Ideas Out of Thin Air

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Edward de Bono's word PO for "provocative operation" can allow you speak without fear of judgement.
  • PO is a matter of operating "outside of the judgement system."
  • Using PO in conjunction with seemingly outrageous ideas can provoke new thinking and possibilities.

Riffing off yesterday’s post, I came across this article via Design Boom about a car that runs on compressed air instead of alternative fuels like compressed hydrogen or natural gas. The nice thing is that the AirPod takes about two minutes to the fill the tank for about one euro ($1.25 USD).

What does that get you? A range of about 200 kilometers or 125 miles. Not bad given that even with a high average of 30 miles to the gallon for today's vehicles you’re looking at about $16 dollars in fuel costs.


Which got me thinking about Edward de Bono’s word PO. Representing a “provocative operation” the PO concept was created by de Bono as a way to allow speakers to say things without being immediately judged-or rather to step beyond judgement entirely.

In words from his book de Bono’s Thinking Course, he says, “[PO] is not a matter of suspending judgment or being unwilling to judge. It is a matter of operating outside (his emphasis) the judgment system.”

In the case above, most people would not associate air and operating automobiles (even though there is a relatively long history of its use in transportation). As a result, if the topic were brought up, it would most likely be “judged” rather harshly and shot down for a variety of pretty logical reasons. But that discussion and all those logical reasons would never lead to MDI's AIRPOD.

PO allows for statements like, “PO cars run on air” or “PO cars have zero emissions” or “PO cars run all week on $1”.

As you look to your own organization, what would you PO?

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