A Curb to Originality 
Earl Nightingale

  

Reading along in Edward De Bono's book New Think, I came across this most interesting paragraph:  "Many great discoverers like Faraday had no formal education at all, and others, like Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell, had insufficient formal education to curb their originality.  It is tempting to suppose that a capable mind that is unaware of the old approach has a good chance of evolving a new one."

The important point he makes there--actually, there are two important points--is that a knowledge of an old approach always tends to stand in the way of our coming up with a better idea, and the fact that too much formal education tends to curb originality.  They're actually one and the same answer since too much formal education tends to give us too many already accepted solutions.

Many people don't trust their own ideas because they're self-conscious about a lack of formal education.  Don't ever make that mistake.  Some of the best ideas and most important discoveries have come from people with very little or no formal education--Thomas Edison wasn't a bad example.

Albert Einstein never learned the multiplication tables, which makes me feel good since I never did either.  It's the sevens and eights that get me.

Not knowing the solution to a problem is often the best thing that can happen to us.  It gives us the opportunity to come up with a wholly new, and possibly much better, solution.  People armed with old solutions tend to keep digging the same holes.  The world can pass them by.

Lateral thinking, the kind Edward De Bono talks about, means moving laterally and digging brand-new holes in brand-new, virgin land.  Sometimes the old solution is best.  If so, by studying the problem and looking seriously for the answer, we'll come across the old solution and use it.  But we just might come up with a new and better one before we learn the old one, too.

People will say, "Surely they must have thought of that!"  Not necessarily.  As De Bono says:  "By far the greatest amount of scientific effort is directed toward the logical enlargement of some accepted hole.  Many are the minds scratching feebly away or gouging out great chunks according to their capacity.  Yet great new ideas and great scientific advances have often [get that--often!] come about through people ignoring the hole that is in progress and starting a new one.  The reason for starting a new one could be dissatisfaction with the old one, sheer ignorance of the old one, a temperamental need to be different, or pure whim.  This hole hopping is rare, because the process of education is usually effective, and education is designed to make people appreciate the holes that have been dug for them by their betters."*

So be a hole hopper.  Don't keep digging the old hole deeper.  Try digging some new holes--break some new ground for a change--and see what you can come up with.

- - - - - - -

* Edward De Bono, New Think:  The Use of Lateral Thinking in the Generation of New Ideas (New York:  Basic Books, 1968).

  
    


 
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