Edward de Bono says systematic creativity needed for business success

My Business Contributing Editor Nicola Card last week met the world's leading creative thinker - Edward de Bono. In this piece she brings us his thoughts on innovation, satisfaction and what makes him worry.

Meaningful and structured change and innovation can be achieved by organisations willing to install a ‘Chief Ideas Officer’ to listen and follow through to ensure that ideas are harnessed and turned into actions, according to the master of creative thinking Edward de Bono.

Edward de Bono

De Bono spoke to My Business last week at the Creative Innovation 2011 event where his key message emphasises systemizing creative processes.

“There is a common misperception that creativity means free and crazy, whereas we want ideas that work,” he said, citing an example of color-coded supermarket shopping baskets that denote whether you are ‘looking’ or want to be left alone as an example of a successful system.

“Creativity can be formal and logic – some critics miss the point.”

Innovation is not necessarily a Board responsibility; however “The Board must encourage innovation and formally appoint a Chief Ideas Officer.”

Asked whether creative thinking was a gift or a skill, he stated “The word ‘creative’ covers too much [but] it is a skill anyone can acquire,” adding a word on the importance of simplicity.

“Today so much in life is complicated, especially in government circles. There is no natural process for simplicity. All governments should have a Minister of Thinking to simplify things, including marriage laws.”

“Simplicity is a factor of creativity, simple is ideal [for example] reduce two pages of text to two lines. People are more willing to listen then,” said the author of 62 books who identifies the biggest enemy of thinking as complexity, which leads to confusion.

In short: simplicity breeds clarity; exemplified by de Bono’s succinct, clutter-free responses to the myriad of tangled, unwieldy questions raised during the conference.

Those included his opinions on geopolitics, a topic that led him to suggest the age of large-scale war is over.

“I think the days of wars or fights are probably over, simply because technology is such that it’s very destructive on all sides, and then people realise that once you have won what can you do, you cannot do anything,” de Bono said.

“So on that point I don’t think China is going to have a war against anyone, or anyone with China, nor India. Smaller nations like Syria and so on obviously can have problems and there is not much you can do about that, but I don’t foresee any major battles.”

The thinker also revealed how he deals with worries, and that most of his worries “ …relate to people I have been working with who have behaved very badly.”

When thoughts of such people intrude “I have a little signal that I give to myself ... when I think about something I don’t want to think about I just say ‘NFCN’ - not for consideration now.”

Another issue de Bono touched on is whether social media makes us lazy.

“If you are reacting all the time as opposed to doing anything you are not thinking.”

Responding to a question about what people want in life, de Bono said “Significance: in the family, in the gang, in a company. People want achievement, to be doing something and seeing it happen. If not, greed enters in. Achievement diminishes greed.”

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