Event on Friday 27 April 2007; part of the celebration “Festival of Ideas

The first thing to strike one was that Edward de Bono is of the old school, presenting via an acetate and OHP. Still it was a remarkably effective method and he’s given the same basic talk so often that he didn’t really need much in the way of props.

Some might question his opening assertion that IQ or intelligence is a biological ‘wiring’ of the brain whereas thinking was a skill to be learned. I’ll let deeper philosophers and neuro-psychologists debate that one.

One very early factor that became apparent early on was that, having given the same (or at least developing concept) presentation over the last +30 years, he rattles off an almost constant stream of ideas, concepts and developments that makes it nearly impossible to critically analyse what’s being said, let alone make notes…

There were 4 types of thinking put forward, but I only captured 3 of them; and only the creative thinking set was developed upon (read his books for the others, this was also a popular aside from the great man).

Creative thinking
Perceptual thinking
Intellectual thinking

Uses of creativity

A series of shapes were presented on the OHP, the first two could be assembled to form a rectangle. More shapes followed, confirming the rectangle. The last shape confounded that sequence, until you reordered the shapes into a square, whereupon the whole made sense. The point was that as time passed and new information arrived, there was a need to optimise but the order in which the information arrives influences those decisions. De Bono’s quip was that if some clever clogs had suggested mid-way through to re-organise around a square shape, he’d have introduced the next in the rectangle sequent; you can’t predict randomness.

We get back to the central theme, Creativity is skill. There are basic skills and there are tools (if you want the skills the book was handed out at the end of the event, you need to buy another of his books for the tools).

Following the shapes sequence example, De Bono explains that the brain organises information into routine patterns (with the example that if you have 11 items of clothing, a logical sort of options on how to get dressed is 11! or about a whole life time just trying out different combinations. The brain forms patterns and you get dressed almost without thinking about it (a fact borne out by his dress sense, which was bordering on the eccentric genius).

He then went on to diagram thought processes as channels with side branches, these were asymmetric patterns. Starting at the beginning and choosing the correct branches to arrive at the optimal point is nearly impossible, but looking back it’s logical. He then went on to have a minor dig at the Greek Philosophers by suggesting they’d pretty much invented logic (fair enough claim) that was then taken up by the religious fanatics in the Renaissance since they just needed to prove heretics guilty and there thinking as a skill stagnated until DeBono.

We then had a barrage of (I think) 6 different tools in getting off the conventional flow of logical thought onto a lateral thinking thought pattern. These were speckled with examples from his career.

  • Challenge as block to normal pattern flow –
  • Concept extraction – the example here was a city authority that wanted to reduce traffic parking problems and was considering parking meters, DeBono suggested that the concept they were chasing was to reduce the time people parked in the city, he extracted this and suggested that people be allowed to park anywhere for as long as they liked; provided they left their headlights on. This would motivate people to be self moderating in their stay. It wasn’t revealed if this idea was adopted or how DeBono got from parking meters to headlights.
  • Provocation – This was demonstrated with the example of pollution from factories affecting houses down stream. The provocation was to put the factory downstream of itself; by putting the inlet pipe downstream of the outflow pipe. Apparently this is now legislation in many US states, a very cute idea and probably effective, but again, something of a leap and no explanation why provocation and not Concept Extraction, or Random Words, etc.
  • Chance & random words – to establish new ideas – this was held up as an incredibly powerful skill and generated some 21,000 new ideas (no mention of quality). Having had a quick read of the accompanying book, this seems to be the current method of choice. I’ve not tried it yet.
  • Parallel thinking – other people’s perception
  • 6 hats, of course (start with red), I didn’t write much here since de Bono’s six hats are pretty much synonymous with his name.
  • Design as creation of values from possibilities. This was something of a throwaway line right at the end, but really struck as important if only I could remember the context.

    Overall, we didn’t have to spend over a thousand pounds to hear him speak (as I think others are/have), if we had I have expected much more explanation on the how and why you’d chose between the various skills and tools and a little less anecdote. But it was an entertaining session and a great introduction / reminder of creative thinking. Hopefully some takeaways to ponder and some things to try out.

    There’ll probably be some editing of this as what was said sinks in and I’m able to chat with others present to gather their thoughts.


    Back a work and fighting jet-lag so straight into a regional meeting about Learning & Skills in the digital age. Jointly organised by NIACE and Learning South West at their offices in Bishop Hull.

