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The human brain and our society are programmed to build upon our pre-established building blocks. This is very helpful, because we don’t have time to reinvent the wheel for every action or task we’re required to undertake. But it also means we tend not to think creatively and look at the bigger picture.

We map out where we want to go, plan the execution, and progress according to our plan. But when we encounter unforeseen circumstances, how flexible is our thinking in response to this ‘problem’?

In the Philippines they had built a huge hall to house an international film festival. Two days before the event there was a typhoon and the hall was flooded to a depth of about three feet. The engineers said it would take several days to pump the water out. So they got hundreds of workmen to build a platform over the water. The meeting took place with the water underneath the delegates. This sort of approach may too easily be condemned as ‘papering over the cracks’. In some instances this would indeed be the case and is not to be recommended; find the cause of the cracks or the house may fall down. In other instances, designing a way forward is not only valuable, it is the only way forward.

Edward de Bono (New Thinking for the New Millennium)

In business and society today, we need to learn how to ‘design a way forward’ — accept the obstacles and faults around us and assess whether we need to ‘fix the faults’, ‘design a way forward’, or perhaps do both in parallel. Only with such progressive, constructive thinking will we maximise possibilities, productivity, and quality of life.

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