New language


If there is a need for a new word for some behaviour, some concept or some state of mind, then introducing that new word can be difficult.

I introduced the phrase 'lateral thinking' in 1967 and it is now very widely found. One of the reasons for its common use is that the phenomenon is easily recognised. Another reason is that a regular adjective was joined with a regular noun.

One new word that is badly needed is one that describes 'a completely justified venture which for reasons beyond your control did not succeed'. The venture's lack of success is seen as a 'failure' or 'mistake'. Because of this, people are unwilling to take risks.

However, at this point I want to introduce a totally different word: dettle.

This new word is a verb: 'to dettle', while a 'dettler' is someone who dettles a lot. To dettle means to be obsessively concerned with 'details'.

There is a phrase, 'You cannot see the wood for the trees' – in other words, as you concentrate on the individual trees, you cannot get the big picture of the wood.

There is, of course, the flipside. In the case of contracts it is often said that the 'devil is in the details'. There are people who are able to see the broader picture, but are not so sharp at working out the details.

'Could you do some dettling here'; 'Could we dettle this?'; 'We need to have more dettle here'.

'Dettle' is a general verb that means to focus upon and work with details. The word 'dettler' can be used in both a positive sense and also a negative sense: 'We should give it to him - he's a very effective dettler', or 'He's just a dettler - he fails to see the big picture'.

The central definition of 'dettle' is: to work out the details; to focus on the details; to be obsessed with details; to be concerned with details.

The different nuances of meaning come with additional words or context: 'He is just a dettler';'Give it to him - he is a great dettler'; 'We need some good dettling here'; 'More and more dettling will not change the strategy'.

A new word creates a new concept that becomes imbedded in our thinking behaviour. The new word occupies a location in the brain. A description is like an itinerary put together by the travel agent. It only exists for the length of time we use it.

A new word becomes permanent, like a town.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono is a leading authority in the field of creative thinking. Over 35 years after the publication of his first book, "The Mechanism of Mind", the basic principles he outlined are now mainstream thinking in the mathematics of self-organising systems and in the design of neuro-computers. His many subsequent books have been translated into 26 languages.