Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono was born in Malta on 19 May 1933. Educated at St. Edward's College, Malta De Bono then gained a medical degree from the University of Malta. Following this, he proceeded as a Rhodes Scholar to Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained an MA in psychology and physiology. He represented Oxford in polo and set two canoeing records. He also has a PhD degree in medicine from Trinity College, Cambridge, an honorary DDes (Doctor of Design) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and an honorary LLD from the University of Dundee.
De Bono has held faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard. He is a professor at Malta, Pretoria, Central England and Dublin City University. De Bono holds the Da Vinci Professor of Thinking chair at University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona, US. He was one of the 27 Ambassadors for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009.
De Bono has written 57 books with translations into 34 languages. He has taught his thinking methods to government agencies, corporate clients, organizations and individuals, privately or publicly in group sessions. He has started to set up the World Center for New Thinking and Peace Studies, based in Malta, which he describes as a "kind of intellectual Red Cross".
In 1995, he created the futuristic documentary film, 2040: Possibilities by Edward de Bono, depicting a lecture to an audience of viewers released from a cryogenic freeze for contemporary society in the year 2040.
Schools from over 20 countries have included de Bono's thinking tools into their curriculum, and he has advised and lectured at board level at many of the world's leading corporations.
Convinced that a key way forward for humanity is better language, he published The Edward de Bono Code Book in 2000. In this book, he proposed a suite of new words based on numbers, where each number combination represents a useful idea or situation that currently does not have a single-word representation. For example, de Bono code 6/2 means "Give me my point of view and I will give you your point of view." Such a code might be used in situations where one or both of two parties in a dispute are making insufficient effort to understand the other's perspective.
In 2000, de Bono advised a UK Foreign Office committee that the Arab–Israeli conflict might be due, in part, to low levels of zinc found in people who eat unleavened bread (e.g. pita flatbread). De Bono argues that low zinc levels leads to heightened aggression. He suggested shipping out jars of Marmite to compensate.
Edward de Bono argued that companies could raise money just as governments now do – by printing it. He put forward the idea of private currency as a claim on products or services produced by the issuer. So IBM might issue “IBM Dollars” – theoretically redeemable for IBM equipment, but also practically tradable for other vouchers or cash. To make such a scheme work, IBM would have to learn to manage the supply of money to ensure that—with too many vouchers chasing too few goods—inflation does not destroy the value of their creations. But companies should be able to manage that trick at least as easily as governments do, particularly as they don’t have voters to cope with.
The following two published critiques of de Bono's work emphasize the lack of evidence to support his proposals.
- In the Handbook of Creativity, Robert J. Sternberg writes,
Equally damaging to the scientific study of creativity, in our view, has been the takeover of the field, in the popular mind, by those who follow what might be referred to as a pragmatic approach. Those taking this approach have been concerned primarily with developing creativity, secondarily with understanding it, but almost not at all with testing the validity of their ideas about it. [...] Perhaps the foremost proponent of this approach is Edward De Bono, whose work on lateral thinking and other aspects of creativity has had what appears to be considerable commercial success.
- Frameworks For Thinking is an evaluation of 42 popular thinking-frameworks conducted by a team of researchers. Regarding Edward de Bono they write,
[he] is more interested in the usefulness of developing ideas than proving the reliability or efficacy of his approach. There is sparse research evidence to show that generalised improvements in thinking performance can be attributed to training in the use of CoRT [Cognitive Research Trust] or Thinking Hats tools. An early evaluation of CoRT reported significant benefits for Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils.... However, in a more recent study with Australian aboriginal children (Ritchie and Edwards, 1996), little evidence of generalisation was found other than in the area of creative thinking.
The views of de Bono on language have been challenged by some philologists (Marco Ferri, 1994) who regard his view of language as the biggest barrier to human progress as superficial. Ferri argues that a lack of human critical judgement should be held responsible for the transmission of out-of-date ideas.
Summarising de Bono's 1985 work in Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve them, M. Afzalur Rahim states: "De Bono's approach to total elimination of conflict is no different from the approaches of the classicists. This approach to dealing with conflict is completely out of tune with modern thinking and, therefore, unsatisfactory."
Partial list of books by de Bono include:The Use of Lateral Thinking (1967) ISBN 0-14-013788-2, introduced the term "lateral thinking"
New Think (1967, 1968) ISBN 0-380-01426-2
The Five-Day Course in Thinking (1968), introduced the L game
The Mechanism of the Mind (1969), Intl Center for Creative Thinking 1992 reprint: ISBN 0-14-013787-4
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, (1970), Harper & Row 1973 paperback: ISBN 0-06-090325-2
The Dog-Exercising Machine (1970)
Technology Today (1971)
Practical Thinking (1971)
Lateral Thinking for Management (1971)
Po: A Device for Successful Thinking (1972), ISBN 0-671-21338-5, introduced the term Po
Children Solve Problems (1972) ISBN 0-14-080323-8, ISBN 0-06-011024-4 (1974 reprint)
Po: Beyond Yes and No (1973), ISBN 0-14-021715-0
Eureka!: An Illustrated History of Inventions from the Wheel to the Computer (1974)
Teaching Thinking (1976)
The Greatest Thinkers: The Thirty Minds That Shaped Our Civilization (1976), ISBN 0-399-11762-8
Wordpower: An Illustrated Dictionary of Vital Words (1977)
The Happiness Purpose (1977)
Opportunities : A handbook for business opportunity search (1978)
Future Positive (1979)
Atlas of Management Thinking (1981)
De Bono's Course in Thinking (1982)
Learn-To-Think: Coursebook and Instructors Manual with Michael Hewitt-Gleeson de Saint-Arnaud (1982), ISBN 0-88496-199-0
Tactics: The Art and Science of Success (1985)
Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve them (1985)
Masterthinker's Handbook (1985)
Six Thinking Hats (1985) ISBN 0-316-17831-4
I Am Right, You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic (1991) ISBN 0-670-84231-1
Six Action Shoes (1991)
Handbook for the Positive Revolution (1991) ISBN 0-14-012679-1
Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas (1992) ISBN 0-00-255143-8 – a summation of many of De Bono's ideas on creativity
Sur/Petition (1992) ISBN 0-88730-543-1
Water Logic: The Alternative to I am right You are Wrong (1993) ISBN 978-1563120374
Parallel thinking: from Socratic thinking to de Bono thinking (1994) ISBN 0-670-85126-4
Teach Yourself How to Think (1995)
Textbook of Wisdom (1996) ISBN 0-670-87011-0
How to Be More Interesting (1998)
New Thinking for the New Millennium (1999)
Why I Want To Be King of Australia (1999)
How to Have A Beautiful Mind (2004)
Six Value Medals (2005)
H+ (Plus): A New Religion (2006)
How to Have Creative Ideas (2007)
Free or Unfree? : Are Americans Really Free? (2007) ISBN 1-59777-544-4
Six Frames For Thinking About Information (2008)
The Love of Two Cockroaches (2009) ISBN 978-9993261599
Think! Before It's Too Late (2009) ISBN 978-0-09-192409-6
De Bono has also written numerous articles published in refereed and other journals, including The Lancet and Clinical Science.