Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Think! Before it's too late by Edward deBono

Book Review: Think! Before it's too late (by Edward de Bono)
written by Patrick Wirth

Creativity is universally linked to the notion of novel ideas and solutions to challenges. At the core of creative problem solving is the act of thinking. This is a book review of de Bono, E. (2009). Think! Before it’s too late. Great Britain:Ebury Publishing. This nonfiction book authored by Edward de Bono provides the reader with an introduction to his extensive work on the subject of creative thinking. De Bono is a classic scholar in the field of creative thinking and is widely recognized for his theories of creative thinking, in particular lateral thinking. His life’s work has been devoted to studying the mechanics of the mind as it relates to creative thinking.

The broad appeal of de Bono’s work results from techniques he outlines to propel traditional thinking beyond the status quo. His models provide a practical means to drive creative break-through thinking. His work in this area is extensive. In this book, de Bono promotesthat traditional thinking was developed over 2,400 years ago by the GG3. This was the Greek Gang of Three. They were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. From them emerged the traditional approachesto thinking of argument, truth, and logic. These still exist today as the foundation of traditional thinking models.

The overall theme of the book is that the existing traditional linear thinking systems are excellent, but not enough. De Bono, as an advocate for creative thinking, feels there’s a huge deficiency in our creative thinking habits. De Bono argues that the human brain is not designed to be creative. “It is designed to set up routine patterns and to use and follow these patterns” (p. 21). These patterns can be linked back to the thinking models that emerged from the GG3. He devotes the vast majority of this book dissecting the limiting nature of traditional thinking approaches in education, government and everyday life, as well as drawing out the immense opportunity for creative thinking.

De Bono believes that creativity is an inborn talent which can be nurtured, developed and taught. “There is a need for more deliberate processes to encourage and enhance creativity actively” (p. 27). De Bono’s solution to supporting the development of creative thinking is his life’s work: lateral thinking methods. Where traditional thinking of argument, truth and logic is linear, lateral thinking means moving across patterns instead of moving along them. The movement in lateral thinking comes from provocation. He provides a brief overview of the key lateral thinking tools he has developed and weaves several examples of the favorable impact these tools have had in his review of education, government and day-to-day life.

I have a personal interest in the notion of creative thinking. I have done some cursory reading about Edward de Bono in the past and thought I would use this opportunity to take a closer look at his work. I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed this book. The book is 250 pages long, costs less then $20 US dollars and is a fast, easy and very interesting read. I highly recommend this book to the reader that is interested in getting an introduction to Edward de Bono’s thoughts about creativity, traditional thinking and creative thinking. This isn’t a deep dive into de Bono’s lateral thinking models and tools. He provides a brief overview of lateral thinking executed in an easy to understand manner that has provoked me to do further research and reading. I think there is something in this book for everyone who has an interest in the area of creativity from school teachers, university professors, government officials, business leaders and parents.

For me, the primary connection was with myprofessional work as a business person. He devotes an entire chapter to leadership and thinking in the business world. It was very interesting to read that in his many years of experience in the field, de Bono believes the business sector is more interested in thinking than any other sector of society. I certainly would agree that the business sector relies on and needs more creative thinking. As a parent, I find this concerning as it relates to education for our children. Children today have access to so much information and answers are so readily available to virtually everything on the internet, where is “thinking” going in our traditional school education? Where is the focus on developing creative thinking skills?

The primary issue raised in this book was the limited nature of traditional thinking methods and the opportunity for creative thinking methods to be taught. I absolutely agree with the limited nature of traditional thinking methods. I find this to be self validating in my personal life and professional experience. I’m profoundly intrigued by the notion of creative thinking being a skill that can be developed. In my role as a husband, father, businessperson and contributing member to society, I know I have untapped creative thinking talent that is latent within me, that if unleashed, could help me be better at working through life’s challenges and helping others. I’m motivated to take further action. I will be reading more about the de Bono thinking systems and investigating formal training in lateral thinking going forward.

This book challenges the status quo approach to the traditional thinking methods of argument, truth and logic. It supports the notion that creative thinking is a skill that resides in all people and is not reserved for intellects, geeks and those living on the edge. The author provides an introduction to the tools of lateral thinking which has a demonstrated track record for developing the skills of creative thinking.

My advice for those considering reading this book, do it. It will provoke you to think more about your own approach to thinking and challenge you to become a more creative thinker.

Patrick Wirth has 25 years professional experience in product development, finance, operations strategic planning and lean. He is currently Director of Product Development Support and Lean Champion at Mattel for Fisher-Price Brands. Patrick holds a BS in Finance from Canisius College, a BS in Industrial Technology from Buffalo State, an MBA from Canisius College and professional certifications in Production and Inventory Control, Certified Lean Professional and Foursight. Patrick has 9 credit hours remaining to complete Masters in Creativity and Change Leadership at the ICSC.

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