A sorting system run backwards

de bonoOn one of my long train journeys recently I took along my Edward De Bono Book ” How to have creative ideas” in the hope that it might inspire me. I normally skip the introductions in such books but this time I began reading it and came across some interesting thinking that parallels Dave Snowden’s take on Complex Adaptive Systems.

de Bono says that ‘we can now look at creativity (like humour) as the ‘logical’ behaviour of a certain type of information system.

  1. the human brain is a ‘self organising information system’.
  2. self-organising systems form patterns
  3. All pattern making systems are ‘asymmetric‘.

From this de Bono deduces that

‘humour’ can tell us more about the brain than ‘reason’. Reason tells us very little because any sorting system run backwards is a reasoning system. Humour however indicates asymmetric patterns. This means that the route from A to B is not the same as the route from B to A.

I just love this simple explanation that as we experience things, we eventually cluster similar experiences as ‘categories’ against which future experiences are ‘categorised’. So from sensing emerges categorisation. The great risk is that we then categorise with a ‘first fit’ pattern matching which can result in stereotyping, ill considered decision making and reinforcing, norming, radicalisation of behaviours.

This is then the core of all of his great books and ideas on lateral thinking where you are encouraged to break linear (reasoned) thinking and make new connections and form new patterns.

Humour also depends on these non-linear connections and, if you can forgive me quoting the current Terry Wogan TV advert, to illustrate this in the phrase:

Time flies like  an arrow, but fruit flies like banana

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