If you are not aware of the psychologist and physician Dr. Edward de Bono, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore his contributions. I knew of Dr. de Bono from his book Six Thinking Hats, but recently my interest in his work was renewed when I spoke with an executive of a famous multinational firm in Hong Kong who said they'd really benefited from some of his methods. Dr. de Bono says that so-called Western thinking, using analysis, judgement, and argument, is largely concerned with "what is." This is all well and good, he says, but it's not sufficient. There is another aspect of thinking which is concerned with "what can be." This type of thinking involves creative thinking and "designing a way forward." Dr. de Bono is credited with coining the terms Lateral Thinking and Parallel Thinking (See Dr. de Bono's site for detailed definitions). Lateral thinking is about changing concepts and perception and reasoning about a problem in ways that would not ordinarily be possible with traditional forms of logic. The idea is to get away from predictable, expected ways of thinking about problems using techniques that help people approach problems in very different ways. Lateral thinking methods can lead to creative and so-called "outside the box" thinking. One of the techniques is Provocation which de Bono touches on in the short video below. (Watch YouTube video.)
Summary of some of Dr. de Bono's thoughts from video
• If our brain is a computer, then the software we're using was largely designed 2,400 years ago. We've done virtually nothing about thinking since the days of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. (In his book Six Thinking Hats de Bono suggests that thinking systems based on analysis, judgement, and logical argument are excellent in the same way that the left front wheel of a car is excellent. That is, there is nothing at all wrong with it, but it is not sufficient).
• Creativity is a skill, not just a matter of individual talent (therefore it can be learned). But it's not merely a matter of inspiration, etc.
• Creativity is more than just being different. The creative idea is not just different (for the sake of being different). Creative ideas must necessarily have or add value.
• People are reluctant to be creative out of fear of making "a mistake." Problem is (at least in the English language) we don't have a good word to describe creative ideas that just don't work...except to call them "mistakes." That is, we do not have a good word for this: "Fully justified venture which for reasons beyond our control did not succeed." If you do not succeed with your creative idea this is called a "mistake." And people generally like to avoid "mistakes." (We need a better word!)
• Provocation is one of the methods of lateral thinking. Provocations runs opposite to our normal logical thinking. Provocations put you on a new path and open up new ideas (even though this may not seem obvious at first).
• Thinking outside the box. Escaping from, breaking out of the box to change concepts, change perceptions, change constraints and rules. Developing an idea that would not have been expected in our usual behavior and our usual thinking.
Six Thinking Hats
Dr. de Bono is perhaps most famous to many people for his Six Thinking Hats method, a method designed to help people break away from traditional argument or adversarial thinking. From Edward de Bono's website: "Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything." Parallel thinking methods help two or more parties, then, engage in more cooperative and coordinated forms of thinking that lead to creative solutions. Rather than explaining the Six Hats in detail here, simply watch the video below where Dr. de Bono, in his typical de Bono analog style, presents his ideas to the audience (an effective method for him). The book is useful, but you can get the basics of the method from the materials available online. You might consider using the Six Thinking Hats method in the preparation stage of your next big group presentation project.