I’ve just been fortunate enough to spend some time in Bangkok teaching Lateral Thinking on behalf of the deBono Institute to a combined group of Thai and Indonesian staff from Exxon-Mobil. I promised the students that I would share a few online insights on my time with them, hence this post!
First off I must concede that Lateral Thinking is not for everyone, the methods push your brain into an unstable state and many are far from comfortable with this. It’s far easier to simply default to thinking and doing the same old things, the same old way because they are comfortable and worked in the past.
Sadly the world does not work like this. We now have an urgent need to think laterally as it’s a means of breaking the existing and well-established patterns that already exist in our heads. Without doing so we are doomed to producing the same old thoughts and ideas ad infinitum, and never come to grips with the increasing number of new and complex challenges facing us.
Anyway, despite the associated difficulties with learning these new and challenging tools, the students took to them with a great deal of enthusiasm. The thing that really impressed me the most, is that this course is delivered in English, and English for every student in the room constituted their 2nd or even 3rd language. (My Thai and Indonesian is pretty good, but a vocabulary of 4 or 5 words will just not cut it.) So not only did they grapple with new concepts and ideas, but they did it in a language that I assume was much less comfortable to them than others.
I suspect many here in Australia would struggle to be able to do similarly, let alone be able to speak multiple languages. I have read in the past that those with additional language skills have a correspondingly greater number of connections form in their brains, so I wonder if this was a factor in the groups uptake of the tools?
During the course of the two days training we looked at a number of issues, both organisational and personal, to which we could apply the lateral thinking tools. These included such diverse topics as “generating ideas to increase collaboration across the organisation’s international boundaries”, “challenging aspects of their personal development plan process” and “designing a new type of toothbrush”. The final idea generation session during which the group applied all of the tools in an end to end process, involved generating new ideas to assist themselves to save money better and make sound personal investment decisions for the future.
Anyway, if these students were typical of the calibre of staff that the organisation has in both Thailand and Indonesia, we can expect good things from Exxon-Mobil in the future.