Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

The Jewel In The Mud Award

Squall 8, Autumn 1994, pg. 23.

SQUALL has done some lateral thinking in order to come up with this issue’s ‘Jewel in the Mud’ award. The article chosen may not mention squatters, travellers, dancers, protesters, the CJB or land rights; as has been the case with previous winners of this prestigious SQUALL accolade. What it does address however is the ways in which we think and the ways in which we are told, manoeuvred, cajoled and conditioned to do that thinking.

Entitled “When is a box not a box? When it’s a straitjacket”, the article appeared in The Guardian 3/9/94 and was written by the modern day celeb of thinking practices, Edward de Bono.

“The great problems of our time can be dealt with if we unshackle ourselves from ancient modes of thinking,”

ran the sub-heading, followed up with the corking first sentence....

“Western thinking is failing because its complacent arrogance prevents it from seeing the extent of its failure.”

Why? .... Edward goes on to explain.

“Analysis breaks things down so they can be more easily fitted into boxes. Argument disputes whether or not something fits into the suggested box. Once something is judged into a box then we ‘read the label’ to determine the appropriate action....... So we are trapped in a thinking system based on ‘truth’ and ‘boxes’... The boxes are derived from the past. There is the assumption that a cluster of attributes that have occurred together in the past will always occur together in the future. This is like assuming that the tuberculosis bacillus will always be susceptible to streptomycin because it was susceptible in the past; it is not. The future is not like the past.... Many things are not there to be discovered. They only exist if we design them into being. You build a house, you do not discover a house.”

And so our role in all this?…..

“Critical destruction of a hypothesis has never produced a better one. THERE IS A NEED for someone to come along and design a better hypothesis. Where the cause cannot be removed problems have to be solved by ‘designing’ a way forward... While we may be excellent at analysis we are extremely bad at design because design needs creativity and lateral thinking, and education has never paid any attention to these very important matters. Universities entrap the best brains and feed them a diet of scholarship, analysis, judgement and critical thinking. This is totally insufficient in a changing world.… Design needs new perceptions and new concepts.”

Go on Edward….

“Why then do we not take creativity seriously and allocate serious resources to it? In the future creativity is going to be the most important part of human thinking because all else will be done much better by computers and models..… We believe that nothing can be done about creativity and that it is just a matter of chance or inborn talent. This is old-fashioned nonsense. Creative thinking is a skill that can be learned like any other skill.... Then we seek to design a way forward using creativity to suggest new concepts.”

And why isn’t this happening already?

“Because we are trapped in the complacency of a thinking system which will become increasingly inadequate at everything except defending its adequacy.”

Ah yes Edward.....here’s yer award.


Related Articles
The Jewel in the Mud Award - this issue's selected media gem: George Monbiot gives historical context to what the CJB is attacking. Squall 7 - Summer 1994.