De Bono believes that creativity should be producible on demand and that the formation of new ideas cannot merely be left to chance. He argues that critical thinking is reductive, designed to eliminate all but the truth and that this is in contrast to design thinking or creativity where new ideas are sought. De Bono claims that it is important to disrupt the conventional patterns adopted by the brain.
De Bono’s contention is that everyone should strive to be more creative, but that unstructured creativity such as brainstorming is less effective than following the techniques that he prescribes. Brainstorming merely reiterates the existing held perceptions and ideas about a topic. Lateral thinking introduces new stimuli in an effort to shift the thinking in new directions.
How does it help?
De Bono proposes that most of the problems in thinking are at the perceptual level ‐ that is, that many more mistakes are made by people jumping to the wrong conclusion than by behaving irrationally once all the relevant facts are known. To address this problem, he created attention directing tools under the name of CoRT, later as DATT and also included as Code 2 in the de Bono Code.
As the name suggests, the tools operate by directing peoples’ attention to different aspects of the situation for a couple of minutes. For example, an OPV (Other Peoples’ View) prompts the thinker to list the people (or types of people) who would be affected by a proposed idea. The thinker is then required to imagine what effects that idea would have on each of these different people.
While this may sound like an exercise in altruism, it need not be. Say you’ve got a selfish desire (eg. you’re a kid wanting ice cream), then doing an OPV will help you anticipate and plan for other peoples’ responses (eg. “Mummy, I and Jimmy were thinking that cleaning our rooms to your complete satisfaction might earn us both an ice cream. But we would have to eat these ice‐creams immediately to avoid spoiling our dinner.”).
The program has been in use since 1972 with different cultures, ages, and abilities, and has been used in Gifted Education programs. Schools in over twenty countries have included de Bono’s thinking tools into their curriculum.