The power of proactive thinking

Mar 09 2010 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

My focus here is the time we spend on proactive thinking - or what I call 'deliberate thinking'. This isn't the thinking we do when we are driving or sitting at a desk looking at documents or taking part in a discussion. Deliberate thinking means setting aside some time to do nothing other than thinking about a defined focus.

The problem with thinking that 'just happens' around a subject is that mental attention follows from one point to the next in the normal, routine way. Deliberate thinking, however, is different in that attention is directed according to the framework in use.

An organisation might have a list of topics and issues that need thinking about. People could choose from this list, or everyone might be assigned the same topic for the same day.

It's the formality that matters. You have a deliberate topic. You have a deliberate time set aside for thinking about the topic - and nothing else. There are many deliberate thinking tools and frameworks you can use.

The output of the thinking could be used in a variety of ways. There might be no formal effort to collect the output at all. The effect of the thinking on the mind of the executive doing that thinking will eventually come through in discussions, decisions, suggestions, ideas, etc. What matters is the personal enrichment that matters.

The thinking of different people on the same topic can be collected as a formal report which is shared with everyone. You could even arrange a specific meeting on the assigned topic where individuals share their own thinking.

The thinking manager must take up the role of encouraging and organising deliberate thinking. It is the role of the thinking manager to arrange the drawing up of formal focus lists. It is the role of the thinking manager to organise any training and consultation that is necessary in the area of thinking. It is the role of the thinking manager to arrange 'new thinking' sessions in order to generate new ideas and perceptions, and to take action regarding any possibilities that exist.

Equating thinking with intelligence is a fundamental mistake that is often made. If someone has a high level of intelligence, it is often assumed that they will be a good thinker; if a person is not intelligent, then people make the mistake of believing that nothing that can be done about it and that person will not be a good thinker.

But of course, many highly intelligent people are not good thinkers. They might be good at understanding things, but not good at generative thinking. Many highly intelligent thinkers are even caught in the intelligence trap - this means that they use their thinking to defend their positions, rather than exploring the subject.

Thinking is a powerful and much neglected resource in many organisations. The role of the thinking manager is to correct this mistake where it exists.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono (1933-2021) was a leading authority in the field of creative thinking. Over 35 years after the publication of his first book, "The Mechanism of Mind", the basic principles he outlined are now mainstream thinking in the mathematics of self-organising systems and in the design of neuro-computers. His many subsequent books have been translated into 26 languages.