Lateral Thinking Defined
Lateral thinking is about restructuring a
Lateral thinking is concerned with generation
of new ideas. It is also concerned with "breaking out of the concept prisons
of old ideas."1
Turn Problems to Opportunities:
Lateral Thinking versus
Lateral thinking is not a substitute for
vertical thinking. Both are required – they are complementary: lateral
thinking is generative, vertical thinking is selective. For instance, during
meetings, you encourage lateral thinking during the first session to
generate as much creative solutions as possible, and vertical thinking
during the second session to select the feasible ideas.
In traditional vertical type of thinking (logic
or mathematic), you move forward by sequential steps each of which must be
justified. You select out only what is relevant. You must be right at each
stage in order to achieve a correct solution.
In lateral thinking, you may deliberately seek
out irrelevant information – you use information not for its own sake but
for its effect. You may have to be wrong
at some stage in order to achieve an innovative and correct solution.
Ask Searching Questions
Don't ask one or two questions and then rush straight towards a solution.
With an incomplete understanding of the
problem it is very easy to jump to
Ask open-ended questions that elicit a wide rage of answers:
The Power of
If you build broad
cross-functional expertise, no idea will be wasted!
6 Innovation Practice Tips
mind can accept only those ideas that have a frame of reference with
your existing knowledge. It rejects everything else. If your knowledge is
functionally focused, you'll be
open to new ideas related to your functional
expertise only and will miss all other learning and innovation
If you develop a broad
cross-functional expertise, no new
idea will be wasted. It will immediately connect with the existing knowledge
and will inspire you, energize you, and encourage your
The broader your net, the more fish you catch...
Encouragement of Lateral Thinking at
GE Work-Out, participants are made feel the urgency to change things and begin
to see the whole picture of the situation. Then, they are
ready to focus on new ideas.
How can the process be
improved? What can be
differently to achieve the
"Using the process map as a starting point,
Work-Out asks participants to
brainstorm ways of achieving the goal, and then provides a structure for
quickly sorting through the ideas, selecting the best ones, and developing
them into recommendations for
change. As with any brainstorming process,
Work-Out encourages people to toss out any idea, no matter how minor, how
crazy, how seemingly impossible. And the process helps people learn how to
build on each other's ideas, combine ideas, and
when the old Aetna Insurance Company implemented its version of Work-Out,
the program's sponsors called it "Out of the Box."3
Effective Innovation: How to Stay Ahead of
the Competition, John Adair
The Bicycles and
Two boys on bicycles, 20 miles
apart, began racing straight towards each other. The instant they started, a
fly on the handlebar of one bicycle started flying straight towards the
other cyclist. As soon as it reached the other bicycle, it turned and
started back. The fly flew back and forth in this way, from handlebar to
handlebar, until the bicycles met.
If each bicycle had a constant
speed of 10 miles and hour, and the fly flew at a constant speed of 15 miles
an hour, how far did the fly flew?