"Way of Looking at Things",
A review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, April 27, 1969,
of a book.
NEW THINK: The Use of Lateral Thinking in the Generation of New Ideas,
by Edward de Bono,
New York: Basic Books, 1969
Washington Sunday Starr
April 27, 1969
"Way of Looking at Things"
NEW THINK: The Use of Lateral Thinking in the Generation of New Ideas.
By Edward de Bono
Basic Books, 156 pages. $5.95.
One of the most significant and least
noticed revolutions going on in the United States today is a profound
disillusionment with the methods of thinking of the immediate past and
the search for new ways of thinking. The old ways which did so well in
the nineteenth century and brought us to a peak of material power and
physical affluence do not seem to work so well in dealing with social or
personal problems. Those old ways were associated with analytical
methods: the way to think about anything was to isolate it and take it
apart. The new way, sometimes called contextual thinking or ecological
thinking, is rather to look at the problem in its total context with all
its possible ramifications. This puts the problem into a larger
framework and emphasizes qualities of context rather than the older
method of analysis and quantification.
The most obvious example of this change is in biology and the “Life
Sciences” which were originally built on analysis and classification in
categories and sub-categories based on Linnaeus. The shift in biology
from the taxonomic to the ecological approach has given rise to a bitter
debate among biologists between the “reductionists” who believe that
life processes can be reduced to the laws of physics and chemistry and
the “anti-reductionists” who deny this. The growing victory of the
latter group among biologists has been accomplished by the spreading of
the ecological point of view, under such names as “field theory” or
“general systems approach,” and has produced numerous books, such as
Arthur Koestler’s “The Ghost in the Machine” (MacMillan, 1967).
DeBono’s book is an effort to present this “new” method of thinking
in the simplest possible way, with considerable use of diagrams. He
calls it “lateral thinking” and contrasts it with the “older vertical
thinking.” His book is brief, clear, and almost too elementary. But it
is presented in an interesting and imaginative way and is a good
introduction for anyone who is new to this problem, which may well be
vital to our future survival.
Those who like it may want to go on to somewhat more advanced
works, such as another little volume, “Robots, Men and Minds" (Braziller,
1967) by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Koestler's teacher in this subject and
one of the chief architects of "General Systems theory," which got
McNamara into such troubles in the Pentagon; or look at the most recent
volume in this rapidly growing subject: Fritz Zwicky's "Discovery,
Inventions, Research, Through the Morphological Approach" (Macmillan,
1969). This subject is growing so rapidly that every well-informed
person should get acquainted with it. De Bono's is the most elementary
introduction we are likely to get on it.