    A surprisingly open and concordant day about the need for some new thinking around learning and skills and their development in the region. It was also a formal introduction to Scenario Planning from Alister Wilson from Waverley Management Consultants. The take away was a +100 report on an EU project on developing Regional Key Compentencies where these scenarios were used to good effect. Though I would question their statement on the landing page that scenarios are a “magic box” of tools, it was a fairly intense day and we only touched on the full depth of the process.

    Even in the dramatically reduced time and scope afforded by such an introduction, we identified several areas where sufficient agreement existed for an argument that would be likely to result in actions and strategic plans. The final note reflected one of Alister’s opening bullet points that Scenario Planning was not about forecasting the future, but proposing plans to cope with the uncertainties inherent in the future.

    Chat from Singapore

    31 August 2006

    Very cool chat by Steven Tong from Singapore Infocom Development Authority single agency for ICT in Singapore government and regulation tasked with promotion and development of ICT adoption & usage.

    Population of 4m with 75% Chinese – large population in flux.

    Singapore did BSF in 2002 – now on Masterplan II on how to use resulting infrastructure. Moving towards multiple education pathways including vocational skills; integrated program from 15yrs, skip O levels and go straight to A levels and degrees. New uses for social software – maintaining entries on wikipedeia. They are also using grid technologies.

    iN2015 is their vision of an intelligent nation by 2015 – lots of quantitative targets (currently at 60% broadband usage in home). Not satisfied with ‘piddling’ 2-4Mb, they are aiming for 100Mb fibre to the home and ubiquitous wi-fi. Very clear focus on international exploitation.

    EdVantage is their transformation program for education. 365 schools (50/50 – primary / secondary) with lots of reference to learner centric, personalised learning. Its a change program so some are still using technology in ‘traditional’ teaching, others being more adventurous.

    Experiment with 20% of schools (65) and industry mentorship for 5% of schools. Explicitly refers to games for learning, including simulation, digital learning exchange as a market place for content – teachers, companies and other content holders can share or sell? Also building portfolio, assessment (starting with formative but already exploring summative) and collaborative applications on a national level.


    12 July 2006

    Very cool meeting with Howard Esbin and Phil Jarvis talking about a series of beautiful engagements that Howard has developed to elicit individual, group and community visions and understanding.

    Widely use across the world this could be a really cool digital platform to be involved with. Needs support probably from Government agencies together with commercial and 3rd sector partners.

    Interesting use of art as language (but not cultural) independent mediation device. Independent to collaborative working with a strong social message. Lots of evidence but (I don’t think) much formal academic research – could also be an interesting angle.

    Evidence of impact – lots of good news: lots of and increasing use of Interactive Whiteboards; use of mobile technologies increasing. Flash stats (all from 2005 data):

    • 69% of Primary and 42% of Secondary schools using IW (up from 11% and 12% respectively in 2004)– assumed to be a good thing, some scepticism in audience over validity and value of measure
    • 38% of Primary and 21% of Secondary schools using internet resources in teaching (up from 14% & 10%)
    • 52% Secondary schools have a ‘learning platform’ (VLE)
    • 56% Primary schools don’t have a ‘learning platform’

    A popular choice for those learning platforms are Open Source solutions – quickly followed by ‘but there’s no judgement, just an observation’…

    There was an observation that there was some good quality resources being produced (perhaps driven or facilitated by eLCs) – but that there was no innovation, so perhaps an unusual definition of ‘good’.

    Unfortunately I had to leave before the event was completed.

    Edith Akerman Visiting Professor at MIT Media delivered a tour du force on Nomadic learning , physical and mental locations & use of space. What technology supports this? Especially supporting inherent skills & desire of younger people for learning. example strategies include • Project • Re-purpose • Disguise • Reconfigure
    Play – to take risky situations onto secure ground Networked society as a "space of flows" blurring real & virtual realities. Reinventing relationship & boundaries between spaces. Senses of belonging. Navigating, traveling without leaving?

    Allow for smooth transition between place for the person. Dislocation disrupts psych.

    Stake your territory & share (digital abundance). High touch as much as high technology.

    Martin Chilcott (Place Group) presented a very impressive Co-negotiated control & multi-testing prcoess for surfacing requirements to deliver 21C learner as grounded neo-nomad?