Creativity deserves to be taken seriously

Apr 06 2010 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

Add up every number from one to ten. Most people can do that in about 20 seconds. Now add up every number from one to 1,000. How long would that usually take you? Well, with a little creativity, you could do that in ten seconds.

The point I am trying to make with this exercise is that you know you need a new idea. In everyday life there are only a limited number of times when we know we need a new idea.

Most of the time we are unaware that we could benefit from a new idea. It is common to think, "If there's no problem to solve, who needs a new idea?"

However, there are plenty of uses for creativity. You can:

  • Solve a problem that cannot otherwise be solved
  • Seek alternative solutions that are quicker, simpler or less expensive
  • Find and develop opportunities
  • Simplify procedures that have become complicated
  • Cut costs and trim expenses
  • Develop new values in products or services
  • Find different ways to present things

Quite rightly, organisations spend a large amount of money on computers and IT systems. Information is essential but so are ideas. If such a thing existed, organisations would probably spend money on a creative computer.

Asking people to focus on continuity and at the same time embrace change is difficult. Continuity means keeping things going as they are going - which is the basis for most organisations. So it is not easy to then ask the same people to embrace the changes of creativity.

However, valuable creative ideas are always logical in hindsight - so there isn't a big risk. Plenty of ideas are worth doing or at least trying. But difference for the sake of difference is not creativity - I call it 'crazytivity'.

Given the choice between adding up all the numbers from one to 1,000 in the normal way or in the 10-second creative way, which would you choose?

It is important to take creativity seriously. After all, how can you fail to take creativity seriously when we know that much of progress depends on it? One reason is a lack of understanding. Creativity has always been a mystery. We can see the results but do not know how it happened.

Another reason is that we do not know what to do about creativity. We assume that ideas just happen every now and then and there is nothing you can do about them. Many people do not realise that you can use creativity in a formal way. You can deliberately generate new ideas.

Finance is taken very seriously by corporations, as are legal matters and research. However, creativity isn't taken seriously at all. So I believe that every organisation needs a CCO, or Chief Creativity Officer, as a formal position.

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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.