Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of argues that the techniques of lateral thinking should be used even when no problem exists.

Better ideas can be found with lateral thinking

The whole point of lateral thinking is to allow us to cut across patterns and to find new ideas. As with all creativity, the ideas must be of value and logical in hindsight.

This is what happens in an asymmetric system. Something might be imperceptible in foresight, but obvious and logical in hindsight. This fact was never acknowledged by traditional philosophers, who were busy playing around with words rather than understanding the behaviour of self-organising information systems.

The formal techniques of lateral thinking can be learnt. Specific training programmes exist for this purpose (there are around 1,200 certified trainers across the world). You can then practise the techniques and perfect your personal skills.

When a new idea is needed in a specific area, you can train yourself to switch on your ‘lateral thinking mode’ and then use your creative skill.

There is a belief that new thinking is only needed when a problem exists that cannot otherwise be solved. While it is true that creative thinking could be your only hope if you can’t solve a problem, that is by no means the only - or even the most important - use of creative thinking.

If you have a problem and you can solve it, there is still great value in using creative thinking to find other possible solutions. These might be cheaper, simpler to use or offer more value. There is no reason to believe that the first solution is the only solution or even the best one.

There is an even more important use of creative thinking, and that is when no problem exists at all.

If a concept or a way of doing things has always been quite satisfactory, it never gets any thinking attention because it is believed that it does not need such attention. If it works well then why meddle with it? Or, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

However, the result of this kind of thinking is that many procedures continue in the old way when newer technology or newer market conditions make it possible to find a much better approach.

Something might work reasonably well but that does not mean that there cannot be an even better way of doing it.

If we continue to believe that creative thinking is only needed for solving problems then we miss out on opportunities.

There is a need for a regular review of all current procedures and concepts to make sure they are not ‘blocking’ superior ideas. And superior ideas can be produced with the help of lateral thinking.

About the author
Edward de Bono is the world's leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the teaching of thinking as a skill.

  Edward de Bono