16 JANUARY 2002

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De Bono puts on his working shoes

Famed Maltese lateral thinker Edward de Bono introduced his latest concept, Six Action Shoes, at a conference recently.

The business guru has a penchant for using everyday items to explain complex concepts hence his Six Thinking Hats and his latest offering - action shoes.

The shoes represent the many roles we play in life, and the different action required in problem solving and decision making, of course metaphorically speaking.

Navy formal shoes are required for routine tasks, explained De Bono. "We use this kind of thinking when going through a routine, step by step."

"Brown brogues are needed when we are being entrepreneurial. There will be guidelines of legality and cost while making these sorts of decisions, but our thinking should be free when looking for the solutions."

Grey trainers are for observing and investigating; they are "worn" during a period of research, not for actively changing anything.

Orange gumboots are for action during a crisis, while pink slippers represent human values.

Finally, purple riding boots are for encouraging a sense of authority.

"The shoes can be worn together," says De Bono.

"You can wear one orange gumboot with a pink slipper, for instance, when people issues are at the forefront during a corporate crisis."

While the shoes focus on action, De Bono's six hats each indicate a mode of thinking; they are "imaginary hats you put on and take off during a meeting".

Our traditional method of decision-making and reaching conclusions is argument, says De Bono. "More often than not, one party believes they have won."

He recommends parallel thinking systematically using different ways of thinking to shed light on issues. Participants can be asked to do a specific kind of thinking on a matter under discussion.

Contrary to what many think, creativity is not about crazy behaviour and off-the-wall thinking. It is a "serious, deliberate and step-by-step process of thinking", a process you can learn and apply on demand to solve problems, says De Bono. It requires breaking out of the patterns the brain creates to deal with a stable universe, and De Bono has created several means to do this.

Challenging what exists and seeking alternatives creates movement, he says. To really challenge ideas, address: dominant ideas (which cause typical A to B, one-way thinking); boundaries to our thinking; and assumptions.

By becoming alerted to the boundaries of its business which were then within the Netherlands KLM hit on the idea of operating feeder lines from German airports, says De Bono.

Looking at the essential factors within a scenario and asking what you want to avoid can also spark ideas.

To inspire specific, deliberate creativity it is important to have either a purpose focus an objective and solution or an area focus. For the latter, one says: "I want ideas in this area," and this leads to open-ended, unrestricted thinking.

"Once you have gathered a variety of ideas in an area, you can pursue the ones that have value for you."

Area focus had led Black & Decker to produce its hugely successful Workmate. It focused on where people used power tools; the product that evolved from this thinking was the portable, lightweight workbench.

Conventional thinking requires a track to an objective. Providing a provocation derails the thought process, setting it on a different course.

Many of the greatest inventions, such as electronics and nylon, were the product of accidents. A provocation emulates this process.

A provocative operation would be: "Anyone who wants to be promoted wears a yellow shirt." Movement around the idea is created by extracting a concept, focusing on differences (transparency), tracking moment-to-moment thinking (from getting dressed in the morning to going home at night), extracting positive aspects (it is motivational yellow is a positive colour) and looking at the circumstances (it helps management).

 



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