Everyone says that, but not everyone does that (including me, of course!). In daily life we tend to do as many things at the same as we can (manage more than one project at the same time, liaise with different people, make decisions, write reports, write papers, just to mention some working tasks), and unfortunately, sometimes we are obliged to do that.
‘Multi-task’ seems to be a key word. The way the (Western) world functions seems to be in the multi-tasking direction. In the (design) professional practice, we are encouraged to do as many things at the same time as we can possible do. Technology development seems to ‘facilitate’ multi-tasking too by reducing production times, and, for example, thus clients tend to ask things to be done for yesterday.
On the other hand, Edward de Bono’s philosophy encourages to slow down the thinking-acting process, and take the time to think about one thing at the time. He explains that:
‘We try to do too many things at the same time. We look for information. We are affected by feelings. We seek new ideas and options. We have to be cautious. We want to find benefits. Those are a lot of things that need doing.
Juggling with six balls at the same time is rather difficult. Tossing up one ball at a time is much easier.’ (de Bono, 2000:11)
De Bono talks about ‘separate emotion from logic, creativity from information’, and to focus the energy at one point or thinking direction at the time. His method, Six Thinking Hats, specifically aims to help groups of people solving a problem, however the method can also be applied as a way of facing daily problems not only related to work environments.
Interesting is to have a look to ‘research-land’, which seems to work with totally different times. Everything is like in slow-motion: researching, thinking, writing proposals, setting up pilot work, analysing, writing up, and so on. Find answers, make connections, find the right theories or methods, take time; and often, not all depends on only one person. Instead, it is a long chain with many links, which makes the evolution of each stage be felt like extremely slow. If research and professional times are compared, the former feels as if you were always swimming in the same place or walking in circles. To really appreciate the bigger picture, time and objectivity are necessary, as well as observing the facts from a different perspective.
For both (and all) environments, balance should be the key word. Extreme processes (ways of thinking) can be counterproductive.
De Bono exemplify his philosophy with great clarity in this sentence:
‘With colour printing, each colour is printed separately, one at a time, and in the end the full colour effect is obtained.’ (de Bono, 2000:12)
To some extent, the whole point of my PhD is related with this: the identification of the main aspects from which information designers approach to analyse a problem, and the development of a methodology to encourage them to go through each of the main aspects at the time, instead of approaching randomly all together.
– De Bono, E., 1990. Lateral thinking: a textbook of creativity. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
– De Bono, E., 2000. Six Thinking Hats. Great Britain: Penguin Books.