One of my favourite books has always been “A Smile In The Mind”.

It’s also been one of my most valuable.

I always use it when I need to get out of a rut.

It’s a collection of the best and wittiest graphic thinking.

But although I’ve owned it for fifteen years, I never read the foreword.

No one reads forewords.

Then this weekend I noticed it was written by one of my heroes, Edward de Bono.

So I read every word.

It’s brilliant, so I’ve typed out a shortened version here.


 “Thanks goodness the brain is designed to be uncreative.

With eleven items of clothing to put on there would be 39,916,800 ways of getting dressed.

The brain is designed to make patterns, to use them and stick to them.

That is why we can get dressed, eat breakfast, cross the road, and do more or less useful work when we get to the office.

Creativity, concept formation and all the wonderful aspects of the brain are nothing to do with these established patterns: they arise from the brains defects as an information system.


I believe that design as such is grossly undervalued in our society and education – because the awful Greek gang of three led us to believe that analysis and judgement were enough.

But most of the major problems in the world will not be solved by further analysis.

They need design.

Then there is the visual element.

I have always thought it is a pity that the world is run by literary blokes because the visual side is so much more powerful and constructive.

Finally there is wit and humour.

Many, many years ago I stated that humour was by far the most important behaviour of the human brain.

People thought I was being provocative.

I was not.

Humour indicates a self-organising information system that leads to asymmetric patterns.

Humour is the exact model for creativity.

In both we access from the far end a pattern that cannot be accessed from the near end.

Suddenly it makes sense.


For hundreds of years we have believed that if something is logical in hindsight then logic should have been enough to get the idea in the first place.

This is complete and total rubbish in a patterning system.

Most of our thinking and education is based on this absurdly false belief.

In this book there are multiple examples of playing around, jumps, sudden insight and so on.

Then comes the connection and the link back to the communication purpose.

The definition of a provocation is simple: there may not be a reason for saying something until after it has been said.

This is totally contrary to our normal permitted habits but we now know that provocation is mathematically essential in a self-organising information system.

Contradictions which we are told to avoid in the world of verbal logic do not exist in perception, which is based on water logic rather than the rock logic of fixed identity.

So this book tells us a lot about wit, design and communication but it also contributes to that growing feeling that traditional analysis, judgement, contradiction–avoidance and argument habits are insufficient to deal with a changing world.

The opposite of traditional logic is not irrational chaos but the more powerful non-linear logic of perception.


Only perception gives value to life.”


Edward de Bono