Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono (born 19 May 1933, in Malta) is a physician, author, inventor, and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote a best selling[citation needed] book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the deliberate teaching of thinking as a subject in schools.



Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono was born to an aristocratic Maltese family. His father was a physician who was awarded a CBE and his mother an intellectual and journalist. He studied at St Edward's College in Malta. Nicknamed 'genius', he graduated at the age of 15. De Bono then gained a medical degree from the University of Malta. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Christ Church, Oxford where he gained an M.A. degree in psychology and physiology whilst being a keen sportsman; rowing (setting two records) and playing polo for Oxford University. He also has a Ph.D. degree and a D.Phil. degree in Medicine from Trinity College, Cambridge, a D.Des. degree (Doctor of Design) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and an LL.D. degree from the University of Dundee. De Bono is a member of the Medical Research Society and the exclusive Athenaeum Club.

He has held faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard. He is a professor at Malta, Pretoria, Central England, and Dublin City University. de Bono holds the Da Vinci Professor of Thinking chair at University of Advancing Technology in Phoenix, USA.[1] He was one of the 27 Ambassadors for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009.[2] He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2005.

De Bono was formerly married to Josephine Hall-White, with whom he has two sons (educated at Eton College and Harrow School). He divides his time between the Channel Islands and a London apartment (previous residents of which include the Victorian prime minister William Gladstone and the poet Lord Byron). He has a considerable property portfolio; owning properties in Norfolk, London's Mayfair, Melbourne, Dublin, Pisa and Malta. He also has a Chateau in Provence. He owns three islands; one in the Bahamas and the others off of the coasts of Venice and Australia respectively.

De Bono is of mainly Italian, German, French and Spanish descent. His ancestry is traceable to the year 862 AD. He is descended from a line of Holy Roman Emperors and numerous European royal houses ; House of Bonaparte, House of Savoy, House of Aragon, House of Rurik, House of Capet, House of Hohenstaufen, House of Babenberg,Piast dynasty, the Duchy of Burgundy and the Austrian branch of the De Rothschild family. He is also descended from Leopold III, Margrave of Austria - the patron saint of Austria. Through his ancestor Manfred, King of Sicily (mentioned in the Divine Comedy of Dante) he is related to King Juan Carlos I of Spain; Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro, heir of Manfred to the thrones of Naples and Sicily (the Two Sicilies); Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, heir to the throne of Portugal and Duke of Braganza; and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

In 1969 de Bono founded the Cognitive Research Trust (CoRT) which continues to produce and promote material based on his ideas.

He has written 82 books with translations into 41 languages. He has taught his thinking methods to government agencies, corporate clients, organisations and individuals, privately or publicly in group sessions. He has started to set up the World Center for New Thinking, based in Malta, which he describes as a "kind of intellectual Red Cross".

In 1995, he created the futuristic documentary film, 2040: Possibilities by Edward de Bono, a lecture designed to prepare an audience of viewers released from a cryogenic freeze for contemporary (2040) society.

De Bono has developed a range of 'deliberate thinking techniques' - which emphasise thinking as a deliberate act.

De Bono's techniques are used in companies like IBM, DuPont. Agencies offer corporate training courses based on his techniques such as think outside the box.


Quote from The mechanism of mind - introduction:

There are those who suppose that the brain will for ever remain a mystery. There are those who suppose that one day the way the brain works will be revealed in all its detail. Of what use would such knowledge be? Would the problems of mankind be suddenly solved by a surge of understanding? Would one be able to make practical use of the knowledge?

Lateral Thinking

Edward de Bono's key concept is that logical, linear and critical thinking has limitations because it is based on argumentation. The traditional critical thinking processes of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates are reductive, designed to eliminate all but the truth. In many of de Bono's books, he calls for the more important need for creative thinking as a constructive way though that is deliberately designed. In de Bono's first book, Mechanism of Mind, he wrote of the importance to disrupt the dominant patterns preferred by human brain design to facilitate potential creative abilities. Many of de Bono's speculative models from that era about how the brain worked were vindicated by later brain research.

