Wednesday, October 04, 2006

SETT06: Edward de Bono (Part II)

{My laptop ran out of battery power part way through Edward de Bono's keynote. I promised at the time I'd type up the rest from notes and it has taken me until today to get around to it. I'll quickly cover some of the rest of the keynote and then I'll add my own thoughts at the end.}


Edward De Bono
Edward De Bono,
originally uploaded by Edublogger
One of the techniques he uses to make people think more carefully about decisions is PMI Points: Pluses, Minuses, and Interesting points. He also suggested using OPV (Other Points of View) techniques to help people consider more than one side of a problem. He said he has been criticised for using so many three letter acronyms {or TLAs :-)} but he says they are important. They give the ideas a place in your brain and therefore make it easier to remember and apply them.

Creative Solutions

The problem is that information comes in over time but at various points we have to make decisions based on the currently available information. However as more information becomes available, we may have to backtrack to get to a better solution. Creativity is not optimal. The best or most creative solution may only be obvious in hindsight. He illustrated this on the visualiser with some shapes. I will try to show what he did in the graphic shown below. {I thought this was one of the best parts of his talk. I found it a very helpful illustration. A simple idea that is tricky to describe in writing, yet very clear what he was getting at when you saw him do it.}

{For reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time, I decided to draw this using a free online drawing package called Gliffy. It was not the easiest package to use and I am not hugely happy with the results... but I suppose that, like poodles walking on their hind legs, it's impressive that it can do it at all! I published the diagram on Gliffy too... just because I could. :-)}

If you started in a different place, you may find a different solution - we can never predict the future perfectly. All pattern making organisms use systems that are asymmetric - that is, any patterns apparent with hindsight, may not have been obvious at the time. With hindsight you can see the logic in choices that get you to a good solution, but it may not be possible to to reach that solution first time by logic alone.

{There is more that he said that I still have to type up but I decided to break off here. I may do the rest later. Other people have blogged this keynote - e.g. Ewan (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 - phew!) and Digital Katie. Also, the video of the keynote is now available. I'll spend the next section of this post talking about my reactions to this keynote.}

I've read a few blog posts about this keynote now and it is fair to say that not everyone was impressed. I thought it was good. Not outstanding - but good. From the people I've spoken to (obviously a fair and representative sample - ahem!) it appears that people who have heard him before were more disappointed than people who were hearing him for the first time. I was hearing him for the first time.

However, I found his delivery style oddly flat. He sat, drawing scribbling on the visualiser (more on this in a moment), and did not seem to engage with the audience. If he was one of my teaching students I would have given him into trouble for this! He did not come across as passionate about his subject. Compare this with the keynote I heard last year from Guy Claxton - someone who was clearly enthusiastic about what he was doing.

Some of the attendees have accused him of name dropping. This is possibly true, but if I was as influential as him and had made as big an impact, perhaps I would be tempted to highlight my successes (as I was saying to Tony Blair, David Cameron and Ming Campbell just the other day). To be fair, many of his ideas seem simple, simplistic even, so it is perhaps not unreasonable to keep talking about who is using his techniques as evidence of their effectiveness. For example the PMI technique described above seems too simple to be of any real use, so it may be no bad thing to name drop some big successes. It could be seen as boasting, but it may just be a way of saying, "Look, this technique really works." (As an aside, I suspect it is like the shapes illustration above. The techniques are only "simple" in hindsight.)

As I touched on above, his use of the visualiser (a sort of video version of the overhead projector) was unusual. To be honest I still can't work out if it was brilliant or barmy! He must have gone through hundreds of OHP slides in the course of the talk. Sometimes he just drew a couple of arrows on a slide before wheeching it off and starting with a fresh one. Sometimes he scribbled a quick diagram. Sometimes he wrote up a couple of words. (Very scribbled handwriting - again something I would have complained about if one of my student teachers was writing like that.) All this and more should have made it a barmy way to do things... but although it was bizarre, it seemed to work for him. Perhaps it's an illustration of the fine line between genius and madness. :-)

I was describing what he did with the visualiser to a colleague, and she remarked, "But you remember what he did?"
"Well, yes..."
"And you're still talking about what he did!"
"Well, yes..."
"Well, it worked then, didn't it?"

Hmm! It did work. I guess it was effective. (If you follow the link on the picture illustrating this post, you'll see a few more pictures that Ewan took of his slides... or watch the video.) Somebody has already remarked that it made a change from the Powerpointless presentations you often see. It reminded me of the moment in Will Richardson's presentation at eLive where he started drawing on his tablet to make a point. Perhaps Will's approach gives the best of both worlds - a structured presentation but with the possibility of spontaneous additions on a tablet computer when appropriate.

However, despite all of the reservations above, I thought the power of his ideas shone through. The delivery may have been dull, but the ideas were exciting. The techniques he presented were simple, but they were the "Of course!" type simple rather than the "Well, duh!" type simple (if you see what I mean). Finally, the presentation style was different but vive la difference!

I think I've talked myself into it. The ideas were good and the examples were helpful. I think I will write up the rest of keynote... but I may read his six hats book first, so don't hold your breath. :-)

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Elspeth Davis said...

I agree with some of the things you're saying. Interesting point from your colleague; I, too have recounted his eclectic (eccentric?) style of presentation to (at? - no not that boring!) many parties since his keynote. I remember it well and it certainly made an impact...
So much so that we applied the "6 Hat" principle at our Staff Meeting on Monday and came up with the best, most fruitful discussion we've ever had in my time on the staff. I'll probably blog about this at a later date - when I have the time!

Tess Watson said...

qlubaI have to say De Bono's Key note was something else. I really enjoyed what he had to say. Was anyone counting the number of OHTs he used! I wonder if he would cope with power-point?!

Tess Watson

David said...

Hello Elspeth

I would go with "eccentric"! :-)

Hello Tess

I wondered what he did with them. Do you think he washes them andre-uses them? Does he file them somewhere for future reference? Give them to somebody? Sell them on eBay?

...Just curious. :-)

Katie Konrath said...

I can clear-up what he does with his slides. Last fall I worked as Dr de Bono's traveling assistant. The slides are usually kept by the organization that sponsors the presentation. Sometimes they keep them, sometimes they wash them, and a couple places have auctioned them off for charity. When we supply the overhead rolls though, we just wash them.

If anyone has any questions about Dr de Bono, or any of his material, please feel free to write to me. As well as working for him, I'm a certified trainer in Lateral Thinking and the Six Thinking Hats.



P.S. Any interest in de Bono having a blog?

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