By June 5, 2018 Read More →

Edward DeBono’s Weird
Lifeless Talk On Creativity

Edward DeBono is considered an “expert on creativity.”

You’d never know from this brief talk on creative thinking.

DeBono asserts the usual cliches.  We hear that creativity is a skill that can be learned and that it’s important to  “think outside the box.”

But he also employs a number of rhetorical devices to give authority to what is essentially a trivial talk.

DeBono invokes the Greeks, making a truly bizarre assertion:  “We’ve done absolutely nothing about thinking since then.”

(Tell that to Newton and Shakespeare and Picasso, buddy.)

He continues with a scold.  It’s not creative unless it has value, he decries. This may indeed be true, but it reveals a naiveté about the creative process, most of which consists of generating ideas that appear to have no immediate value but then reveal their value at a later time.  In fact, to be concerned with value, with right or wrong, stifles creativity from the outset.

Then DeBono contradicts himself, claiming that value judgements are bad. We must engage in “lateral thinking,” where logic, judgement and sense are not important.

He admits an attachment to “lateral” thinking as opposed to “creative” or “unusual” thinking because  it’s “specifically defined in system terms.”  He even promotes himself as “The Father Of Lateral Thinking.”

To be fair, some of what DeBono is saying is on the mark. But it’s his academic, systems-management approach which seems to indicate a lack of experience engaging in the creative process or spending time with creative people. There’s something lifeless, uninspired and even mildly depressing about this talk.

I’d feel better about what he’s saying if he showed me music he’s written or pictures he’s painted.  At least then I’d know he had some feel for the creative act.

But all we’ve got to go on is are videos like these, his writing and his web site, which, to my mind, are not particularly ground-breaking nor reveal the “lateral” thinking he so prizes.

If you want a more authoritative discussion of creative thinking, I’d suggest you check out what John Cleese and Milton Glaser have to say.

These are creative professionals who have learned about creativity by making things rather than by simply pontificating about concepts from afar.


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