Lateral thinking, (literally, sideways thinking) uses various acts of provocation to incite ideas that are free from previously locked assumptions. The most well-known lateral thinking technique is the "random word." Invention of the word "PO" by de Bono, (meaning Provocative Operation, also related to POetry and hyPOthesis) gives notice that what will follow isn't meant as nonsense, but intended to relate to the subject at hand. Various provocative lateral thinking actions, (such as escape, new stimuli, reversal, etc.) were designed to deliberately shift perceptional assumptions for the purpose of generating observations and insights about the subject.

Lateral Thinking is different from our normal perceptions regarding creativity and innovation, and it is even different from pure vertical logic and pure horizontal imagination:

Purely horizontal thinking is known as daydreaming. Fantasy. Mysticism. The purely horizontal thinker has a thousand ideas but puts none of them into action. He or she sees the big picture and all its possibilities but has little interest in linear, step-by-step implementation.
Purely vertical thinking leads to compliance, conformity, and a false sense of knowledge. (False because it’s often just memorization in disguise. The student knows what to do without understanding why.) The purely vertical thinker is a nit-picker, a legalist, a tight-ass.

Direct Teaching of Thinking

De Bono proposes that most of the problems in thinking are perceptual. Many more mistakes are made by jumping to the wrong conclusion too soon than by thinking irrationally once factors are known.

Edward de Bono held that "Operacy" is key, (another new word he has coined, related to literacy and numeracy.) Creativity should be producible on demand. Formation and design from new ideas cannot merely be left to chance. Because of these opinions, de Bono continues to invent ways to teach creative thinking as a separate skill. Former teaching strategies include complete courses that were adopted as curriculum for children, with later versions adapted for adults. This included many attention directing tools under the names of CoRT, later as DATT, Masterthinker series, and the most widely used Six Thinking Hats. He continues to experiment with new systems such as The de Bono Code.

All his thinking tools operate by directing attention to various aspects and factors of the topic at hand for a short time period of a few minutes. The various tools (with their corresponding acronyms) are often combined together in series to arrive at practical solutions.

For example, after making a list Considering All Factors, (CAF) the thinker selects a priority after doing a FIP (First Important Priorities.) Then, an OPV (Other Peoples' View) is used to help implementation of the idea. This tool 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 so their concerns may be anticipated and answered.While this may sound like an exercise in altruism, it need not be. Say you've got a selfish desire (e.g. you're a kid wanting ice cream), then doing an OPV will help you anticipate and plan for other peoples' responses (e.g. "Mummy, me 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, so we'd have to start cleaning right away.")

Schools from over twenty countries have included de Bono's thinking tools into their curriculum.[3]


De Bono has stated that he regards language as having been both the biggest help and the biggest barrier to human progress.

His contention is that just as language has allowed one generation to pass useful knowledge onto the next, it has also allowed dangerous myths and out-of-date ideas to become enshrined.

Convinced that a key way forward for humanity is better language, he published "The Edward de Bono Code Book" in 2000. In this book, he proposed a suite of new words based on numbers, where each number combination represents a useful idea or situation that currently does not have a single-word representation.

For example, de Bono code 6/2 means "Give me my point of view and I will give you your point of view." dBc 6/2 might be used in situations where one or both of two parties in a dispute are making insufficient effort to understand the other's perspective.[4]


In 2000, de Bono advised a U.K Foreign Office committee that the Arab-Israeli conflict might be due, in part, to low levels of zinc found in people who eat unleavened bread (e.g. pita flatbread), a known side-effect of which is aggression. He suggested shipping out jars of Marmite to compensate.[5][6]

He has suggested an alternative to the penalty shootout when a soccer match ends in a draw. If the number of times each goalkeeper touches the ball is recorded throughout the game the results can be compared in the event of a draw. The team whose goalkeeper has touched the ball more often is the loser. The winner will then be the team that has had more attempts at scoring goals and is more aggressive (and therefore exciting) in their style of play. This mechanism would avoid the tension of the penalty shoot out. However, some people argue that this method of deciding a drawn match completely ignores the goalkeeper's skill which can win a game for a team. If the game goes to a penalty shootout, even though one team may have completely dominated the other, the goalkeeper has kept the scores level. Furthermore the goalkeeper can make highly skilled saves in a penalty shootout and defeat the better team.

