Creativity in business

Oct 17 2008 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

Creative thinking is a skill in the same way that mathematics is a skill. Once learnt, the processes and tools of lateral thinking can be used formally and deliberately to produce new ideas. Using just one of the tools of lateral thinking, one workshop in South Africa generated 21,000 new ideas in a single afternoon.

I have 1,200 trainers worldwide who are able to teach these skills, and anyone can learn them. As with any skill, not everyone will be equally proficient in the skill of creative thinking. Some will show more aptitude than others. However, everyone can acquire a useful level of skill.

Creativity in business is sometimes discouraged because of the risk and uncertainty associated with it. Also, not many people have developed the skill of creativity.

Some people recognise the need for creativity but feel they do not need any new ideas for the time being. Some people feel they have all the ideas they can handle or they feel that new ideas would be a distraction and a disturbance.

Sometimes this attitude can be completely justified, but never as a permanent standpoint. New ideas can simplify processes. New ideas can save money and suggest alternative routes. New ideas should not be restricted to new products or services.

Perhaps someone believes they are fully capable of having all the new ideas they need.

Someone might indeed be very creative but there is no limit to creativity. It is always possible to have more ideas. These may be directly usable themselves, or they might trigger further ideas in one's mind.

Somebody might, on the contrary, think that there could be important new ideas and that these would be so attractive that they would distract them from what they were doing. They would rather not be tempted.

This point of view is valid if that person is incapable of focusing on what they are doing. New ideas are not an obligation – they are a bonus.

Most executives are preoccupied with keeping things as they are and solving problems as they arise. They feel that continuity and problem-solving are enough.

So what is the source of change? Ideas can be copied, borrowed or stolen from other people. Change can come about through your own thinking.

Change usually comes as a result of reacting to information and circumstances. Only rarely is change driven by a motivation or the will to do better. Most people are rewarded for 'doing well', but not 'doing better'. Competence and expertise are valued while creativity is neglected.

The true enemy of creativity is complacency – not negativity, as is commonly believed. Complacency results in the belief that things are perfect as they are and any change is unnecessary – and perhaps even dangerous.

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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.