Business improvement ideas: don't just settle for excellent

May 27 2009 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

How do you bring about change? The usual method is to prove that something is wrong or inadequate and therefore a change is needed. You may try and offer a better idea but unless you can show that the existing idea is deficient, it is unlikely that your better idea will be adopted.

This habit of thinking arises directly from the idiom of argument. You must set out to show that the existing idea is wrong in some respect.

There is a real practical need to have some way of saying: 'That is excellent Ė but not enough'. There are many situations where we need to say this. A politician may make the most wonderful speeches. That is excellent but it is not enough. Action is important too.

So I have invented a new word - 'ebne'. It means 'Excellent But Not Enough' (see my contribution last month).

Now, when you want to express that sentiment you simply say 'That is ebne'. This is instead of a whole paragraph of explanation.

The willingness to acknowledge something as 'excellent' is important. This is different from spurious attempts to prove something inadequate in order to suggest change. Something may indeed be excellent and yet change and improvement might still be necessary.

Our traditional habits of thinking are ebne. They are excellent but they are not enough. Truth, logic and argument are simply not enough. We need to add perceptual thinking. We need to add creative and design thinking.

Ebne could also be used in the sense of: 'That is indeed good but possibly we can do better.' This indicates the possibility of improvement. Note that this is not the main use, which indicates not an improvement in what exists, but the need to add something new.

In general, ebne covers the situations where there is no direct attack on what exists but the suggestion is that other things may be needed.

In a court of law there are only two possibilities: 'Innocent or guilty'. In real-life discussions things are more complex. In a sense you might be saying: 'Innocent but not innocent enough'. That is why a signal like ebne can be so useful.

Our traditional thinking is very much concerned with judgment. There is judgment as to which box or category something belongs in. We find it impossible to say that something falls partly in one box and partly in another. That would require a whole new concept and a new word to describe it. We do not yet have a word for someone who is half-friend and half-enemy.

Language is a history of the past and not a design for the future. That is why new words are needed from time to time. This is not difficult if the new word is for a technical invention such as the computer.

It is much more difficult if the word is for a needed function that we never noticed. As usual there is a huge complacency and self-satisfaction both with our thinking and also with our languages.

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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.