Since poetry is an area of lateral thinking, he originated a form of poetry, similar to a limerick, that he termed a "Bonto." In 2007, his Septoe idea was given life through a new website. Septoes allow people to distill their wisdom into phrases of exactly seven words.[7]


Edward de Bono invented a simple game as a challenge, called the L Game, that requires strategy to win, and 'Concept Snap', which requires participants to think of ways in which different objects can be used to perform similar functions. He does concede that what is learned from games tends not to be transferred to thinking in real life.


The following two critiques on research methodology assume the Philosophy of Positivism. The critiques on Positivism usually comes from the Philosophy of Antipositivism.

  1. In the Handbook of Creativity, Robert J. Sternberg writes, "Equally damaging to the scientific study of creativity, in our view, has been the takeover of the field, in the popular mind, by those who follow what might be referred to as a pragmatic approach. Those taking this approach have been concerned primarily with developing creativity, secondarily with understanding it, but almost not at all with testing the validity of their ideas about it." Sternberg continues, "Perhaps the foremost proponent of this approach is Edward De Bono, whose work on lateral thinking and other aspects of creativity has had what appears to be considerable commercial success."[8]
  2. Frameworks For Thinking is an evaluation of 42 popular thinking frameworks conducted by a team of researchers. Regarding Edward De Bono they write, "[he] is more interested in the usefulness of developing ideas than proving the reliability or efficacy of his approach. There is sparse research evidence to show that generalised improvements in thinking performance can be attributed to training in the use of CoRT or Thinking Hats tools. An early evaluation of CoRT reported significant benefits for Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils.... However, in a more recent study with Australian aboriginal children (Ritchie and Edwards, 1996), little evidence of generalisation was found other than in the area of creative thinking."[9]

The views of De Bono on language have been challenged by some philologists (Marco Ferri, 1994) who contend that his view of language as the biggest barrier to human progress is superficial. Ferri argues that a lack of human critical judgement should be held responsible for the transmission of out-of-date ideas.[citation needed]

De Bono has also been criticized for his suggestion of exporting Marmite to the Middle East in order to ease conflict in the area (as the area is associated with low zinc levels, which De Bono argued leads to heightened aggression). This idea achieved certain prominence and was featured on an episode of the British television programme, QI.

Published works

Partial list of books by de Bono include:

  • The Use of Lateral Thinking (1967) ISBN 0-14-013788-2, introduced the term "lateral thinking"
  • New Think (1967, 1968) ISBN 0-380-01426-2
  • The Five-Day Course in Thinking (1968), introduced the L game
  • The Mechanism of the Mind (1969), Intl Center for Creative Thinking 1992 reprint: ISBN 0-14-013787-4, suggests that the mind is a pattern matching machine
  • Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, (1970), Harper & Row 1973 paperback: ISBN 0-06-090325-2
  • The Dog-Exercising Machine (1970)
  • Technology Today (1971)
  • Practical Thinking (1971)
  • Lateral Thinking for Management (1971)
  • Po: A Device for Successful Thinking (1972), ISBN 0-671-21338-5, introduced the term Po
  • Children Solve Problems (1972) ISBN 13-978-0060110246, ISBN 10-0060110244
  • Po: Beyond Yes and No (1973), ISBN 0-14-021715-0
  • Eureka!: An Illustrated History of Inventions from the Wheel to the Computer (1974)
  • Teaching Thinking (1976)
  • The Greatest Thinkers: The Thirty Minds That Shaped Our Civilization (1976), ISBN 0-399-11762-8
  • Wordpower: An Illustrated Dictionary of Vital Words (1977)
  • The Happiness Purpose (1977)
  • Opportunities : A handbook for business opportunity search (1978)
  • Future Positive (1979)
  • Atlas of Management Thinking (1981)
  • De Bono's Course in Thinking (1982)
  • Learn-To-Think: Coursebook and Instructors Manual with Michael Hewitt-Gleeson de Saint-Arnaud (1982), ISBN 0-88496-199-0
  • Tactics: The Art and Science of Success (1985)
  • Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve them (1985)
  • Masterthinker's Handbook (1985)
  • Six Thinking Hats (1985) ISBN 0-316-17831-4
  • I Am Right, You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic (1990) ISBN 0-14-012678-3
  • Six Action Shoes (1991)
  • Handbook for the Positive Revolution (1991) ISBN 0-14-012679-1
  • Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas (1992) ISBN 0-00-255143-8 – a summation of many of De Bono's ideas on creativity
  • Sur/Petition (1992) ISBN 0-88730-543-1 - creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competing.
  • Parallel thinking: from Socratic thinking to de Bono thinking (1994) ISBN 0670851264
  • Teach Yourself How to Think (1995)
  • Textbook of Wisdom (1996) ISBN 0670870110
  • How to Be More Interesting (1998)
  • Simplicity (1999)
  • New Thinking for the New Millennium (1999)
  • Why I Want To Be King of Australia (1999)
  • How to Have A Beautiful Mind (2004)
  • Six Value Medals (2005)
  • H+ (Plus): A New Religion (2006)
  • How to Have Creative Ideas (2007)
  • Free or Unfree? : Are Americans Really Free? (2007) ISBN 1597775444
  • Six Frames For Thinking About Information (2008)
  • Think! Before It's Too Late (2009) ISBN 9780091924096

