The risk of creativity

Sep 19 2006 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

If you are embarking on something different, new and creative, you can't be sure how it will turn out. You can hope, quite reasonably, that putting together ingredients with known actions will produce a particular effect, much the same as a cook creating a new dish.

There are ways of exploring the impact of creativity through a new idea or product, such as pilot schemes, test-marketing, etc. While valuable, these may not be as simple as they seem.

Some years ago, McDonald's had the idea of serving breakfasts. They already had the image, the restaurants and the staff, so why not open up this new source of revenue?

The company lost money on this venture for four years because people just weren't in the habit of eating breakfast outside their homes. During that time of failure, the new venture could have been scrapped as a bad idea. However, McDonald's did not give up and after those four difficult years breakfasts became the most profitable part of the business.

So how long should a pilot scheme last? It is a question that is impossible to answer. It takes a long time to change culture and habits. So the test could be over the long term. But how long is long term? Three, four, five years?

You need to foresee risks and creative ideas have to be designed to minimise them. It's not sufficient just to have a basic creative idea and then go ahead and use it.

There have been many excellent creative ideas that have failed due to insufficient attention to the design stage. The creative idea is tried in its original, unsophisticated form, fails to work and so is shelved. But with some design effort, the idea could have been very successful.

Don't assume, however, that creative ideas are always high-risk ventures. When this assumption is made, there can be a tendency to avoid creativity altogether, and this will result in an organisation or enterprise operating well below potential.

The greater the efficiency of an organisation, the greater the need is for creativity. Efficiency will extract the maximum benefit from a new idea. If an organisation is inefficient, it will be inefficient with new ideas. Efficiency and creativity complement, not oppose, one another.

more articles

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.