If you haven’t read De Bono before and are looking for an overview of his concepts, How to Have a Beautiful Mind (sold as A Beautiful Mind in some countries) probably serves as a good one-stop summary. But be warned – read this book at bedtime, not in the morning, for it may cause drowsiness.
De Bono begins this book with a condescending introduction and continues to patronise the reader throughout most of the rest of the book. But if you can get past the tone, this book works as a bit of a best of De Bono.
Most of the book deals with holding interesting conversations, especially involving small talk. As such, this book would be useful for anyone having difficulty holding their own at networking functions, conferences, and cocktail parties. Much of the advice is common sense but there are one or two lateral ideas from the king of lateral thinking. Unfortunately De Bono glosses over the topics of “How to be interesting” and “How to rescue a boring conversation” with generic advice to develop your own store of conversation tidbits, jokes, and anecdotes to throw in to the mix.
How to have a Beautiful Mind also covers De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats analogy which is popular in business conferences as a parallel brainstorming concept. I think the concept is great, but I have to admit I find the use of coloured hats trite and irritating. Personally, I don’t think I would be able to say, or listen to someone else say, “put on your red hat” or “let’s have some green hat thinking on this problem” without rolling my eyes. De Bono, however, considers that it is this very point that makes the concept work, as “what is your red hat?” is a far more neutral way of asking someone how they feel.
The basic concept behind parallel brainstorming is that every participant looks at the issue at hand from the same viewpoint and presents ideas, and then each moves on to the next viewpoint. Instead of one person presenting a proposal and another attacking it, the business gets the full brainpower of each person looking at the both the positives and negatives, and all the information available.
The six viewpoints are information, benefits, risks and criticisms, intuition and emotional response, creative solutions, and the order in which the discussion should be held.
This book could have done with some strict editing. The chapters are extremely repetitive, and probably would have been a third of the length if a good editor got hold of it – possibly too short to justify a single book.
This article was first published on BellaOnline in February 2006. © Elsa Neal
How to have a Beautiful Mind is available from Amazon.com
Book Depository may be a better option for non-US book buyers.