Book Review: I am right, You are wrong, by Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono coined the term, “lateral thinking.” In this book he explains what lateral thinking is, and how it relates to the way our minds work. Read the book review and decide for yourself whether you think de Bono is right or wrong in his opinion!

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Edward de Bono was one of the leaders of the movement that believes in the possibility of improving creative skills through practice. De Bono developed a theory on creativity, the main term being “lateral thinking.” Lateral thinking proceeds from one idea to the next as opposed to regular thinking (linear thinking) where the process takes place within the framework of a certain direction of thought.

In his book, de Bono shares his thoughts on the way in which the brain functions, and through these thoughts he formulates his ideas about creativity and the way in which it is possible to enhance it. De Bono claims that the brain is a “self-organizing system” and he introduces a few examples that become progressively more complicated to this kind of system. Briefly, a self-organizing system is a system that changes according to the input it receives.

An opposing example would be a computer hard drive. The information accumulated on the hard drive doesn’t change the drive itself, new information does not affect the previous information, and the previous information does not affect new information. As opposed to a computer hard drive that is not a self-organizing system, de Bono suggests the following simple model (the first in his model series) as a self-organizing system:

Suppose we have a baking tray containing wax. We also have a container of hot ink, the temperature of which is higher than the melting temperature of the wax. Using a spoon, we’ll pour some of the ink onto the wax so that the ink melts the wax, creating a furrow. After the ink cools down it will drain into the furrow, and the remaining ink can be discarded. There will now be an ink stain in a particular shape on the surface of the wax. If we pour another spoon of hot ink next to the previous stain, some of the ink will run into the furrow created by the first action. Once again, we discard the remaining ink and look at the shape of the stain that is now a combination of the two actions of pouring the ink. The shape of the first ink stain will influence the shape of the second. The first stain creates a furrow that most of the ink drained into – only a small quantity of ink will remain around the edges.

If we relate to the ink as information or input to the system (e.g. the brain), it would seem as though the information changes the system itself (the surface of the wax) as well as the way in which it processes the information that follows (the second spoon of ink). De Bono claimed that this simple wax and the hot ink model represents, in a metaphorical way, the action of the brain that is also a self-organizing system: information or input to the brain changes it and influences the way in which the new information is processed. (As mentioned previously, more complicated models are suggested by de Bono later in the book.)

Let’s return to the wax model and try to see what would happen if we poured numerous spoons of ink onto the wax. The result would be a deep furrow that would form across the length and width of the wax (similar to a river and its tributaries flowing through a mountainous region.) When the surface of the wax is in this condition, new hot ink will have almost no effect on the shape of the surface – it will simply flow into one of the furrows.

This situation represents a brain that has already “seen many things” and that is not capable of seeing anything in a new light – it interprets everything within the framework of what it already knows.

Using this model and other models representing self-organizing systems, de Bono introduces his ideas about the way in which the brain operates and the way in which it is possible to make the brain produce more creative ideas. He claims that creative thinking proceeds along a few channels instead of flowing along one single channel. To encourage creative thinking, it is necessary to encourage the brain to operate in a lateral way by using artificial means. Some of these means are mentioned in the book.

Book review done by Roni Horowitz

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