Think lateral

Yes, deliberate creativity exists. You can use thinking techniques to spark off new ideas. Edward de Bono showed the world how to have creative ideas using lateral thinking tools and that’s what we will learn today. I am a de Bono Certified Effective Thinker and I am delighted to share some things I learned during the great training I had.

Why learning lateral thinking?

There are a number of reasons to start. The first one is very simple: knowledge is not enough.

Nowadays knowledge is open to everyone. We have access to pretty much the same knowledge and information. A developer based in India gets the same information of the American one. It’s the same story in many many fields. In 2017, knowledge is not longer a differentiator. 

The second reason is even simpler: creativity is the most powerful competitive advantage a business can have. Companies need to fizz with new ideas and fresh thinking. But there’s a problem — there just aren’t enough fizzy people around. Because creativity is not simple.

Creativity is not natural

Creativity is not natural because the brain is not designed to think creatively but to set up routine patterns of perception and behavior and to make sure we do not deviate from these. Judgment is the powerful tool we have for keeping on these routine tracks. This does not help creativity at all.

As a matter of fact, creativity starts only with humor, mistakes, fortuity and with deliberate lateral thinking.

Humour is probably the most significant feature of the human mind, as regards perception. Humor involves changing perceptions and flexibility. The same applies for mistakes, fortuity and deliberate lateral thinking. There are thousands of great inventions made by mistakes or by fortuity. Take the Penicillin. Ironically, Fleming was searching for a “wonder drug” that could cure diseases. However, it wasn’t until Fleming threw away his experiments that he found what he was looking for. Fleming noticed that a contaminated Petri dish he had discarded contained a mold that was dissolving all the bacteria around it. When he grew the mold by itself, he learned that it contained a powerful antibiotic, penicillin.

But while a mistake happens casually, Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking tools are designed to be used at needs.

Prerequisites: no judgment and movement.

In order to use the Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking tools, you need to suspend judgment. Judgment is a big enemy of creativity. Secondly, you need to use movement. Movement is not just an absence of judgment. Movement is something definite that the thinker can do with an idea. It is not just withholding judgment. Where does this idea lead me?
Let us take the suggestion that women should only work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Using the judgment idiom we might find this an intolerable and racist restriction on freedom of work. Using the movement idiom we might find the principle interesting for women who have a family. That’s how it works.

The word ‘PO’

‘Po’ is a new word that Edward de Bono invented, and he uses it in many of his books. ‘Po’ is not a ‘magic’ word, but it is a symbolic indicator. When used at the beginning of a sentence or phrase it means that that sentence or phrase is put forward as a provocation. So instead of just saying: “cars should have square wheels”, we might say, “po cars should have square wheels”. We might also say: “po planes should land upside down”. The word ‘po’ serves to indicate our intention. In a sense, it protects the provocation from judgment too early. If you like, ‘po’ is derived from such words as: hypothesis, suppose, possible. In each of these instances, we use an idea for its ‘forward effect’: in order to see what happens next. It may be easiest to think of ‘po’ as standing for ‘Provocative Operation’. We will use ‘Po’ all the time, it’s a word you will love very soon.


The techniques of lateral thinking.

There are three lateral thinking tools:

  1. Escape
  2. Stepping stone.
  3. Random juxtaposition

1. Escape. Easy provocations.

The escape tool allows us to drop a feature or a concept using provocations. Then we generate new ideas inspired by the provocations we used. This is a tool for easy provocation.

An exercise to learn the escape tool. 

Spell out ten concepts that we take for granted in ‘social networks’. Drop that feature or concept. Proceed to use the provocation, and list some new ideas.
As an example:

  1. A concept we take for granted: in a social network, the user shares contents.
  2. Drop that feature: PO in a social network, the user should not share contents.
  3. Use the provocation: generate a new idea based on the provocation. As an example: there could be a gamification mechanism in a social network which allows you to gain more content from a user.

2. Stepping stone. Beyond reason.

The stepping stone goes beyond reason. This second technique is much more deliberately provocative than the first. We do more than merely 'escape' we actually set up provocations that seem quite illogical. The purpose of the provocation is to jerk us out of the usual patterns of thinking about something.

An exercise to learn the stepping stone tool.

PO your website should be updated by your competitors.
Ten new ideas.

3. Random juxtaposition. 

The last tool is random juxtaposition, which can be even more creative than the stepping stone.

An exercise to learn the stepping stone tool.

gasoline PO (your product)
List ten attributes of gasoline then use random juxtaposition in order to generate new ideas about your product. Each attribute should be a source of a new idea.

Time to practice lateral thinking

I learn things by doing. And probably it’s the same for you. Focus and enjoy the exercises.

Have a great day and keep thinking laterally,
Nicola