Over the years Dr Edward de Bono has shared great insights through his messages. This series of blogs revisits some of those highlights.
“Creativity is going to be the most important part of your life and your business. What ideas do you hold about this matter? There are many rather old-fashioned ideas around the field of creativity. I list some points below and will return in more detail to them in future ‘new messages’.
1. I am not happy with the general term ‘creativity’.
The word ‘create’ means bringing into being something new. There are many people capable of creating ‘messes’. So we add ‘….and of value’. So creativity means bringing into being something new that has value. This covers artistic creativity. But many artists are not creative in the sense of ‘change’. Their emotional resonance, sensitivity, power of expression and aesthetic sense may be superb but there may be very little change. If, whenever, we talk about creativity we are linked to the artistic model it becomes difficult to make progress. That is one of the reasons why I invented the term ‘lateral thinking’ (1967).
Lateral Thinking is specifically concerned with changing concepts and perceptions. There is a mathematical definition of lateral thinking based on the formation of asymmetric patterns in self organising information systems. We can talk about lateral thinking without getting sidetracked into other aspects of artistic achievement. As a matter of interest many artists, particularly musicians, have written to tell me they use my processes of lateral thinking in their work even though I am not talking about artistic creativity.
2. Most people have not yet noticed it but we are already moving out of the information age and into the concept age.
We can get all the information we want but that does not create value unless there is a specific need. Progress in technology will provide very little increase in value. Already today, technology is way ahead of the value we ask technology to provide. The emphasis is beginning to shift to value concepts. We need to develop the value concepts directly. Technology can then make them happen. Yet we spend millions of dollars and hours of thinking time on technology when the key area of value creation is largely neglected. It is deliberate creativity that will fashion the value concepts we so badly need.
3. Information is becoming a commodity. Technology is becoming a commodity. Competence is becoming a commodity.
So what is going to make a difference? Only creativity.
Being competent and having excellent customer service is not going to ensure the survival of an organisation. If your competitive hope is that your competitors will continue to be more incompetent than yourselves then that is a very weak basis for survival. Creativity is going to be the key differentiating process in the future.
Most organisations talk a lot about creativity and have not the faintest idea of what to do about it. The thinking is usually old-fashioned.
4. Traditional brainstorming is very weak and more useful in the advertising world (where novelty can be a value) than elsewhere.
The very existence of brainstorming has prevented us from making progress in serious creativity.
An ordinary person is walking along a road. Someone ties that person up tightly with a rope. A violin is now produced. The tied up person cannot possibly play the violin. So we cut the rope. Does that make the person a violinist? Of course not. Yet that is precisely what we have done about creativity for the last fifty years. We have believed that if a person is inhibited then that person cannot be creative. So if we liberated that person (brainstorming) then creativity would follow. This is no more logical than expecting the untied person to become a violinist.
The human brain is specifically designed to be non-creative. The purpose of the brain is to form routine patterns from sequences of experience and to use such patterns. If the brain operated in any other way life would be completely impossible.
So messing around, suspending judgement and hoping ideas will emerge is very inefficient.
5. There is the belief that some people are inherently creative and others can only envy such people.
This is nonsense. Creativity is a skill that anyone can acquire – if they seriously set their minds to doing so. As with any skill, some people will be better at creativity than others. But everyone can acquire a usable level of skill.
Creativity is not a mysterious talent or divine inspiration but the operation of information in a self-organising information system which forms asymmetric patterns. Once we understand this then we can fashion deliberate tools of creativity. These are the tools of lateral thinking such as: provocation, random entry etc. There is no magic about such processes. They are as formal and can be used as deliberately as mathematical processes. Recently someone told me how the use of just one of these tools produced 21,000 ideas.
6. We need to distinguish between creativity and ‘crazitivity’.
Far too many people believe that being crazy is being creative. Wow! I have painted my face green – is that not very creative?
Any creative idea is new and different. So people assume that any different idea is creative. This is the sort of rubbish that gets creativity a bad name. Difference is easy and may have little or no value. I am always being told that things should be wild, crazy and off-the-wall. This is silly and pointless ‘show-off’ creativity. It is advocated by those who have a great motivation to be creative but do not know how.
7. In the future if your job does not require creativity then you are replaceable by a computer.
The only role for a person is to bring into consideration past experience or current factors in order to complete the transition from input to action output. In the future these functions will be performed by traditional computers, neural net machines, expert systems and the newer stylops.
The only need for a person will be to introduce creativity and discontinuity. People may, possibly, be needed to monitor breakdowns and discontinuities.
About the author:
The Holst Group is Dr Edward de Bono’s partner in Europe. Click here for more information about Dr de Bono and his tools. http://www.holstgroup.co.uk/edward_de_bono_training/dr de Bono is a world leading authority on thinking skills. Creator of the Six Thinking Hats®, Lateral Thinking and many other workshops he has authored 62 books published in 32 languages.