A feature on Edward de Bono and lateral thinking was published on the 20th December, 1982, issue of Forbes (USA). The second part of the feature contained an interview of several leading businessmen on their attitude to thinking. Among other questions they were asked when they did their thinking.
George Bell, the chief executive officer, prudential-Bache Securities said that he had set aside 10-15 minutes twice a day, Philip Knight, Chairman, Nike Inc, tried to put in one hour a day, three to four days a week, for thinking. Robert Anderson, the Chairman Atlantic Richfield had not set aside any regular time for thinking.
He did most of his thinking while travelling alone in his private air craft. One thing was common with all these senior executives that they had set aside regular times devoted to thinking. Why do need a special time for thinking? Generally thinking is a continuing process. It takes place at every instant. It can go on while discharging other business like writing, looking at figures, listening to someone, communicating with somebody, etc.
There is a natural distinction between thinking that is called for by events and occurs as a reaction to the surrounding and thinking which requires deliberate effort of will or the maintenance. Of a habit, that means the thinking that goes on automatically and thinking which is deliberately called for are different things.
Thinking evokes mixed response. We say that thinking is a good thing. But sometimes the actual employment of thinking is regarded as a sign of weakness. The thinker is underestimated as a weak-minded person. We expect a prompt reply from a student. If a teacher instead of answering promptly thinks over a problem, we doubt on his skill and knowledge. If a politician pauses to think over a question he is accused of having no clear cut principles on the problem.
“There are times when we have less regard for a man who thinks than for a man who appears to know all the answers. “A man who thinks over a problem means a man who has no definite principles on that problem may any arrive at a wrong conclusion. Like that a man, who does not think, sometimes terrifies us with hasty and so totally misleading conclusions.
The statement, ‘I need to conclusions. The statement, “I need to think about that” is often regarded as a sign of prevarication. This statement can be presented in another from-“I do not need to think about that but I want to, and I am going to”. This statements leads to a notion of thinking even after a solution is reached.
Generally thinking is of three kinds. They are:
1. Thinking to achieve a purpose.
2. Thinking for improvement.
3. Thinking around and about
1. Thinking to achieve a purpose:
This is the most general type of thinking. It is problem solving. Whenever a person faces a problem thinks over it and he stops thinking over it after he arrives at an acceptable solution. So there is an end to such type of thinking.
2. Thinking for improvement:
Even after an answer is available, the thinker goes on missing over the problem to do better.
3. Thinking around and about:
This is called musing or freewheeling. There is no definite problem to solve. No target. The thinker thinks how to explore a situation. He thinks over his entire activities, probabilities, etc.
Generally people stops thinking after and adequate solution have been found. There are strong reasons behind it. A man has to face a string of problems. If he takes too much time on a single problem then other problems. If he takes too much time on a single problem then other problems will be neglected.
Secondly if the first solution is not acceptable then how will be the second one? This means that we shall go on thinking eternally on a problem without satisfaction. Sir Robert Watson Watt of radar fame said that, “You get one idea today, a better idea tomorrow and the best idea-never.