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Laterally Creative


Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War, said, "To foresee a victory which the ordinary man can foresee is not the acme of skill."

Which sounds a lot like something I quoted the other day, "The 'surplus society' has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality." - Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrole, Funky Business

When asked what he believed to be the most important thing that he knew, James Watson, one-half of the people who discovered DNA, said this, "Excellence demands the pursuit of seemingly unattainable goals. Those teachers and schools that truly succeed are those which inspire their students to move beyond the expectation of conventional wisdom."

Again, from what I quoted the other day: "Thomas Stanley has not only found no correlation between success in school and an ability to accumulate wealth, he's actually found a negative correlation. 'It seems that school-related evaluations are poor predictors of economic success,' Stanley concluded. What did predict success was a willingness to take risks. Yet the success-failure standards of most schools penalized risk takers. Most educational systems reward those who play it safe. As a result, those who do well in school find it hard to take risks later on." - Richard Farson & Ralph Keyes, Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins

To see things from other perspectives, to be able to change patterns and view things in a new way is commonly called "lateral thinking." A guy named Edward De Bono coined that phrase. He said this:

I am often asked why it was necessary to invent the term "lateral thinking" when the word "creativity" seemed quite adequate. The answer is that the word "creativity" is far from adequate and does not describe what I mean by lateral thinking.

A creative person may have a way of looking at the world which is different from the way other people see the world.

If that person is successful in expressing and communicating his own special perception, then we call him or her creative and value the contribution that helps some of us to see the world through a new perspective. We acknowledge the creativity. But that person may be locked into that special perception: unable to change perception or see the world in any other way. Thus many creative people are actually "rigid" at the same time. This does not at all diminish their value to society or their ability to create within their special perception. But in "lateral thinking" I am interested in the ability to change perception and to keep on changing perception. Clearly some people are indeed creative but not lateral thinkers. Some creative people are both.

The same thing happens with young children. If a youngster of about nine is given a problem, he may well come up with a highly original solution since he is not trapped within the conventional approach. So his approach is creative and original. But that same youngster may be reluctant to look for, and unable to find, a different approach. So he is creative and original and also rigid.

Lateral thinking can be precisely defined as pattern switching within a patterning system. To explain the nature of a patterning system takes quite a long time, So in ordinary terms we can describe it as the ability to look at things in different ways.

Then he gives this example:
Grandma is knitting and young Susie is disturbing Grandma by playing with the ball of wool. The father suggests putting Susie in the playpen. The mother suggests that it might make more sense to put Grandma in the playpen - a different way of looking at things which is quite logical in hindsight.
To be successful at anything often requires a complete dismissal of previous methods. We often need to unlearn before we can learn what will make us succeed.


Tags: wisdom
by Brett Rogers, 5/17/2005 10:36:28 PM


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