The Art and Science of Success  (1985)
By Edward de Bono

The book is quite wordy… when i read it for too long, I get a headache. But if you are patient enough to read it slowly, it does gives many interesting ideas.

Part I Success

There are many styles of success. You can build up strong points of your style rather than try to change it to a completely different style.  Be aware of any deficiency in your style, but don’t be woed by this or use it as an excuse. Choose the circumstances that best suit your style.

Motivation seems to be a natural part of the expectation and self-image of the successful person. Be positive and cultivate such an expectation. Expect to succeed. If your own motivation is insufficient, then marry someone who can push you along.

Whether it is true or not, assume that you have been equipped by genes and early environment for a particular type of success. That belief may make up for some of the actual deficiencies in either area.  Note that a key factor such as ambition, persistence or stamina can energize all other faculties you may have. See if there is within your makeup a “drive” of this sort. Build it up and build on it.  The most important factor is “expectation” – the notion is that success should be just as much part of your expectation of life as getting married and having children. The expectations is that an individual can work towards success.


Trying to be someone else won’t work, and it will ruin your own natural style, which is based on your own qualities. Important lessons and strategies can be learned from the behaviour of others and then be incorporated into your own style. Acting out a deliberate role in certain circumstances and for a limited time can be a useful strategy. It can be especially useful to overcome some basic deficiencies. There is nothing wrong with artificial training provided it is pursued to the point where it becomes natural.

Don’t wait for the right place and timing to happen to you, but be sensitive to place and timing, and plant the right seed at the right time in the right spot.


Part II Prepare for success

Do not believe that more and more self-analysis is better and better. The purpose of self-examination is to offer tentative perceptions, not dogmatic explainations. It is useful to look for blocks and weaknesses in order to try to put them right.

If you take your personality apart, there is no guarantee that what comes together again will be an improvement. Always leave enough of you unanalysed so that this can carry out the analysis on the remainder. Remember that analysis into component parts may destroy values that arise only from the whole.


The overriding factor is that you should be doing something you enjoy doing and are good at doing. There are clearly certain fields in which it is far easier to be successful than in others. There are also fields in which a moderate talent plus hard work will succeed, whereas in others a higher degree of natural talent is required. These are facts of life.

The ability to spot an opportunity when it is only a glimmer or a casual remark is very important. So it is the ability to take action on that opportunity. Unusual combinations of skills and experience can be important, because there will be little competition in such areas. In many fields credibility is the major asset.

Moderate success can also be a trap if you are interested in greater success. Moderate success may trap us in a path of moderate success. Few people have the chance to escape from moderate success in order to take a risky leap into another field where there are possibilities of greater success, but no guarantees. Many successful people have made such jumps (probably to the horror of their families)

Difficult challenges are worth taking on if the elements involved are within your control. If they are not, you may be wasting your time. You can always define your challenge for yourself.


Part III Make it a success

There is thinking concerned with description and thinking concerned with action (with getting things done). Thinking is an operating skill that can be learned; it is not just a matter of intelligence.

A brilliant new idea is not the only – or even the best- route to success. There is the creativity of innocence and there is the creativity of escape. You can only use the first while you are innocent.  Because you do not know how something ought to be done, you are able to find an original way.

Sir Clive Sinclair has told me that when he enteres a new field he reads just enough to get a feel for that field, to get the idiom of the field. If he were to read more, he would be constrained by the concepts and directions already established in that feild, and innovation (and innocence) would be impossible. The creativity of escape means escaping from the usual way of doing things or the usual way of looking at things.


Making an idea work is more difficult and more important than having the idea in the first place.

The “logic” of lateral thinking arises from the nature of perception as activity in a self-organizing information universe. The incidences of humour and creativity are totally interlocked. People that are funny are already creative because they see the improbable and the upside-down logics. It is one of the things we actually look for ; these people who have a finely gauged sense of humour are likely to be most creative. Having to react continually to immediate pressures and problems make creative thinking difficult. (except in solving those problems.


Do you need a strategy? If you are being successful without one, then perhaps you do not. Otherwise, you certainly do. A strategy provides you with a reason for taking initiative, for getting moving, for taking action. It provides you with guidelines for making decisions: does this fit my strategy?

A strategy is not a detailed plan but a broad overview. From time to time spell out your strategy in a conscious and deliberate manner. Be conscious of the changes and alterations you may want to make.

Intuition can lead to great successes and it can lead to disasters. Category thinking can be very valuable. Create your categories and then see if apparent opportunities fit them. Many successful people have established thinking categories : tpes of deal, types of investment, state of the market, types of design. This thinking is directed towards seeing whether what is in front of them fits into a category. If it does not ,then there are two choices : reject it or work creatively upon it.

One powerful approach to thinking is to create a map out of information and perceptions and then to rind your way about that map.The map shows the information and the biases and the areas of uncertainty. THe more complete the map, the easier it becomes to find your way to where you want to go. If the map is good enough, then the actual “thinking” part becomes very easy because the map shows you the route. The problem is that the map is a perceptual map, not an information map. There never is a correct perception.


No corporation is forced to look for opportunities until it is too late to do so. Standing still and waiting for the conveyor belt of life to deliver your luggage to you is not a strategy much favoured by successful people. Looking at anyone’s career, it is not any one event. There are a whole series of steps. There always is a next step, and it should be bigger and better than the last one.

Successful people enjoy challenges and taking opportunities. There is the urge to make things happen. With a problem, you look for a solution : with an opportunity, you look for benefits. The two key things in opportunity assessment are : benefits and feasibility. There are two sorts of risk in every opportunity : uncertainty about feasibility and uncertainty about the benefits.


There is opportuinity-seeking and opportunity-spotting. Wait until the opportunity becomes clear and then jump in. American industry is excellent at this, but not good as opportunity building as the Japanese. There is nothing wrong with opportunity spotting – except that by the time the opportunity may have become visible to others as well. The safest sort of opportunity is something already successful that can be copied and made better or cheaper. The market and buying patterns are already in place. The simplest form of opportunity is to buy something at less than its value and then to operate or sell it at its true value.


When organizations have grown to a certain size, they often feel it necessary to get rid of the entrepreneur who set it up in the first place. Maintenance takes over from creation. The role of management is maintenance, not opportunity seeking. In large corporations, there is an unstated attitude towards change and opportunity. Keep awake and watch closely. Follow trends rather than set them. Slow organic change is seen as being less risky than major strategic shift.

Management and problem-solving are maintenance functions. They are not sufficient in changing or a competitive world. Conceptual thinking is needed in addition. Successful people like doing things that involve risk but do not like the risk itself – so they seek to reduce this.

If there is a chance to try someone out, that is the best test of all. A short tryout may help with the personality, but a real tryout must be long enough to allow the experience of proper pressures. The reward of recognition or appreciation is as powerful as more material rewards. Be definite about criticism but criticize the performance not the performer.

In the long run, human values may be good business values. It may seem otherwise at a particular moment in time. The fast buck “what you can get away with” idiom may be very successful on a short term basis but it is very difficult to live down and is no basis for sustained success. Integrity and credibility have practical value quite apart from what they do for your soul. They make decisions easier and bring deals to you.

If you can learn to work within the system, you are far more likely to get things done than if you set out to pioneer and change the rules.




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