De Bono has also written numerous articles published in refereed and other journals, including The Lancet and Clinical Science.

See also


The Edward de Bono Society is an information based and social networking site for all de Bono followers.

  1. ^ "About Edward de Bono". Edward de Bono's Personal Web Site. 2008-05-05. http://www.edwarddebono.com/about.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  2. ^ European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 - Europa, Europa.eu. Accessed 2009-05-14.
  3. ^ "About Edward de Bono". Edward de Bono's Personal Web Site. 2008-05-05. http://www.edwarddebono.com/about.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  4. ^ de Bono, Edward (2000). The de Bono Code Book. pp. 52. 
  5. ^ Lloyd, J & Mitchinson, J: "The Book of General Ignorance". Faber & Faber, 2006.
  6. ^ Louise Jury: De Bono's Marmite plan for peace in Middle Yeast, The Independent, 19 December 1999, retrieved 11 February 2009.
  7. ^ "Septoe Web Site". Innovation Delivery. 2008-05-05. http://www.yourwisdom.ie. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  8. ^ Sternberg, R. J. & Lubart, T. L. (1999). "The Concept of Creativity", in ed. Sternberg, R. J.: Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge University Press.
  9. ^ Moseley, D., Baumfield, V., Elliott, J., Gregson, M., Higgins, S., Miller, J., Newton, D. (2005). "De Bono's lateral and parallel thinking tools", in ed. Moseley, David: Frameworks for Thinking. Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

  • Piers Dudgeon: Breaking Out of the Box: The Biography of Edward de Bono. London: Headline, 2001. ISBN 074726542X.

External links

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  • Edward De Bono — (* 1933 auf Malta) ist ein britischer Mediziner und Schriftsteller. De Bono studierte Medizin am St Edward s College und an der Universität Malta, später an der Universität Oxford Psychologie. E …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Edward de Bono — (* 1933 auf Malta) ist ein britischer Mediziner und Schriftsteller. De Bono studierte am St Edward s College in Malta und an der dortigen Universität Medizin, später an der Universität Oxford in England …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Edward De Bono — Edward de Bono (né le 19 mai 1933 à Malte) est un psychologue, un médecin et un spécialiste en sciences cognitives. Connu principalement par son concept de pensée latérale, il est l auteur de plus de 70 ouvrages traduits en 40 langues lus dans …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Edward de bono — Edward de Bono (né le 19 mai 1933 à Malte) est un psychologue, un médecin et un spécialiste en sciences cognitives. Connu principalement par son concept de pensée latérale, il est l auteur de plus de 70 ouvrages traduits en 40 langues lus dans …   Wikipédia en Français

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