Thinking Laterally with Serious Intent

Lateral thinking is a way of breaking existing and predictable patterns of thought so that new perspectives, new concepts and new ideas can emerge.

The complexity of the problems we face today demand that we approach them in an altogether different manner. We are not well served by the logical and linear methods we have become so comfortable with over time, and need new means of addressing those issues that seem to have gotten-away from us over time.  These could be environmental issues, public order issues, a failing health system or any of a litany that are never long out of the news.

When thinking laterally we seeks solutions to an intractable problems through unorthodox methods that would normally be ignored by logical thinking. New ways of thinking can provide new options and open doors we didn’t know existed. This is why we have an absolute need for Lateral Thinking. Through this type of thinking we disrupt linear thinking sequences and arrive at potential solution from other angles.

Developing breakthrough ideas does not have to be the result of luck. Lateral thinking provides a deliberate, systematic process that results in more innovative thinking. You do not need to be a creative genius to use these methods, they follow very specific processes and I’d back someone who can follow process using the tools to produce more ideas than any creative genius without the tools, any day!

The video attached is an impromptu capture of a lateral thinking process that trainees undertook to complete their two day training in the methods earlier this month. The and simply outlines the key stages of an end to end approach to developing new insights and ideas to address a complex issue.

Logical and linear thinking are fine in context, but they are not nearly enough. It’s time to seriously consider new ways of dealing with those issues that will just not go away.

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About the Author

Frank Connolly is the Principal of “Think Quick”, a business that adds value through thinking differently. His work history covers all sectors and includes initiatives that have yielded bottom line benefit in the 10’s of millions of dollars.

Current clients range from Exxon-Mobil to Government Depts within Australia to Global NGO’s.

Much of his working life has been split between Australia, the South Pacific and Asia where he has trained and facilitated Lateral Thinking techniques, and been acknowledged by Edward de Bono as one of the foremost practitioners of the de Bono thinking methods worldwide.

Frank believes strongly that if we can improve the way we think, the actions that follow also improve.

Comments (1)

  1. Tania Sherwood :

    I have just spent two days locked in a room with Frank Connolly of Think Quick and 10 of DSE’s best and brightest. I have been really looking forward to doing this course although I had heard the tales of how complex and difficult it was to shift the patterns of your thinking that dramatically.

    Frank talked about how human brains are based on pattern recognition. This is a survival tactic and is helpful in us being able to respond quickly when our brain identifies a pattern. The downside is that often our brains will determine a pattern before it has all the information and so our responses are actually not a good fit to the overall situation.

    Lateral Thinking relies on stepping outside of responding to our existing patterns and learning some new processes for solving problems. On day one we covered all the tools and this was really hard brain work.

    This required us to suspend our preferred styles of thinking – its amazing how often we are drawn back into our default style because its comfortable. Several of the people I worked with, myself included had some aha moments where they started to deal with a problem or process in a ‘rational’ way and then acknowledged they were applying their old thinking and then stepping back into the process.

    By the end of Day One, I was practically comatose I was so tired and my brain was definitely full. By Day Two we had a chance to apply some of the processes in a range of sequences to get a sense of how they worked. Initially my group wasnt confident of how it all hung together but by mid-morning we were storming along and becoming really excited by how the tools opened up our ability to find a range of solutions to old problems that we’d never even considered before.

    In fact using techniques such as reversing the problem, random word generation (using an unrelated random word to explore a topic) or a technique which allows you to escape the problem altogether, suddenly you have a whole new set of frames with which to identify a solution and most of it you would never in a million years identify using the old linear problem/solution approach.

    And don’t think for a minute that the approach wasn’t rigorous. At the end of the generation process, a stringent cost/benefit/obstacle process was applied to each idea that had been developed and we were able to work out which ones were the easiest and cheapest to implement against the potential value or pay-off to the organisation.

    As a closing activity, Frank asked our group to create a podcast of our workings using the Lateral Thinking processes for the de Bono International website. While this was a challenge as no one in our group had any experience with doing this, we all had a bit of fun and it was a good way to consolidate our processes as we had to summarise it for the camera.

    There were a few naturals at talking in front of the camera too so we hammed it up a bit and had lots of laughs, which really characterised our group.Our group was really dynamic and we had a diverse set of thinkers, lots of hilarity and a real willingness to explore ideas whether they seemed ridiculous or not. I’d like to thank them all (you know who you are – Paolo, Dom, Dan and Ryan) for being such a great group to work with.

    I felt really energised at the end of Day Two and I came back to work with a sheaf of great projects which Leonie will make possible for us to implement with the help of the creators.

    I would encourage ANYONE AND EVERYONE to do some de Bono thinking tools and if there is not a workshop coming up to contact the Innovation Team to let them know you are keen to learn these techniques.

    The Innovation Team can also act as facilitators of this process in your meetings or as a precursor to scoping your projects. For bigger sessions, Frank Connolly is a great resource and we can arrange this around your requirements too.

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