NEW: Max Dumais

When I floated the idea of a centre for thinking, Victor Smargan said ‘Ideas are a dime a dozen’. But Edward de Bono said, ‘Not good ones’.

Thinking is fun

When I set up the De Bono Institute I happened to mention the idea of a centre for thinking to wealthy industrialist Victor Smorgon.

His comment was: ‘Ideas are a dime a dozen!’

When I raised this observation with Edward de Bono himself, he simply said: ‘Yes – but not good ones!’ Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner puts it another way: ‘The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.’

People love to think and express their ideas provided they are confident that they will not make a fool of themselves.

The secret is to set some ground rules clear from the start that give everyone a framework so they know what is expected of them – and then just watch them thrive.

De Bono has a range of simple frameworks such as ‘What are the Positives in this situation, what are the Minuses and, importantly, what is Interesting – it is of the ‘interesting’ that bears the seeds of the innovation!’.

He calls it PMI for short. Everyone is aware of the value of SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They are simply little mental coat hangers to hold up ideas to consider.

Next time your team has a proposal to consider, try out this simple framework. It works in schools and it will work in strategy and planning meetings just as well. The aim is to get as many ideas out of people’s heads as possible before applying the critique factor.

Another of Edward’s tools is OPV – other people’s view. In other words, how would this idea work for our customers? How would it work for staff and how would it work for our shareholders? While you might end up with a number of different perspectives on the same proposal, it will make for a result that is richer and more likely to succeed.

Tip of the week: It pays to set aside some time in every planning meeting for people to free wheel with their thinking – but it also helps to set up some frameworks or guidelines to help people order their thinking. It is a bit like setting up a special ‘think space’ to allow some of the creative juices to flow.


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