Lateral Thinking Methods / Tools

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Lateral Thinking Methods / Tools
C. Divakaran, HR Consultant, India

Lateral thinking is key today. What methods and tools are being deployed within lateral thinking?
Please summarize one tool in your reply. Thanks!

What are Methods of Lateral Thinking?
Anton Korchinskiy, Coach, Ukraine
Lateral thinking is the group of methods to find definitely new way of reaching your goals. After finding them you also need to analyze them, because the ideas are not always really good. I had two occasions in my practice as a business-coach to train managers in lateral thinking methods. In one company it gave a serious financial result. In the other it was also useful, but the situation they wanted to change is still the same after three years :-)
All methods of LT are based on two principles:
1. One of them is telling that mostly people use up to 3 ways of finding the solution. lt needs believing that there are always more than 20 ways of solving a problem. You simply need to investigate how you can change your attitude to the situation. It is the key.
2. The second principle is telling that using LT works when you focus at the result you need, but not at the problem. This is easy to say, but my experience shows that people very often think they are result-focused when they are really stunned in the "swamp" of problems-focusing.

What are Methods of Lateral Thinking?
R Hallagan, Management Consultant, United States
To Divakaran's question, Shipra make a good point about categorisation. Categorization is a useful and necessary tool of the human mind that enables us to organize the myriad information coming at us. It is like a sorting function based on identifying common denominators among the data being sorted.
However, this process would not be so valuable in solving problems because it tends to lead to generalizations.
If the problem is isolated and small, then it's fine to attack it directly.
But if the problem starts repeating, building up or spreading into other areas, then the root of the problem is not likely to be so evident.
I think it was Peter Drucker who said you may need to ask the question why as many as 5 times before you get to the root of the problem, and I subscribe to this completely.
Lateral thinking takes this a step further.

Lateral Thinking and the Green Hat
Johnny Michael Tan, Management Consultant, Malaysia
Lateral thinking is about questioning the basic fundamentals of how else to get the solution.
It's as simple as seeing 1+1+1 is more than 3... Why not 111?
It's knowing how to make the Green Hat interesting to find alternative paths in the Blue Hat process.

Decreasing Bias in Lateral Thinking
Michael Goss, Student (University), Ireland
Have a look at the article by Stephen Butler, it explains very well lateral thinking and how it can be used.
Source: Butler, Stephen (Management Decision; 2010, vol. 48 issue 1, p58-64, 7p.)
1. Basing one's business decision on an approach that relies on experience may work sometimes. Experience is a useful part of the process, but it may also lock the decision maker into a method that cannot lead to an innovative solution.
2. An alternative to this experience-based (linear) way of problem solving is a certain skillful way of thinking known as lateral thinking. This is a simple alternative approach to managerial decision making.
3. Design/methodology/approach - here lateral thinking is defined as methods of thinking concerned with changing concepts and perception. Various tests are suggested that show how it might be measured. These tests developed to identify creative thinking ability. One of these tests is used in an illustrative decision aid to reduce a common decision-making "bias" labeled "hindsight bias".
4. Findings - the simple decision aid reduced the hindsight effect for those decision makers who were deemed to be limited in their lateral thinking ability.

Today, Tomorrow and Future
Saravanan Radhakrishnan , Other, India
The Today, Tomorrow and Future model could be used for creating lateral thinking within an organisation, to keep it simple:
- Today - Problem solving by the actual work force (team members / operators / supervisors)
- Tomorrow - Improvements planning (points to ponder for near future & execution (engineers & managers)
- Future - Strategic planning for the growth of the organisation.

Disagreement is Good: Can Lateral Thinking Be Stimulated?
Dilip Khanal, CEO, Nepal
In Nepal, normally a boss's version is the organization's version.
Once I was addressing a group of employees in a office. I was surprised that nobody questioned my view points. When prompted, they shared that they were nurtured to accept. I talked with the top management and advised that they need to cultivate the habit of "saying no" to ideas that they don't like.
After two years, I had a meeting with the same group. But, believe me, their staff were totally different. They challenged some of my ideas so nicely that I had to appreciate them.
Then I started to think that an unconventional way of doing things could trigger lateral thinking.

Lateral Thinking
Jackie Consbruck, Student (University), United States
I am getting a clearer picture of what lateral thinking is. I appreciate everyone's response. This helps me a lot. Thank you!

Serious Creativity Tools
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada
I had the great privilege of being trained by Edward De Bono to deliver lateral thinking training sessions. He titled the course "serious creativity" because Edward believed creativity was a skill that could be taught. You didn't have to be born creative; it was a matter of learning how the brain functions and then applying these lessons in a disciplined fashion. In the morning we covered focus, challenge, alternatives, concepts. In the afternoon I introduced provocations - what they are, how they relate to the brain, setting them up as a LT exercise. Movement and idea harvesting were then explained.
Lastly, I presented actual examples where Edward's techniques were used to generate new ideas.

Lateral Thinking Book with Many Tools
Ahmad Sultan Abdulla, Consultant, Malaysia
I wonder if it is OK to suggest the book called Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko as an alternative read on lateral thinking methodology. I'm star struck by it.

6 Hats
Abdul Qadir, Student (MBA), Pakistan
Besides lateral thinking, Edward De Bono is also known for his Six Thinking Hats method. These hats are helpful for developing new thoughts as well.

@Abdul Qadir on Six Thinking Hats
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada
The 6th (black hat) method is a structured, disciplined way of organizing thinking. You wear the black hat when you want critical thinking - use judgment to find faults, risks, pitfalls. Lateral thinking is done wearing the green hat.

Lateral Thinking
Cesar, Teacher, Mexico
I can say that lateral thinking starts at kinder garden, the place where we start to develop knowledge. We must remember that in creativity, competences and the tools for taking decisions start to develop when we first play with models at school. We idealize a scenery, we start to think as entrepreneurs, because we choose some issues (mind mapping) that better match in our logic.

What are Methods of Lateral Thinking
Ali Sumner, CEO, Australia
Like Gary wong I am a trained lateral thinking instructor. Many people do not realise dr Edward De Bono invented the term 'lateral thinking' and the tools of lateral thinking after proposing in the mid-1960's that the human brain is not naturally creative. Anyone can be a 'lateral thinker' but this should never be confused with using 'lateral thinking' as Gary has already explained the methods of lateral thinking involve specific tools and processes: focus (area and purpose), challenge, concept triangle, concept fan, random word, po and movement, harvesting and treatment. In 2010 dr De Bono introduced another lateral thinking tool called septine. I believe it is now time for people to recognise the big difference between being a lateral thinker and using lateral thinking and acknowledge dr De Bono's pioneering work as the inventor of lateral thinking.


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