Book Review – Teach Yourself to Think by Edward de Bono

Teach yourself to thinkEdward de Bono, in my opinion is one of those people who take focus to an extreme. He has focused on the subject of effective thinking for a long time and written over 62 books about it. No wonder he is considered to be an expert in the area of thinking. This book titled, Teach Yourself to Think, presents a five stage framework for thinking and how to put each stage to work. de Bono describes the book as a simple and practical guide for teaching ourselves to think. But reading it will require a degree of concentration because it has got 254 pages of content and requires the use of logical thinking as you read through it. Nonetheless it doesn’t contain any psychological jargon about how the brain works as you would expect from a book on thinking. Below I have briefly reviewed what you can expect to learn from each chapter.


This section sets the scene for the rest ofvtyhe book. Here de Bono explains why traditional thinking methods are excellent but inadequate. He also briefly introduces the five stage framework. He tries suggest readers ignore reading this section of the book as it is more complicated than the rest. But if you are interested in his argument against traditional thinking, read it.

The five stages of thinking

Here de Bono formally introduces the five stages of thinking. Each stage is defined and visually illustrated with a symbol. Following is a brief one line definition of each stage:

  • TO – indicates the aim, purpose or objective of the thinking.
  • LO – indicates the information available and the information needed.
  • PO – the stage where possible solutions are generated.
  • SO – narrows down and chooses from the possibilities.
  • GO – the action step, what are you going to do about it?

Some basic processes in thinking

This chapter is a detour from the main topic because de BoInteresting overview of the most basic processes of thinking to prepare tyhge reader for delving into the five stages. Here are the thinking processes he describes:

  1. Broad/Specific, General/Detail: the ability to move from broad to specific concepts and general to more detailed information in our thinking processes.
  2. Projection: being able to run something forward in your mind by imagining and visualizing.
  3. Attention Directing: using questions to dfitect and focus one’s attention.
  4. Recognition and fit: forming patterns which allows us to recognise thongs and fit them into a category.
  5. Movement and alternatives: challenging an established idea, assumption or fact and coming up with alternatives to it.


This chapter outlines two frameworks which the author refers too in the remaining part of the book. The frameworks are the six thinking hats whicvj is thinking framework that uses six different coloured hats to look at a situation from six different perspectives:

  1. White hat for focusing on information
  2. Red hat for feelings and emotions
  3. Black hat for risk assessment
  4. Yellow hat for looking at something positively
  5. Green hat for generating ideas and alternatives
  6. Blue hat for managing the whole thinking process

The other framework is the CoRT thinking programme which was designed to teach thinking as a school subject. It contains basic tools which are:

  • PMI- Plus, Minus and Interesting: Direct attention to plus, minus and interesting points of a situation in a sequential order.
  • CAF – Consider All Factors
  • C&S – direct vattention to Consequences and Sequels of an action.
  • AGO – What are the Aims, Goals and Objectives?
  • FIP – First Important Priorities
  • APC – Alternatives, Possibilities and Choices
  • OPV – Direct attention to Other People’s Views

TO – Where do I want to go?

The word ‘to’ as used in this fort stage is concerned with destination and purpose. Thus this stage of thinking deals with purpose, and key questions are:

  • What is the purpose of my thinking?
  • What do I hope to achieve with my thinking?
  • What am I thinking about?

Reading this chapter will also show you sdomne actions to look at your thinking closely, and different wasys to apply this stage of the thinking process to real world situations. This stage symbolizes ‘where am I going to?’

LO – The information stage

This stage is about gathering information as the background and basis for our thinking. It corresponds to the white hat in the thinking hats framework. Things that need to be considered when gathering information are discussed such as:

  • Sources of information
  • Questions
  • Quality of the information gathered
  • Gathering perceptions
  • GatheringGathering
  • The place of analysis in gathering information

How to search for information and making the most of information are also discussed.

PO – What are the possibilities?

The purpose of the PO us to achieve multiple possibilities for what we want from the thinking. While the TO stage establishes where we want to getbto, and the LO stage, where we are now in relation to where we want to get to, the PO stage is about generating possibilities that can help us get to where we want to get to. PO is the generative, productive and creative stage if thinking. This chapter outlines how this stage works. It explains four basic approaches termed as:

  1. The search for routine
  2. The general approach
  3. The creative approach
  4. The design and assembly approach

The possibilities generated are not evaluated at this stage, but in the SO stage.

SO – What is the outcome?

The purpose of this stage is to take the possibilities generated by the previous stage and reduce them to a single choice which can he acted on. This chapter shows us four steps to go through in order to make a choice from a range of possibilities. They are:

  1. Development stage when ideas are developed further
  2. Evaluation stage when each ideanis evaluated
  3. Choice stage when one idea is selected
  4. Decision stage when a decision is made whether to proceed with the idea or not

GO – Putting the thinking to work

This is the final stage and it is all about taking the output of the SO stage and putting it into action. Its about making things happen. The GO stage rounds off the thinking stage. It links the output of the SO stage back to the question asked in the TO stage. As usual de Bono explains some key steps involved in putting the idea from the SO stage into action.

Situation coding

Here a simple form of describing the thinking work involved in each stage through coding is suggested. For instance a rating of 1 to 9 can be used, such that the higher the thinking work involved in any of the stages, the higher the rating.


The book concludes with a summary which briefly summarises each stage.

This is an interesting book which presents a simple thinking framework for finding solutions andsolving problems. While the framework is easy to understand, the book does go through a lot of detail to explain each stage of the framework be abuse of the many steps involved. But I believe you don’t need to follow every single step in each stage, you can use the information in the book to create a simple process for generating ideas that works for your team, organisation or seven you personally.

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