Friday, 20 July 2012

Lateral Thinking - really?

Too much of this crap about.
This is how the brain works (and don’t any academic types write in and correct me.  Putting me right in the neuron department you won’t feel as satisfying to you as when I ask you to come up with 10 ideas for something in as many minutes and watch you fail – that’s what I had to do today to earn a shilling so nnnrrrgggghhhh!)
So back to the brain. Basically it’s hard wired to hinder any creative thought as it makes sense of the world through association.  I say ‘BLUE’, you say ‘SKY’.  Free association then and other rubbish games in brainstorms won’t work.  Something I mentioned last week about being positive and non judgemental is also a hindrance as if I’ve nothing to risk by sharing my thinking, then why bother sharing anything at all; if everything I say is ‘right’ and ‘unjudged’ then what’s my incentive to contribute...
Back to the brain.  It makes all these connections and finds itself ‘stuck’ in the familiar so we need a little nudge of new material to shake things up.  In the same way dropping in a new guest to a cocktail party creates more possibility of new conversations happening, a new piece of stimulus will fire the axons and neurons and forge new connections in the head. The result of which will ultimately lead to some nursery thinking and eventually an idea... blah, blah, blah.  Your average creativity book says all this.
So, why mess it all up with lateral thinking techniques. WE DONT NEED 101 of them. All you’re giving people is 101 ways to create stimulus. You’re not giving me 101 ideas.  To illustrate my point. We can arrive at the same piece of stimulus by chance using different lateral thinking techniques. I could pull an orange out of a bag.  I could flick though a dictionary at random and fall on the word orange. I could ask someone to think of a word and they say orange.  I can re-express the problem I’m trying to solve and realise it’s a bit like an orange. I could draw the issue... looks like an orange... I could act out my problem with colleagues... we end up improv acting an orange in a bag... there are a number of inherent rules about the problem we could break – one rule is that this problem has never involved oranges... and so on until we reach 101 ways of creating more and more stimulus (or oranges).
What we need to get better at is linking ‘orange’ back to my issue. To do this we need to watch what our head does with ‘orange’ and where it goes. The stimulus need not be a direct link to the idea we have, it’s just there to nudge me along.  I don’t care what the stimulus is, i just need it.  So I actually need 1 lateral thinking technique that I can use time and again to generate any piece of stimulus. As any piece of stimulus will give me an idea if I work it hard enough - it’s THAT which I see little evidence or advice of.  It’s that genius way of getting ‘the new’ and allowing you to make associations with it in your thinking.
Yet we’re brilliant at it without the books and the dreadful training courses with coloured paper and fairy lights.
Ever heard anyone in the office say “I was watching telly last night and there was this programme on ship building and it got me thinking about our recent product placement campaign we’ve to  deliver on Tuesday... why don’t we...?” and away we go.
Lateral thinking techniques – please.
You’ll be asking me to wear coloured hats next.


  1. Love this
    I find the most powerful thing is making the question or problem more evocative.
    Then i or my clients rarely need stimulus
    Like - what does LEGO that makes you laugh look like.
    And to get those questions, I usually just work hard to see what's going on in real life.
    Nuf stimulus there for sure.

  2. Hi Graham,

    I forgot to say thanks for the comment. Glad I have an audience on this one. Like your LEGO question. questions are often the only stimulus we need...

    dont you think? (see what I did there)