‘Six Frames for Thinking about Information’, by Edward de Bono

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June 5, 2011 by Me and My Monkeys

Six Frames, by Edward de Bono
In many respects, this is a semi-decent self-help book.  Critical Thinking 101 for primary school students and/or jargon-happy marketing middle management.

In many other respects, De Bono’s ‘Six Frames’ reads like the author was short of cash and needed to churn something out in an afternoon over a bottle of wine.  His publisher has clearly come to the party, allowing him to write a 127 page picture book with barely a page reaching 100 words.

Despite its objective of clarity, it reminded me of a brainstorming session where the scribe writes bullet points on a whiteboard, using a confused mishmash of un-parallel nouns, verbs and subordinate clauses.

What annoyed me most, however, was the way that De Bono actually (and frighteningly) prescribes ways that managerial pretenders should use his new jargon in sentences:

  • “Triangle Frames, please.”
  • “Circle Frame that point, will you.”
  • “My Square Frame tells me this is very one-sided.”
  • “Heart Frames, everyone, please.”

If someone tried these tactics on me in the workplace I would run screaming from the room.

Admittedly, De Bono offers strategies that can help structure the way we think. For instance, he uses his ‘Square Frame’ to highlight the usefulness of looking at information in different ways. Rather than indict cannabis as the cause of schizophrenia (despite the research), de Bono teaches us (via his ‘Square Frame’) to question this connection: Could it be “that those with a schizophrenic tendency enjoy cannabis more and so smoke more”?

Good point. But I’d prefer if Ed’s own text was more robust against this sort of deconstruction. For example, his ‘About the Author’ addendum: “The Australian national cricket team also sought [de Bono’s] help and became the most successful team in history”. Could it be that the Australian cricket team were already talented cricketers, and so were of more value to de Bono’s reputation than he was to their cricket skills? Square Frames, please!

‘About the Author’ also proclaims that Edward de Bono is “the leading authority in the field of creative thinking”.  The leading authority? Using the magical power of de Bono’s own ‘Circle Frame’, I’m led to ask, ‘Say’s who?’

I see no problem with de Bono’s project “to move toward clarity” by teaching us strategies for critical/lateral/creative thinking.  I even think the basic concept of his ‘Six Frames’ is quite useful, and I’ll probably find that I subconsciously (perhaps reluctantly) draw upon it myself.  My problem is that the solutions will appear enlightening to only the most unlateral, uncreative and uncritical of minds. I suppose you’ve got to start somewhere.

Recommended? As suggested, for primary school students, self-help addicts and anyone who wants to sound clever in a meeting.*

Out of 10? 4

* Be warned, anyone who says “Circle Frames, please” out loud in a meeting will sound like an imbecile.

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