The one-sentence summary

Our current way of thinking is not good enough – perceptual and exploratory thinking are more powerful than critical thinking.


  • Our current way of thinking is not good enough, and here’s what we can do about it.
  • While our methods are excellent when applied to science and technology, when we attempt to tackle more human issues like climate change and war, we make no progress at all.
  • PO stands for Provocative Operation, and can also be linked to possible, hypothesis, pose, potential etc. Interjected into conversations, PO has the power to push thinking along faster and more productively.
  • Operacy is as important as literacy and numeracy. It’s the skill of operating or getting things done, but schools only concentrate on the first two.
  • There are many types of important thinking:
  • Perceptual thinking is more powerful than logic in changing behaviour
  • Exploratory thinking is more likely to achieve progress than argument
  • Critical thinking, as espoused by the Greek Gang of 3 (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), is excellent but not enough. It is fine for destroying ideas but not for creating new ideas in the first place.


  • He argues that those who claim that the term ‘problem-solving’ covers everything suggest that ‘anything you want to do’ forms a problem, which includes any mental activity. This is misleading and dangerous because it excludes all other forms of thinking.
  • The Septine is a new concept in which you write down seven different thoughts about a situation. There is no logical sequence and it is not analysis. They are merely scattered elements that could lead to better thoughts.
  • In business there is an obvious need for new thinking, because in business you can argue till you are blue in the face that you are right, and still go bankrupt a month later.
  • A ‘proto-truth’ describes something we hold to be true, providing we are trying to change it. This can be more creatively fruitful than the belief that we already have the true answer.


  • As with many de Bono books, he reworks many of his old techniques, so you may have seen some of them before.