Are you interesting enough for de Bono?

Mr Lateral Thinking has ideas for you, reports Ros Wynne-Jones in bold
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When Edward de Bono, the inventor of lateral thinking, finished his latest self-help manual, a friend suggested that the book be placed inside a false dust-jacket with the title The Economics of the Developing World, to spare his readers' blushes. Instead, those wishing to buy How To Be More Interesting will have to take their own brown paper bag with them for discretion.

De Bono maintains there is nothing for his readers to be ashamed of. "The title of the book is How To Be More Interesting," he said from his hotel in Manila, where he has been advising Fidel Ramos, President of the Philippines, on lateral thinking, "implying you are already interesting because you are buying it. Who buys skiing magazines? Skiers. Who buys yachting magazines? Yachters. Who will buy my latest book? Interesting People."

De Bono's book is based on the premise that while only the tall can excel at basketball, even ordinary individuals can be incredibly interesting if they would only work at it. "It is possible to find a human-interest angle on almost any topic," claims the book's blurb. "Add in what de Bono calls 'humenes' - the elements of humour, insight and surprise - and everybody is guaranteed to find you interesting."

Even very beautiful women, we learn, can be "boring, boring, boring". Anyone, however, can be interesting, regardless of intellectual ability; the secret is in training your mind to think around subjects.

The book, de Bono's 57th, takes the reader through a variety of exercises designed to develop a more muscular personality. We are invited to consider what is interesting about a frog, how we would link up the words "headache" and "lake", and what we associate with the word "island". De Bono's model answer to this last question is illuminating. He associates the word with his private island "in the lagoon in Venice".

Nobody could accuse de Bono of being dull. Born in Malta, he came to England as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and eventually developed the concept of lateral thinking, which he sums up as "you can't dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper". He devised the "Six Thinking Hats" system of thought, which "without wishing to boast, is the first new way of thinking to be developed for 2,400 years, since the gang of three - Plato, Socrates, Aristotle" and is used today as a problem-solving system by Nasa and such multinational firms as Siemens and IBM.

He once wrote an entire book on board a flight from London to Auckland. He has invented a new form of poetry called Bonto, in which the first line is an action, the second the reason for the action, the third the consequence of the action and the fourth a "philosophical reflection". ("Max danced on the table/To show that he was able/The table soon gave way/Showing off does not pay.")

He has a minor planet, "Edebono", named after him, has made the world's cheapest, fastest film - "I did it one morning before lunch using a new technique. It's called 2040 and deals with where thought and technology will be by that date"; dreamed up, he says, a pioneering way of drilling for oil 15 years before it was "discovered" by the major petroleum companies and has advised numerous world leaders about how to solve their country's problems.

His "Six Thinking Hats" and broader ideas about lateral thinking have, he says, been used to help a jury reach a decision in 15 minutes, solve an oil company's million-dollar problem in 12 minutes, and make a profit of $225m for the organisers of the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

He funds a team of thinkers who are having all sorts of ideas about the world; there are four million references to him on the Internet; and he is inventing a new language which, he says, will be 20 times "faster" than any now in use.

Next he may be turning his attentions to solving the problems of Northern Ireland - "to see if there's anything we can do there". On the whole, however, he is so busy having ideas he doesn't have time to give them to people who might usefully find applications for them. "It is not for me to say whether or not I am interesting," he says, "but I would like to think that I am interested in enough things to make me interesting."

Ever one step ahead, de Bono has even added a postscript to his new book which pre-empts an unkind journalistic response. "Bores are predictable," he writes. "Some boring critic is going to write that this is a boring book on being interesting. It may be if you read it that way."

How to stop being boring

You too can be more interesting, using these simple exercises from Edward de Bono's forthcoming book "How To Be More Interesting" (Viking pounds 10.99)

1 The shape shown here does not have an obvious definite meaning. What are the different possibilities? What might it represent?

a) What might it really represent?

b) What might it represent symbolically?

a) Real

An overhead view of a rat caught under a bucket with the tail sticking out

A "designer" frying pan

The track made by a drunken snail climbing out of a saucer of paint

b) Symbolic

The path to a destination is never smooth

Everything perfect has some tell-tale sign of imperfection attached to it

Is the circle a destination or a source? Is something a beginning or an end?

2 Which food, fruit, animal and building would you choose to describe the following people?

a) Napoleon

b) Lenin

a) Napoleon

Food: bouillabaisse. Complex and full of interacting qualities

Fruit: grape. The glory of wine

Animal: swordfish. Focused, well-equipped and aggressive

Building: Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bold and practical

b) Lenin

Food: bread. A sense of the basics

Fruit: watermelon. Large in ambition, weak in structure

Animal: rat. Clever, dangerous and a survivor

Building: the Eiffel Tower. Ambitious