Teach Yourself to Think, By Edward de Bono
Sunday 10 January 2010
I have never known what to make of Edward de Bono. There must be some explanation for his success, but I don't know what it is. This reissue (published by Penguin along with the rest of his oeuvre) hardly clarifies matters.
De Bono claims that thinking comprises five stages, and if we master them, our thinking will become vastly more effective. The stages are labelled with typical de Bono neologisms: TO (what do I want to do?); LO (what information do I have/need?); PO (how do I get there?); SO (which alternative shall I choose?) and GO (how do I put this into action?). The book is written in a curiously flat style, with simple punctuation – full stops and question marks and that's pretty much it – and consists of applying the five stages to imaginary situations, with frequent plugs for his other books and recycling of their ideas, such as Six Thinking Hats.
It's not complete nonsense – but a little has been made to go a long way. A few of the ideas are good; some are ludicrous (shoplifting could be deterred by putting a special scent on all the goods, and if the purchaser doesn't get it removed at the checkout, they'll be attacked by a fierce dog at the exit).
De Bono touchingly boasts about his global success – apparently de Bono-style thinking classes are part of the curriculum in Venezuela, and are everyone's favourite lessons. I became slightly irritated by his habit of referring to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle as "The Gang of Three"; but he has a point that the legacy of those thinkers is a critical style of thought which neglects the importance of creativity.
De Bono sells a mixture of common sense enlivened by dashes of silliness, dressed up in pseudo-technical language. Come to think of it, maybe that does explain his success...
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