discussions there are many more possibilities. You might say: ‘Innocent but not innocent enough’. That is why a signal like ebne can be so valuable.

Our traditional ways of thinking are very much concerned with judgment. You judge which box or category something belongs in. We find it impossible to say that something belongs partly in one box and partly in another. For that you would need a whole new concept and a new word to describe it. We do not yet have a term for someone who is half-friend and half-enemy.

Language is a history of the past rather than a design for the future. That is why we need new words from time to time. This is not difficult if the new word is for a technical invention like the computer. It is far more difficult if the word is for a needed function that we never noticed. As usual we are hugely complacent and self-satisfied both with our thinking and also with our languages.

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.