By Louise Jury
By Louise Jury
19 December 1999
Edward de Bono, the guru of creative thinking, has been called in by the Foreign Office to help sort out the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ever willing to help, he has conjured up a solution straight from a jar - Marmite.
The celebrated master of lateral thinking is promoting supplies of the yeast extract spread as the means to resolve the region's seemingly intractable problems.
The logic, briefly, is this. A lack of zinc makes men irritable and belligerent. You get zinc in yeast, which is fine for your average lover of Mother's Pride. But in the Middle East, the bread is unleavened. Ergo, the great man says, Marmite is the answer to easing the way to peace.
Dr de Bono gave two lectures to the Foreign Office last week. The first was open to several hundred officials at all levels and was packed out. For the second, the Middle East team won a bid for a special dedicated session.
Speaking afterwards, Dr de Bono said that the classic approach to problem-solving was to identify the problem and then trying to remove it. In world affairs, however, many of the problems were not eradicable. Diplomacy meant working round them. "That's the kind of thinking I try to encourage," he said.
He was confident his zinc theory would be proved if only hospitals in the Middle East would co-operate in tests. But he conceded they probably would not.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the decision to invite Dr de Bono came out of internal discussions on modernising the department.
"The idea came from thinking about how to make the Foreign Office more creative and introducing the idea that creativity can be taught. Edward de Bono is the guru of creative thinking," she said.
It is not Dr de Bono's first encounter with the British civil service. Last year Sir Michael Bichard, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, accused top Whitehall mandarins of stifling creativity and refusing to reform the civil service. He drafted in Dr de Bono to show civil servants how to make radical decisions.
How successful he has been will become apparent only with the publication of next year's Marmite sales figures.