How can you tell when you need new ideas?

Apr 30 2010 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

If you have a problem you can solve quite easily using a routine approach, why do you need creativity and new ideas? Answer: because the obvious solution might not be the best one.

An obvious solution makes it very hard to look for alternatives that might be quicker, simpler or cheaper. I call this 'being blocked by openness'.

There is a real need to spend some time thinking creatively to try to find a better solution, even when there is a routine solution to a problem or a routine way of doing something. While you are not forced to do this, you should have the desire to do it and to invest the creative effort that is required.

Improvements often require creativity. If there is no obvious problem or fault, you might not believe an improvement is necessary. However, a new creative idea can save money and time and provide new value.

Opportunities require creativity. You might need creativity to discover that an opportunity exists when it is not obvious and no one else has noticed.

Even when the opportunity is obvious, a creative approach could be more effective than the routine one. You would also have less competition with this approach.

There is an obvious need for creativity in the design of new products, new services and new values, but this is usually applied in a very superficial way.

The human brain is very adept at adapting to its surroundings, and excellent at setting up routine patterns. The most effective people have adapted very well to the culture, idioms and values of their organisation.

And so we have the term 'out of the box thinking'. But I do not like this term because it implies that the other thinking is 'in the box', which is quite unfair on highly competent executives.

Therefore, I favour the term 'main track thinking' for the effective thinking that runs the organisation. So creative thinking is 'new track thinking', which is also necessary.

Motorcars require reverse gears as well as forward gears. You choose which gear to use. It is not a combination of forward and reverse gears. Similarly, main track and new track thinking are both necessary. The need for main track thinking is obvious, but there is not always an obvious need for new track thinking.

Ideas cannot be obtained through the increased use of logic, even though they are usually logical in hindsight. This is the nature of asymmetric systems. Logicians and philosophers have only dealt with words rather than self-organising systems, so they have always missed this point.

Very effective and successful new ideas can be breathtakingly simple. So why weren't these ideas developed years earlier? Sometimes the route to them has been blocked by openness, in the way I described earlier. There are times when a very different approach only becomes obvious in hindsight.

Creativity and new ideas offer huge potential. However, our complacency with existing ideas can block the way forward.

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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.