How lateral thinking can make your creativity really take off

Creativity is not a talent of the few; it can be taught to everyone, with direct beneficial results. Today, it is as significant as energy sources and information. Good products are not enough; new ideas which people can learn to generate and convert into products are required all the time. Such are the views of Edward de Bono, the man who elevated the study of creative thinking into not only a separate theoretical application but also into an especially profitable activity. Each seminar he holds for firms costs $25,000. After teaching at Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard, de Bono started his own seminars, which have now spread around the world. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages, and several of them have hit the best-seller lists. De Bono spoke to Kathimerini ahead of his arrival in Athens for the Greek Advertising Companies Association’s (EDEE) ninth conference on communication, titled «Ideas Move the World» on November 7 and 8, where he will be the keynote speaker. Do theories about thought introduce something new we previously knew nothing about, or do they simply classify knowledge about creative thought that we have possessed for centuries? In our age, for the first time in history, we can understand how the human mind works. Its function as a system for the organization of information enables us to design creative tools for lateral thinking. This has never been possible in the past. You say that creativity is not a talent or «secret gift,» but an ability which every one of us can develop with tools such as lateral thinking. How then do you explain human creativity as it was expressed for centuries before the invention of such techniques. Some people find incentives to be creative and make an internal effort in this direction. Others have used some aspects of their potential creativity, but without standardizing them. But with lateral thinking we can use very strong creative tools in ways designed for our purposes. What is this «lateral thinking» and how does it differ from ordinary thought? Lateral thinking concerns changes in ways of thought and changes in views more than the utilization of some already existing ones. It is really like a method of cross-checking different ways of thought. The basic processes and tools of creativity are the same, wherever they are applied. What are the «Five Stages of Thought,» which is another theory of yours? Aim and concentration; information and perception; creativity and probabilities; evaluation and selection; application. Can you give us an example of your third theory, the «Six Hats and Six Shoes»? Every man sees and thinks in a «parallel» rather than «contrary» way, as, for instance, happens with organizing an argument. And so, each hat concerns the direction of a thought; the white hat, for example, is for information, the green hat for creativity, the red hat for feelings. The issue is how one learns to use all this. Why do you consider humor a very important factor in the creative process? Because humor shows how the brain works as a system of self-organization that can create asymmetrical mottos. You say that even a very clever man can think very poorly. Can you explain what this means and whether the opposite can also be the case? Intelligence is like a vehicle’s horsepower. But, a strong car can have a bad driver. A clever person can use his/her intelligence just to determine the priorities in his field in sight, and not, for instance, to explore his subject. The Gang of Three You refer to Socrates, Aristotle and Plato as the «Gang of Three» and charge them with teaching us to think in terms of «wrong-right,» which you consider disastrous for businesses. Do you believe this is equally wrong for man’s or society’s way of thinking? And what would you counter-propose? The idea of the Gang of Three is perfect for one to recognize and deal with standard, classic, stable situations. It is good for technology and science but poor for human affairs, where we need to design ways of seeing ahead, not for passing moral judgment.