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Education Bookcast

Mar 26, 2018

Edward de Bono has long stressed the need to be open to the creation of new words in order to support the development of new concepts and ideas, even in areas not considered "cutting edge". For example, in his book Simplicity, he makes the case (not too convincingly) that the words "simple" and "simplify" are too long and complicated, and they should themselves be simplified to the word "simp", as in "We should simp this so it will be more simp." (Understandably, de Bono has his detractors when it comes to these neologisms.)

"Po" is a new word. (To be fair, it was actually new in 1969 when he first mentioned it in The Mechanism of Mind, but every time de Bono refers to it he calls it "new"). It is somewhat unusual in that it is not a noun or a verb, as most neologisms are, but a grammatical particle, like "yes", "no", "and", "but" or "should". The form of the word comes from the initials of the phrase "provocation operation", but also happens to be the first two letters of a convenient list of words in English, such as poetry, possible, and ponder. 

Po is used in order to introduce a phrase or word that is not be be taken seriously, but merely to be used as an input to lateral thinking. Consider the following examples: "Po politicians should be encouraged to be tyrants." "Po children should be given sharp objects to play with." "Po the sky is red." Each of these ideas appears either crazy or non-sensical, but we can use them to gain new perspectives or think of new ideas.

What if encouraging politicians to be as bad as possible would uncover the untrustworthy ones quickly so that they could be removed before they do too much damage? What if children were trusted with things we usually don't trust them with, so they learn more responsibility and get a taste of the real world? What if we could wear glasses that would invert all the colours that we see? I'm not saying that the above are necessarily all *good* ideas, just that they are outgrowths from the silly provocations deliberately presented to make me think in new ways, which I otherwise wouldn't have thought of.

For most of this episode, I cover de Bono's general thoughts and the argument presented for why Po is important, rather than talking about the application of Po itself. This is discussed near the end, and doesn't take long to introduce. De Bono's arguments are worth engaging with, though, as they give us an unusual perspective on thinking, and let us realise why a word like po may be useful to creative thinking.

Enjoy the episode.

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