Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Creative thinking

The second session I was really looking forward to - Dr Edward de Bono - the pioneer of lateral thinking. Instead of the normal death by powerpoint, so loved by Gartner analysts, he used old fashioned acetates which he drew on.

He talked about creative thought, and how it was an essential thing - not a luxury. The most significant part of the human brain was humour - which he illustrated with some slightly dodgy jokes!

He advocates a number of ways of making our thought processes more creative. Challenging, or putting a block into a normal process being one of them. For example he had advised an oil company to imagine a situation where oil wells could not be drilled vertically straight down. They'd have to bend and go horizontally. This was unheard of in the oil industry, but in fact this increases the oil yield, and now almost all wells are drilled that way. Another example (my favourite) involved looking at alternative ways of controlling car parking without installing meters or pay and display machines which are costly. Instead, he came up with the idea of allowing cars to park as long as they wanted - as long as they kept their headlights full on. This has been adopted in some places and has solved parking problems as everyone parks for as short a period as possible!

Other tactics he talked us through included inserting a random word into thought processes, and provocation - provoking a change.

He also outlined his famous thinking hats method as an alternative to argument, which he saw as a very negative way of exploring opposing ideas, preferring to adopt parallel thinking.

When asked about his views on education, his opinion was that "thinking" should be taught as a separate subject in schools, and where this had been adopted performance in other subject areas had been improved.

An entertaining talk, and it was good to see someone who's books have been on my bookshelves for as long as I care to remember!

In one of the refreshment breaks I escaped for a quick stroll across the road to Kensington Gardens to get some fresh air, and was amazed by the birdlife - comorants and herons - in the middle of London.

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