Management thinking is not all about problems

2010

The rear left wheel of a motorcar is excellent. There is nothing to criticise. But if you believed that all you needed on a motorcar was the rear left wheel, then there would be something wrong with your belief, not with the wheel. I use this analogy when pointing out that our existing thinking methods and habits are excellent but not enough.

Far too many executives believe that management thinking consists of continuity and problem solving. This means keeping things going as they are and then solving the problems that arise from time to time.

So management thinking is all about problem solving. But what if something is not a problem?

Even when there is no general complacency, there is difficulty in thinking about things that are perfectly satisfactory.

There are at least three situations involved here:

Situation one: 'The good is the enemy of the best'. This means that we stop thinking when we have reached a 'good result'. Had we gone on thinking a bit more, we might have found an even better result.

We do not need to stop thinking because we have an adequate answer. There are often more answers than just one. So we need to develop the habit of continuing to think about the matter even when we have an adequate answer.

How much time, effort and energy do we put into finding the 'better answer'? Often there is a need for choice, for decision and for action. While we may spend some time looking for a better answer, this time is limited. Yet even a little time spent looking for a better answer is not time wasted. Now and again a better answer will indeed be found.

Situation two: In this second situation we think we know that there are other possible ways. The difficulty is in persuading others to explore these ways.

It is not possible to start from the deficiencies of the present approach, because none may be apparent. It is necessary to focus on the values and benefits provided by the other ways.

A comparison is then made between the values offered by the other methods and the values offered by the existing approach. Big differences may now be seen.

Situation three: Here the matter being considered is excellent in itself. It is not going to be changed or replaced. It is now an issue of saying that 'it is not sufficient'. One wheel on a car is excellent – but it is not sufficient.

Traditional thinking is excellent – but it is not sufficient.

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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.

Older Comments

I'll take it a step further and plug Dan Pink's book 'A Whole New Mind.' It's about developing the right brain functions that get ignored through traditional education. Those are the keys to success and future of business...creativity, visual imagery, emotional branding, risk taking and big picture thinking.

Scott Asai Santa Monica, CA

Jack Welch once said, 'when the change on the outside is faster than the change on the inside, the end is near.' All to often, executives focus on internal operational problems and fail to detect how the context of business has shifted and made their business less relevant.

John I. Todor, Ph.D. San Francisco

Sometimes you just have to know when good-enough is best. When cardiologists first started doing percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasties (PTCAs) we would say “the enemy of good is better”. Without fail, if flow through the coronary was reestablished and the ECG no longer showed signs of ischemia, the longer the physician attempted to pursue a better looking angiography, the more probable calamity would rear its ugly head and off to surgery we would be running.

The pursuit of perfection can be futile and a waste of time, life, and energy.

Michael Cylkowski Tempe, AZ