Where is Creative Thinking Really Taught?

We are pleased to be able to present the thoughts about creativity from Edward de Bono who has spent the last 30 years working to develop strategies to encourage creative thinking and also from the Nomura Research Institute in Japan. It is not enough to teach "what is" when we could also be encouraging invention and innovation by encouraging students to ask the right questions. It is our goal that entrepreneurship and creative thinking become a priority to all those that are teaching students to be competent for tomorrow's world of work.

Edward de Bono says "'There are three basic aspects of thinking: 1. what is; 2. what may be; and 3. what can be.' We are almost totally obsessed with 'what is'. We underestimate the extremely valuable contribution that 'what may be' has made to progress. We do very little about 'what can be' even though our future depends entirely on this aspect."

Think about how the following thoughts of Edward deBono apply to what we teach and how we teach it.

  • "The most basic human skill, and the one on which both social and economic progress depends is not taught. The single most important thing that any government can do anywhere is to teach 'constructive' thinking to its youngsters. So why, except in a few countries, is this not being done?"

  • A two finger typist with hundreds of hours of practice is still a two finger typist. A few hours learning touch typing would have made a huge difference. It is the same with thinking. The basic skills of thinking need to be taught directly and explicitly. The teaching of "critical" thinking is totally inadequate. Judgment is not enough. It becomes very difficult to say: "That is excellent. There is nothing wrong with it at all. But it is not enough." The front left wheel of a car is excellent, but it is not enough. Critical thinking is excellent but it is not enough. We need generative, productive, design and creative thinking."

  • "In a stable world, knowledge of standard situations and the routine ways of dealing with them is sufficient. Not so in a changing world. Routines and category judgments from the past may be inadequate, misleading and dangerous. Instead of analysis and judgment, we need design. We need to be able to 'design' ways forward."

  • "From where are we going to get the new ideas that are needed to design our way into the future? Not from the greater exercise of our traditional thinking, which is much too slow at producing new ideas. Nor can we wait for the slowness of chance and evolution."

  • In education we are concerned with literacy and numeracy. That leaves out the most important aspect of all, which I call 'operacy'. The skills of action are every bit as important as the skills of knowing. We neglect them completely and turn out students who have little to contribute to society."

  • "There are several ways of defining lateral thinking, ranging from the technical to the illustrative.
    1. You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper .This means that trying harder in the same direction may not be as useful as changing direction. Effort in the same direction (approach) will not necessarily succeed.
    2. Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perceptions"

  • The brain is specifically designed to be 'non creative'. If it were creative the brain would be utterly useless. It would be impossible to get up in the morning or to function at all. With only eleven items of clothing there are 39,916,800 ways of getting dressed. To go through these and to sort them out would take a lifetime. We do not need to because the brain simply switches us into the appropriate routine. That is the basis of perception and of action."

  • "Because the processes of deliberate creativity are not natural there is a need to practice them. Riding a bicycle is not at all natural but once we have learned to ride a bicycle then it becomes easy."

  • "The excellent and much acclaimed Information Age is over. We are now moving into the "idea age" or "concept age." Concepts are the 'genes' of ideas. There was a time when information was the bottleneck. No more. We can get all the information we need. The new bottleneck is 'thinking' and creative thinking in particular. The analysis of information does not yield new ideas because the brain can only see what it is prepared to see . . .so you have to be able to create the idea first as a possibility."

  • "Then there is the old fashioned notion of brainstorming which is very weak. Being liberated and suspending judgement is not enough. The brain is designed to be non-creative and to form routine patterns out of integrated experience."

  • "Once we start to understand the brain as a self-organising information system then we can devise the formal deliberate tools of lateral thinking. These can be learned and used. Just as anyone can learn mathematics so anyone can learn creativity."

  • "It is not much use making a creative effort if you are then unable to appreciate your own effort. So it is important to develop a habit of mind which sets out to find value in anything. With time you will become more and more able to detect real and potential values. One outcome of creative thinking is specifically to focus attention on discovering value. When we set out to discover value there can be some big surprises. Very often there is a sudden 'insight switch'. A value which was never even glimpsed suddenly becomes obvious." (The ah-haa feeling)

  • "We do not make very full value of the opportunities provided by technology because we prefer critical to constructive thinking, argument to design. Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything."

  • "With 'parallel thinking' both sides (or all parties) are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage the way forward is 'designed' from the parallel thoughts that have been laid out."

  • "Creativity is never a substitute for competence. If the car does not start there is no point in being creative about destinations. On the other hand, competence is only a substitute for creativity when everyone around is being incompetent.

    Competence is the baseline but creativity is the value creation."

The Nomura Institute's proposition (Japan) is that "Creativity will be the next economic activity, replacing the current focus on information. Historically, agriculture, industrial production and information were the dominant spheres of human economic activity. This prediction places creativity in the category of historically significant paradigms that have shaped human economic history from the beginning of time. Thus, just as the industrial revolution replaced agriculture as the dominant economic activity, creativity will replace the "information age" as the next dominant global economic focus."

The sophisticated use of information will create intellectual assets that will drive the development of products and services offering new value, greatly altering the shape of the economy and society. And in the process, companies and society will be challenged to develop new structures and new ways of doing things." (Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.)

Meet Edward deBono. The above concepts were selected from material provided on the Edward de Bono web page and have been quoted here with permission for teachers to use and quote in their support of entrepreneurship education in their schools. For further information please check out the following: web site.

Thinking Managers is a new web site containing hundreds of pages of articles by Edward de Bono, the inventor of lateral thinking, and Robert Heller, the renowned business writer. They have put a link from Thinking Managers to the Consortium web site....entre-ed.org. You can see it at: http://www.thinkingmanagers.com/links/entrepreneurship.php.