Why, Why Not, And Because

Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono knows about thinking. He believes it should be taught as a subject in schools. A bit of a surprise for some. While you might think that you learn to think in school, it appears that he believes you are wrong. He is more probably right than you would like. There is a big difference between accumulating facts and thinking.

DeBono has written 57 books and has been on the faculty at Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard. A passable resume.

What does he have to say about thinking and in particular creative thinking? Quite a lot as you can imagine, but let’s look at one aspect you have noticed but perhaps not put into context. What he calls the three ages of reason.

From Age 2 to about age 5 – the age of “Why?”

From Age 6 to about age 11 or 12 – the age of “Why Not?”

After age 12 – The age of “Because”

“Because” is the age of having accepted things as they are, not as they could be. It is not creative like the age of “Why Not.” It is passive and resistant to change. I suppose it is better than the age of “Because I said so.”

When you hear yourself saying “because,” it may be an indicator that something from the past is being carried forward. As discussed before, not everything from the past, even things that worked, still have relevance today. Context changes even while you do not and all solutions are relevant only in the context of the question they address. If the question or problem goes away or changes the solution becomes obsolete too.

While you have been using “Because” others have been saying “Why not?” And some of the others stayed in the “Why not?” well after they became adults. Do you remember Steve Jobs. The poster boy for “Why Not?”

Learn to treat “Because” as a warning. It is not always wrong, but neither is it always right. Here’s why.

DeBono points out that we have a built in “Open Block” that prevents us from seeing new approaches. Think of it like a long water pipe with a small hole in it. Most of the water flows through the pipe and out the end. I suppose because it is the easiest way to go and we have always done it that way. The “Because.”

But a little of it goes out through the small hole and that is the creative part. The “Why Not?”

You will know it when you see it. It will be the new thing that seems obvious. It has all the characteristics of the old flow, but is different.

In 1900 a supermarket would have been unthinkable. The open block required that there be separate businesses. A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, a dry goods store, a produce market and a hardware store. The first supermarket was a creative leap that few could have accomplished but once done, it is self-evident. Also much cheaper to operate and for suppliers to service. Now we have WalMart a brilliant extension of supermarket or perhaps the general store.

How about a phone that can be a computer or is it the opposite? Or a big box mall?

Other inventions are just inventions. They are brilliant but they don’t seem self evident. I have never thought I could have built a laser. Or fuel injection, or an MRI machine, or Google.

Notice how often you say “because”as the prelude to an answer. It is a measure of your age and belief in your experience. You can stay young by challenging some of the “Because” thinking.

Pay attention to the young fellows. Listen when they are asking why not. Encourage them. Fill out their questions with something other than because.

You will both win.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

don@moneyfyi.com | Twitter @DonShaughnessy | Follow by email at moneyFYI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: