by Edward de Bono following the inaugural meeting in May 2018
I am grateful to H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca President of Malta for her distinguished patronage of the Palace of New Thinking. Thank you for recognising the importance of thinking and my contribution as a Maltese citizen to help Malta’s potential to continue to make a contribution to the world with new ideas.
I held the inaugural meeting on the 18th of May in Verdala Palace, Malta with representatives from many countries. 19th May was my 85th year and the Palace Of New Thinking 1st conference; our focus was ‘new forms of governance’.
Malta is a small island with a big history. It is too small to be a threat or a substantial economic contributor to any other nation but small things can be highly effective catalysts. A catalyst works by bringing together two different substances and facilitating a reaction that creates something new as a result. This is the purpose for the Palace Of New Thinking, or PONT. It is a place where different groups can meet with the sole purpose of creating something new. It is a meeting place on neutral ground and a place where my thinking methods are used; such as Lateral Thinking, Six Thinking Hats and other methods to change perceptions and open up new possibilities. The will to find a solution is an important start but may not be enough. We also need mechanisms to change the way we think about situations in order to break out of set response and routine reactions. We need frameworks to provide an alternative to the standard adversarial dialogue of “I am right and you are wrong”.
One of the skills of Lateral Thinking is to recognise that words are histories of ignorance. That words are a bundle of concepts that were effective at a particular point in history. Those concepts then get frozen in the definition of the word. The frozen definition is necessary for consistent communication, but is very limiting for changing thinking.
Here are four key themes that emerged from the focused thinking sessions held during the Palace Of New Thinking conference ‘new forms of governance’:
For example “Governance” is inherently about concentrated authority, control and judgement. These are all necessary to ensure order but they are not sufficient to manage and create change. Our traditional notion of governance is that there are superhumans who make decisions on our behalf. We then have unrealistic expectations that this governing body has all the right answers. It is a brave leader who is prepared to say “I am not sure what the right answer is, we need to do more exploration, we need new ideas”. PONT is a mechanism to delegate idea generation and to legitimise the search for new approaches. It is no longer about being right and winning but about creating new approaches. We propose that Governments create a Ministry for ideas. This might act like the court jester with no power of authority, only the power of a different point of view. Once a promising new idea has been proposed, it cannot be unthought. This idea could be pushed a little further and the role could be a public Gadfly. A person that provokes others into action by bringing attention to issues that need addressing. For example, PONT could give quality of thinking scores to different governments or corporations assessing their current approach to particular issues.
A second theme we explored was the short term nature of governance systems where the governing body is (re)selected based on their short term performance. This applies to public companies and to elected governments. So we challenged the idea that there should be one government with one budget. We explored the idea of a short term and long term government – both electable but with separate, ring fenced funding and different time horizons and definitions of success. For example the long term government would be responsible for policy on infrastructure such as public transportation. Or perhaps each government department would have to ring fence a proportion of budget for investments with a necessary but long term benefit.
As a third area we decided to look at Tax and challenge a key assumption. We recognised that “Taxes are taken” and we decided to challenge that concept and reverse it. PO: “Taxes are given as donations”. PO is a signal that the statement is deliberately provocative and that it is a stepping stone to further ideas, not an invitation for judgement. The next step is to consider where this provocation leads our thinking, a process called Movement. One emerging idea from this Provocation is that corporations and individuals could decide where they want their taxes spent. For example an Oil company could elect for its taxes to be spent on environmental protection. A wealthy entrepreneur could decide that she wants her taxes spent on education. A further development of this idea is that there is no upper limit on the amount that can be donated. At the moment donations can be made to charities or to political parties but not to government activities. With this concept a corporation or individual could choose to donate more than the minimum required into a designated cause that was government supported. There are also possibilities for governments to offer lower tax rates if money is donated for certain purposes. What if taxes could be paid in kind, i.e. not just with cash. Could a construction company donate hours of labour and materials to infrastructure projects as their donation. Could individuals offer space in their homes to the elderly or homeless in lieu of tax. Corporations could claim credit for their donations as part of their social responsibility credentials. This may make that corporation more attractive to shareholders, customers and employees. We also acknowledged the opportunities created by public private partnerships and by focusing investment in areas to stimulate the economy.
A fourth approach was to rethink the concept of the high profile superhuman and said; PO: Politicians (or roles with governing power) should be anonymous. Perhaps a role with authority could be held by a team of people, with the leadership of the team rotating. Matching this idea with the earlier idea of long term government, perhaps the members of the team would not be elected based on their personality and promises but on their track record in a particular field. We also recognised the opportunity that technology has brought for greater transparency, accountability and immediacy of information at lower costs. It is now practical for the governed to be better informed and more involved in governance, between elections.
I am very grateful for the support of our
H.E. Dr. Akkan Suver Author, academic, NGO leader. President of Marmara Group Foundation Turkey and Mr.Angelo Xuereb Chairman of AX Holdings. EY’s Malta Entrepreneur of the year™ award
AQA Capital, Malta Stock Exchange, Edwards Lowell, Global Gaming.
de Bono Global, de Bono Thinking Systems™ (DBTS), AX Hotels, Life Learning Academia, Vini e Capricci, Master Chef Jozef Oseli, RVC, Corinthia Hotels.
dBTS Master Trainers in my methods
Nicola Tyler, Chuck Dymer, Pat Carlisle, Donna Pace and Margarita de la Fuente. They each gave their time and skill to facilitating the first conference.
And especially to the organisers Justine Cassar Gaspar, Marjetka Kastner of Life Learning Academia, Amanda Mobbs of de Bono Global, Suzy McLellan of dBTS.
I am looking forward to the second conference and invite any government or corporation to submit a topic for our to work on together.
There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity there would be no progress.
Edward de Bono