Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of considers the pros and cons between working in a team or by yourself.

Lateral Thinking for Individuals and Groups

Research suggests that people who are very creative achieve more by themselves than in a group. When they are in a group, they have to listen to others and explain their ideas to them. While in a group, their own lines of thought are continually interrupted when others speak.

Conversely, people who aren’t so confident in their creative abilities seem to do better in a group. The idiom is more clearly defined and they can listen to ideas from others. What’s more, other people can assist them in taking their own ideas further. Some people have difficulty in thinking by themselves and momentum quickly runs out whereas, in a group, this doesn’t tend to happen.

The formal tools of lateral thinking can be used deliberately by someone who is sitting and thinking on their own. They can also be used in a group setting.

A question that arises is whether creative individuals work as a team if they are not sitting in the same room. While they would be thinking individually, there would be more interaction than usual. However, the immediate interaction of a group session would be lacking.

I have found that a ‘team at a distance’ is not productive when it comes to creative ideas. But this might reflect the behaviour of the members of the team, rather than the format itself.

Participants at my seminars are often asked to spend three minutes ‘thinking on their own’. Some people seem to have difficulty in doing this.

Some people say they get stuck and find it hard to move on from one idea to another. However, they have less trouble if there is a detailed problem to be solved, or if something has to be analysed.

When a starting point is given and it is up to the individual to take the thinking further, problems can be experienced. This is especially the case with creativity, where the normal route cannot be followed.

The formal tools of lateral thinking can help in these situations. The thinker can take the first and second steps, and subsequently follow the ideas triggered by the tools. Ideas no longer need to be forced. Instead, you can follow paths and explore them.

In a group situation, you might wait for your thinking to be triggered by a remark from someone else. However, with the formal tools of lateral thinking, you can produce the trigger yourself.

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.