Getting into focus

Aug 28 2006 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

No matter how skilled you may be with creative (and lateral thinking) techniques, if your focus is weak, the results will be weak or even useless. In my experience, both focus fixing and harvesting are very poorly done, even when there is reasonable skill with the techniques.

If you have an obvious problem and think you have a solution, what is the need for creative thinking? Actually, there is a real need, because an adequate solution is not necessarily the best solution. Too often, the adequate blocks the best when it comes to problem solving.

Improvement should be an obvious area for creative effort. Anything and everything can be improved. There is potential improvement in many directions.

Almost everything can be simplified. Over time there is a natural tendency for things to get ever more complicated. There is no natural pressure for simplicity. We need to apply such pressure consciously.

Opportunity development requires creativity at several points. Creativity is needed to spot the opportunity in the first place. If you are following someone else with your own 'me-too' operation, then you need creativity to make your operation competitive. Once you have seen the opportunity, you then need creativity to design how you will develop the opportunity in a practical and rewarding way. Finally, you will need creativity to look ahead into the future to see what might happen.

A great deal of attention is paid to decision-making, and this attention is needed. It is usually assumed, however, that the alternatives are obvious. It is as if we are travelling along a road and come to a junction. The possible roads ahead are clearly signposted. Which one do we choose? Unfortunately, real life is not like that at all.

There may indeed be some obvious alternatives. But these obvious alternatives do not exclude other alternatives which are not obvious.

It may need creative thinking to discover these non-obvious alternatives. Such alternatives may not even be there unless we 'design' them. Designing possible ways forward is as much a part of decision-making and problem solving as assessing the values involved.

Creative thinking can become a habit of mind so that we are always looking for possibilities. We are not easily satisfied with the obvious. We multiply alternatives before choosing between them.

In addition to the 'habit' of creative thinking, there is also the discipline. This involves making a determined effort. We set out to use a creative technique in a deliberate fashion. We can do this to determine a focus.

We can do this to find a way of achieving a result. It is important to separate discipline from habit.

The danger is that those who have indeed acquired the habit of creativity make no effort to use the discipline because they feel that they do not need to. This is a mistake. The disciplined use of creative thinking often turns up ideas way beyond those that arise from the habit of creative thinking.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono (1933-2021) was 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.