Thinking Tools

The different thinking tools are:

1. Attribute Matching

This tool is a simple method which breaks down stereotypes which are very common among many of us. Example: Let us say what we want to design a method of work which is as interesting as a holiday. I would then list out the attributes of holiday as follows:

A holiday is:

A time when one can go away on picnics and play games and listen to music.

A holiday is when you enjoy and meet new people.

A holiday is when you enjoy leisure time activities and different sports like canoeing and water skiing.

A holiday is when you catch up on your reading.

A holiday is when you spend more time with your family.

Now in attribute matching you apply each of the attributes to the work situation. For example, you say my work will involve spending more time with my family. This can lead to the idea that families can be invited to the work place or helped to take up jobs in your work place. Besides family get-togethers every week will also be possible when family members are involved in contributing to the individual company as in telemarketing or summer jobs for the kids. Both ideas are being implemented at Maxworth.

2. PMI

This is a tool which is used in teaching school children.

PMI stands for




By Edward De Bono

The PMI enables all individuals to study the three important aspects of the problem. School children in many countries use this to gain practice to all sides of a problem or mapping a situation.

3. The Six Thinking Hats

This is Edward De Bono’s classic tool for mapping a situation and understanding all aspects of a problem. This tool is extremely effective when used in groups.

White Hat – An objective look at data and information

Red Hat – Legitimate feelings,hunches & intuition

Black Hat – Logical negative,judgment and caution

Yellow Hat – Logical positive,flexibility and benefits

Green Hat – New ideas and creative thinking

Blue Hat – Control of the thinking process

By Edward De Bono

4. PO

PO is a tool perfected by Edward De Bono and is a word used to protect delicate new ideas from destruction


PO1 is used to protect an impossible idea from immediate destruction. The tool used here to protect the idea is INTERMEDIATE IMPOSSIBLE
Example: Parking on Mount Road becomes a problem of over crowding and lack of adequate parking space. You can use an intermediate impossible here: Drivers should be encouraged only to park on weekends.

This can lead to the idea to provide parking spots for car on different days of the week. So each car would receive special facilities only on certain days of the week. This would encourage pooling and a shift of leisure time activities to times when the congestion is less. The intermediate impossible helps to put a fence round an idea which is impossible, thus allowing it to develop without immediate attack.


PO2 is very similar to attribute matching. They help us to put together disimilar idea and expert solutions from different fields. Example: If you would like to get fresh ideas on education compare it to a motor car. The attributes of a motor car are:

1. It moves

2. It should be regularly filled with petrol

3. It can carry people

4. It provides a good view of the country

5. It has four wheels

Applying some of the ideas to education will ensure that we get a whole group of creative ideas like educational programme should put different types of people together in close proximity (as in a motor car) and enable them to share ideas in a time bubble away from others.

Education should provide regular inputs from an outside source (like petrol). May be ideas from people in government or agriculture, or nuclear physics.


PO3 is a tool to generate alternativeness. When a system is working well, as a matter of routine PO3 should be used to encourage to think of 10 alternative ways of doing it better. This is an important interesting tool to prevent stagnation.

4. The Tomorrow File

This is a file which should collect all the ideas which have been generated by the group and cannot be implemented immediately. Members of the team can go on adding to the tomorrow’s file and using it as a rich field to generate ideas on a regular basis. May be once every three months.

5. ADI

Building relationships, lifetime relationships if possible, through good communications provides the right environment for creativity.

Reducing conflict improves creativity. Innovation are good negotiators because of their ability to invent a variety of alternative ways of handling the problem. Conflict is reduced by the ability to invent variety of alternative ways of handling the problem. A good tool to reduce conflict is Edward De Bono’s ADI. Take any conflict situation and do a ADI which is mapping a situation.

Areas of Agreement A

Areas of Disagreement D

Areas of Irrelevance I

It is often found that the two parties agree on 95% of the points. All hated arguments and conflict may be about 3% of the points while 2% may be irrelevant.

Creativity helps teams to cope with change. They are able to use change not as a threat but as an opportunity and a challenge to improve their problem solving abilities.

6. Excursion

The excursion helps bring fresh ideas from a different fields into the group. The group is sent outside may be to a supermarket and asked to focus on something which interests or intrigues them. They may go to the supermarket and pick up objects and ideas.

7. Synectics

They return to the group and share the material as a trigger to generate new ideas. An interesting method of carrying out this example is to give everyone a polaroid camera and put the results on the wall and use this as trigger material.

8. Springboard

Springboard is used to prevent ideas from being judged. It is very useful when new ideas are nurtured in an atmosphere of suspended judgment. Example: Springboard would involve requesting people to prepare a WISH LIST to solve a specific problem. You tell individuals if you can have all the resources and materials and people you need how would you solve this problem? This would enable people to ignore obstacles and protect ideas from criticism. Whenever an idea is given, all individuals in the group must first say what they like about an idea. They would then ask the owner person of the idea, how to solve some of the problems involved.

9. Turncoat

Play Devil’s Advocate. As a discipline, think of the exact opposite of the view you have been holding. If you’ve been saying ‘Yes’ get the motivation for ‘No’.

If you are an optimist, as a discipline work out the motivations of the pessimist.

Most of us tend to see situations through the flawed windows of our own nature. We are optimistic or pessimistic and do not really participate with others in understanding all aspects and connotations of a problem. The Six thinking hats can help a group or even a person to study all aspects of a problem. Here are what the hats stand for

Each of us wear each hat in turn or persuade others to wear them. I’d like to state here, that while thinking one should remove all barriers and obstacles. Thinking is the easiest way of testing a solution. Thinking through all possibilities can prevent major financial distress. But most people are as careful and timid with their thinking as they are with their actions, thus losing the possibility or nurturing creative ideas.

People feel busy and productive, leaping into activity. One can happily be busy doing work which may be non productive. In my view thinking should be the major activity of managers.

The rules of action has been already codified by Edward De Bono as ‘Physical nature of shoes’.

Creativity helps us to find alternative to successful activities. After the first three years, Sterling Holiday Resorts was doing well. But progress lies in constantly striving through innovation to delight the customer.