Thursday, January 29, 2009

New de Bono training sessions

De Bono Consulting has added several new dates to its training schedule:
  • March 9-13 in San Diego, CA
  • May 4-8 in Alexandria, VA

Attendees can enroll in the Six Thinkings Hats session, the Lateral Thinking session, or the Course in Creativity, which covers both methods.

In addition, we have a session in Mexico City on February 23-27. Note that this session will be conducted in Spanish.

See our complete training schedule to register for a course or to view other dates and locations.

Innovation Lessons from the 1930s

In a nod to the current economic climate, Tom Nicholas of Harvard Business School has published a nice piece in the McKinsey Quarterly about innovation during the Great Depression and its implications for innovation today. (Unfortunately, registration is required for access to the full article, but it's free.)

Nicholas examines the number of US patent filings between 1921 and 1938 as a measure of investment in R&D (and hence innovation in general). The trend is pretty obvious: when GDP growth was positive, the number of patents increased. When the economy contracted, patent applications declined. Business leaders were clearly letting their economic concerns drive their R&D decisions.

But Nicholas also provides examples of companies that continued to support innovation despite the turbulent climate. Firms such as DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, Polaroid, and RCA developed extraordinarily successful products during this period. In the process, they became some of the most successful and admired companies of the 20th century. Had they slashed their R&D budgets, they might today be relegated to the footnotes of history.

The point is not that every company should always and everywhere maintain its R&D budget. The point, rather, is that slashing investment should not be a knee-jerk reaction to today's economic woes. In many cases, the sensible manager may decide to postpone innovative projects in the face of uncertainty. However, it's important to evaluate the company's competitive situation before making a decision. Just as we saw during the Great Depression, innovation today may create the giants of tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Edward de Bono's weekly message

I was in Prague on January 7th for the launch of the European Year of Creativity, 2009. The Czech Republic has the presidency of the EU for the first half of 2009.

As usual one of the big problems facing creativity in the inability of language to distinguish between artistic creativity and idea creativity. Both involve creating something new which has value. The practical problem is that the Year of Creativity may tend to focus on artistic creativity because it is better known. That is unfortunate because the world needs creative thinking more than ever before. Many problems facing the world are not easily solved with our existing thinking. I am very much in favour of artistic creativity but we do need idea creativity.

It may be that people still believe that nothing can be done about creative thinking and that we just have to wait and hope for new ideas. That attitude is very old fashioned but still prevalent. Many people just do not know that there are formal and deliberate ways of creating new ideas - such as the tools of lateral thinking.

I encourage anyone reading this message to write to your government and the European Union to emphasise the need and possibility of creative thinking.

It is indeed a move in the right direction that the EU has appointed me 'Ambassador for Thinking' for the year of creativity.

Edward de Bono
15 January 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Toyota - Why Not?

Toyota has launched a new innovation contest called Why Not?. Via a charming little website - complete with pretty graphics, a slick, 3-D interface, and the soothing music of waterfalls and birdsong - the carmaker is inviting people to suggest ways to improve our air, land, water, and communities.

Naturally, the submitted ideas vary in their complexity and ingenuity. Some are simple but obvious in hindsight - in the sense of "Wow, why have I never thought of that?" Other ideas are far more complicated and would demand completely new technologies. Users can vote on the various ideas, share them with friends, and even make a personal commitment to a particular idea.

For its part, Toyota is using the site to promote its own environmental innovations and to gather (and perhaps commercialize) new ideas. There's also a contest element; the prizes for the best ideas include a tour of a Toyota manufacturing plant and a trip to New York to meet with influential innovators.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MIT's Innovations in Teaching Methods

The New York Times has a great piece about some revolutionary work at MIT.

And no, I'm not talking about nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, or quantum mechanics. I'm talking about teaching.

The university has introduced a new approach to its traditional Physics 101. Once upon a time, the course was a stereotypical large lecture, complete with the professor droning on and scribbling equations on the blackboard, while students fell asleep or unobtrusively SMSed their friends.

Today, the course features small classes, peer interaction, and collaborative, interactive learning. And technology, of course - this is, after all, MIT.

"Instead of blackboards, the walls are covered with white boards and huge display screens. Circulating with a team of teaching assistants, the professor makes brief presentations of general principles and engages the students as they work out related concepts in small groups. Teachers and students conduct experiments together. The room buzzes. Conferring with tablemates, calling out questions and jumping up to write formulas on the white boards are all encouraged."

Moreover, the school employs technology to provide the professor with instantaneous feedback. This allows the professor to gauge the level of student comprehension at any point in time - making it clear when students are struggling, and when to move ahead with the material.

The program was initially controversial, but the results speak for themselves. Course attendance is up, and the failure rate has fallen from 10-12% to 4%.

It's easy to think of "innovation" purely in terms of new products or technologies. However, it's equally relevant - and arguably more valuable - in areas like education, which stereotypically isn't at the forefront of creativity and therefore has more to gain from innovative methodologies and approaches.

Do check out the full article - it's well worth a read.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ambassador for Thinking

The EU has named 2009 the European Year of Creativity and Innovation. Its goals are:
  • to raise awareness of importance of creativity and innovation for personal, social and economic development
  • to disseminate good practices, stimulate education and research
  • to promote policy debate and development
As part of this project, the EU named Edward de Bono to the post of Ambassador for Thinking. As he writes:

The European Union has declared 2009 to be the year of Creativity. This will be launched in Prague on January 7th. I shall be there. On December 5th. I was officially appointed 'Ambassador for Thinking' for the European Union. Among other things I shall be issuing a monthly 'World Thinking Report'. There may be occasional extra reports as required. In due course these may be accessed on the web under World Thinking Report.

Edward de Bono
22nd December 2008