Leadership and the need for creative thinking

2010

It is almost impossible for a leader to talk about the importance of thinking. It has to be assumed that his or her thinking is near perfect. Furthermore, to talk about thinking makes the leader very vulnerable, as any policy or action can be attacked on the grounds that it shows poor thinking. So leadership is not often talked about in terms of creative thinking.

The problem leaders have is two-fold. If you yourself have done very well with the existing modes of thinking, why should you encourage others to learn further modes? But if you live in innocent ignorance of the other modes of thinking, how can you be anything but complacent about thinking?

As far as education is concerned, far from encouraging further developments in human thinking, the leadership is more often minded to block such developments. Even if practical evidence shows the powerful effect of teaching perceptual thinking and creative thinking, the comfort of complacency, helped by traditional advisers, is more appealing.

We may come to develop a new language for thinking. We certainly need a new language for perception. This would be softer and less hard-edged than our existing language. It would be like the contours of a landscape rather than the solidity of a building.

Instead of having to see someone as a 'friend' or an 'enemy', we might see the person as a complex of different factors. It may be appropriate to treat that person as an 'enemy' for the moment, but that does not mean that the person is an enemy.

In the end we have to make decisions and take practical action – but judgments do not have to be permanent and irreversible. In politics there may be two people who hate each other's guts, but they know that they need each other and so have to work together.

There is much to do in the design of better thinking. The first steps have been taken, but there is still a long way to go.

It is very significant that when I wrote my first book (called 'The Use of Lateral Thinking' in the UK and 'New Think' in the USA), the section of society that showed the most interest in thinking wasn't education, it was the business community. This was the case even though that book had nothing directly to do with business.

This has been my experience ever since. Business has continued to be more interested in thinking, in general, than any other sector of society. The explanation for this is because there is a reality test. There is a bottom line. There are sales figures and profit figures. There are results.

So it is quite easy to tell how you are doing. If you are doing well you want to do better. If you are doing badly you need to do better. Business really needs to use creative thinking to succeed. Better and more creative thinking will result in more profits or market share.

In business there is an obvious need for new thinking. In most other sectors of society there is no bottom line. In all other sectors of society, such as politics, the media and the academic world, it is enough to argue and see to prove verbally that you are right. There is no need at all for better thinking or creativity. In business you can argue until you're blue in the face that you are right – and still go bankrupt a month later.

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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.