Textbook of Wisdom by Edward De Bono

A beautiful must read book!!

I recently read this very wonderful book that I absolutely loved because it taught me so many things!
Here are my learnings from it

Our mind works this way (pic below) and…

You have a goal to get to B. The path is long and difficult but not impossible. You then notice C. The path to C is straight and easy. We choose to take C and forget about B.
There are many variations to this. Go to a shopping mall, how often we end up buying that new flavor of a sauce that weren’t on our original shopping list?

…that’s why wisdom is important. Because we don’t always want to take the first obvious path that our mind thinks about. Because creativity is that way! We don’t always take the first obvious thought to be our best solution!

Path Model of Thinking versus Portfolio Model

Path Model
A person reaches a junction, where they have to decide whether to go towards A or B. They cannot go to A and B simultaneously. A decision has to be made. This path OR that.

Portfolio Model
An Investment Manager has billions of currency to invest. They obviously wouldn’t choose to invest in one single company stock or one property. They don’t have to make a decision to invest in this one OR that. They have the option to choose this AND that.

Off course its unwise to say I only love the portfolio model or I only love the Path Model. It is knowing which models are best in appropriate situations.

Wisdom fills our minds with possibilities. Wisdom is concerned with richness of possibility. Wisdom helps you decide which models are most relevant in any particular circumstance.

Another Example on the use of the Portfolio Model:
In an office environment, we often need that one expert whose help we need to move our product forward. The situation is that this expert is working on another product that with another Product Manager. Assuming the expert is willing to balance their time, it would be too rigid of one PM to say, hey this expert can only work on my product. We can adopt a portfolio model of thought here.

Wisdom v/s Cleverness — What’s the difference?

Most of the faults of thinking are faults of perception
Outside of Technical Matters, that we learn in School or as part of our education system, Perception is the most important part of thinking. Most of the faults of thinking are faults of perception.
Wisdom takes place in the perception area. Wisdom is about broader perception, deeper perception, richer perception

Good to avoid terms like ‘must’, ‘cannot’, ‘never’ and ‘always’ in your language. Instead its advisable to use terms like ‘by and large’ or ‘usually’.

Because terms like ‘must’, ‘never’ can make us think towards one and only one extreme side of any point. Charlie Munger said he didn’t have an extreme mindset. He didn’t bend disproportionately towards one view or the other. Its good to stay balanced and be open to other ways of thinking and living life.


Perception is how the mind organizes the information that is coming from the world outside.
It is not only what is physically in front of our eyes (or other senses) but what the brain does with this information. How is the information structured? What information from the past is brought up to integrate with the present information?

We live in the world we see. But the world we see is not the physical world around us but the perceived world in our minds. The physical world maybe exactly the same but different people will see different things.

The mind doesn’t take photographs. The mind brings information, experience, frames, present contexts, feelings and emotions. All these gets organized by perception to give us the way we look at the situation. Again, most of the faults in thinking are faults of perception: Seeing only part of the situation, bringing along an inadequate frame and using emotional selection of information, etc.

Many of the deficiencies in behavior could also be seen as faults of perception: arrogance, selfishness, despair, overreaction and dependence, etc.

Logic Bubble — Everyone is behaving logically within their bubble of perception

So instead of labeling the other person as stupid, illogical, malicious, one acknowledges that persons’s logical behavior and seeks to understand the perceptual bubble within which it is so logical. It is a part of wisdom to consider such ‘logic bubbles’

Have you ever seen a concept walking around? You wouldn’t because concepts are only in our minds!
The concept of a car (for most of us until recently) was that it had an engine that ran on Petrol or Diesel. Once we have extracted the concept, we can find other ways of carrying out that concept. Elon Musk for example had a concept that a car can run on batteries and it was merely a container that allowed people to get in and take them from place A to B while following the traffic rules. This allowed for humongous invention on various parts of Tesla (Battery, Doors, Autonomous Driving, Updates over Software)

When you do someone a favor, it could be out of generosity or it could be that you want that person to owe you one!

One of the major faults of perception is picking out just one part of the situation and ignoring the rest

Age permits you to have more experience but only if you permit yourself to be open to new experiences. If you never change your mind why have one?

Attention Directing Instructions

Part of thinking consciously means we give ourselves attention-directing instructions. We can intentionally direct our brains to look in different directions. Set out to look at all things Blue, and you will suddenly notice blue cars, blue sky, blue buildings, blue bags. This works both ways. We setout to look at negative things in any situation or a person, all we will see are negatives. Setout to see the positives, we will notice positives. The idea is to have a balance.
The PMI technique one of the attention directing instructions. Look at any situation or person and note down: 1) The Plus 2) The Minus 3) The Interesting; aspect of that situation or person.

Thinking in Super Patterns
What would this person (your role model) do in this situation? Merely asking this question helps us think differently.

The Edge Effect (Don’t prioritize your current self over your future self) There is something marvelous that you want to do but you cannot do is because the very first step is so very difficult.
The other way round, there is something which is immediately enticing but the long term effect is bad.

The negative edge effect is that you don’t take the next step because it is difficult. (Think of making that one phone call to make a big sale that would change your career). This is where the first step is hard in the present but the future consequences would be good.
The positive edge effect is that you take the next step because it is very easy to take. (Smoking the first Cigarette to feel being part of a group that smokes). This is where you feel good in the present but the long term consequences are harmful

Wisdom is recognizing the Edge Effect. Want to take that step that brings immediate pleasure but has long term harmful consequences? Recognize the edge effect in action. Scared of writing that first draft of your book? Recognize the edge effect in action

Thinking in a Box and Labeling
We take our child to the Doctor for some illness. The Doctor asks a series of questions to determine what kind of illness it is. Once determined the Doctor ‘Labels’ the illness and prescribes the treatment.
This is the Box method of thing. You try to find patterns, eliminate or deduce things that don’t fit into a given box, label it and take action. This no doubt is very efficient in many many situations.
However what if your box is old fashioned? What if your labels are out dated?
Whenever we have judged, we have labeled and put someone or a situation in a Box.

Generalizations are a kind of a box which result in prejudices and stereotypes (examples):

  • That country doesn’t have a culture
  • Introverts aren’t good at public speaking

One of the roles of wisdom is to make sure that our judgement-box type of thinking is used sensibly.

Destination versus Direction
If we are driving North, it doesn’t mean we want to live in the North Pole. North is a direction and not a destination. Likewise Truth is a great direction to have. However we must not confuse Truth as being a Destination. When this happens, we mostly gravitate into ‘I am right and you are wrong’ mindset. It can quickly turn into arrogance and persecution of others because you have the truth. Offcourse it is very likely that you are correct and others are wrong. However in many situations (especially in the scientific context) what’s deemed as truth today has been invalidated generations later.

This is why it is often good to use terms like ‘By and Large’, ‘Usually’, over terms like ‘Never’, ‘Must’, ‘Cannot’. The shift is from thinking fully into the Box, to half in the box, half outside the box.

The label becomes the experience
This is bad. You are a slow learner. Guess what? This becomes the experience of the student. Oh this situation is so bad. Guess what, it becomes the experience. What if you instead said, you are doing good and I like the effort you are putting in to learn? What if you instead said, oh wow this situation is going to be challenging and I am going to learn and grow into my better version? In a sense, a label is also like a Box. Once you apply a label, your mind thinks within the box of that label.

This is a delightful book that is packed with wisdom. One that I shall refer over and over again and share it with people whom I know.

I love the profession of Product Management that helps me build meaningful relationships with teams and customers. I just can’t get enough of reading!