Interview with Prof Edward de Bono, world's leading expert in creative thinking.
There are not many people who can be considered living legends, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that famous Prof Edward de Bono, world’s most famous expert on creative thinking was visiting my town and was willing to meet me and give me a short interview for my creative thinking blog.
I have already met Prof de Bono many times in the past. I also attended his training program and became Parallel Thinking and Lateral Thinking trainer but we would always meet in the presence of other people and I have never had an opportunity to have this remarkable man all for myself. This time it would be different. This time Prof de Bono and I were to meet in the home of our mutual friend Mili and spend an afternoon together.
It was an unusually cold day for this time of the year, but the sun was shining through the huge living room windows of Mili’s apartment. Mili was a perfect hostess, she prepared our favourite blends of tea and soon we all felt warm and comfortable, especially Prof de Bono who could not refrain from telling jokes about the blonds (fortunately, Milli is a brunette).
Jokes are the most widespread manifestation of creative thinking because they use an unexpected point of view to create an interesting twist in the plot which, in the end, makes the story funny and original. Finally after much laughter, we came to the topic of creative thinking.
PG: You were among the first scientists who systematically explored mental processes and who proposed that thinking and creative skills can be developed and improved. Has the public sentiment changed since those early days? Is it still common thinking that creativity is a gift from god or do people realize that everybody can be trained to improve their thinking and creative potentials?
EdB: Creativity gets more attention today than it did when I started, but people still do think that it is a special gift that some people have and others can only envy. The idea that creativity is deliberate form of thinking that anyone can learn is not yet widely accepted.
PG: People often think that creativity is reserved for artists only and that people working in other professions cannot be equally creative. Artistic creativity is easily recognized but there is also another kind of creativity - idea creativity. How do we recognize and develop idea creativity?
EdB: Yes, people still do believe that creativity is only to do with art, but increasingly people in business and other places are talking about importance of creativity. We need to recognize that creativity is skill that can be developed through the use of lateral thinking and that anyone can develop the skill, but that not anyone can be equally proficient.
PG: In your work you have identified and developed several types of non-traditional thinking styles: parallel, lateral and perceptual thinking. Can you very briefly explain each of these thinking styles and where they can be best put to practice?
EdB: Parallel thinking is the use of six hats as six thinking modes to explore the subject. People thinking in parallel, using one mode at time is much more constructive and 10 times as fast as argument. It is now increasingly used in business. Lateral thinking is deliberate form of creativity based directly on the logic of patterning systems. There are tools and techniques based on this logic. Research has shown that most of mistakes in thinking are mistakes in perception and not logic. The CoRT program which I developed in schools is directly about perceptual thinking.
PG: Over the years teaching methods have improved, Internet and laptops have entered schoolrooms but has anything changed in teaching children how to think effectively?
EdB: To be sure Internet, laptops and other technology have changed education considerably. Unfortunately, because they provide information so easily, children start to believe that you don’t have to think; just you have to look for information.
PG: What the world would be like if ALL children were taught from the early age how to become better thinkers?
EdB: If all children were thought from early age how to become better thinkers, the world would be much more peaceful and constructive place. In Australia, Jennifer O’Sullivan showed that teaching thinking to deaf youngsters had a striking effect on their employment. Teaching thinking to prisoners reduces to 1/4 their chance to return to prison.
PG: Has there been any effort to institutionalize the teaching of your thinking skills, since they have such an amazing effect on lives of ordinary people?
EdB: At one time, the Government of Venezuela insisted that my thinking is thought in all schools. Unfortunately, there are not so many Governments that have good sense to do it. Education is usually in hands of the people who do not realize that thinking is the skill that can be thought.
PG: You read and write a lot, you are an active speaker and lecturer. How do you cherish your own creativity? What creative techniques do you use? What creative habits do you have?
EdB: Creativity is both an attitude and a number of formal skills. I am always seeking alternatives and different ways of doing things. I use the formal skills of lateral thinking from time to time.
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If you wish to further explore this topic, you can check out the selection of my favourite books about creative thinking.