13 November 2006
Matja Jeran, New Moment
Matja Jeran, New Moment

Ideas are older than human race. Useful ideas are the key for development and that is how we evolved from monkeys to humans. We try hard to think smart, more or less. But do we, really?

Dr. de Bono started his speech in Piran with criticizing quite a controversial idea man, Leonardo de Vinci. It was said that it has been obvious that Leonardo s switch from art to engineering was more a useless attempt to make valuable ideas. It was said that Leonardo s ideas could not been transferred into value. Answer why that is so, is as simple as anything that Dr. de Bono is talking about. Trying to make value, one should be using the mind potential. For example: the tank that was designed by Leonardo was a fine box on two wheels that were rotating one against each other. So, as the tank would be moving, it would be heading into the ground. Idea is not useful just because of it self, it should be useful and give final value.

Next process mentioned by Dr. Future, as Edward de Bono called himself, was recognition. Mr. Alan Greenspan and his immortal problems with inflation were mentioned. When Mr. Greenspan recognizes standard situation of inflation, he raises interest rates. In case of recession he lowers interest rates. Alan gives us the standard solution. But in many times standard solutions are not sufficient for solving problems. In case of recession and resulting lower interest bank rates for saving, instead of daily products, property is being bought, and the recession grows steadily deeper and deeper

Instead of traditional thinking: What is ? we should ask ourselves the question: What can be ? Because creativity and design give us the value and this value as said before is key for winning the mind games and business.

Dr. De Bono pointed on a kind of business illness called S.K.I.D.S. That stands for Sufficient Knowledge Ideas Deficit Syndrome. Today most of people have information but the key to forward success is ideas. Ideas give us value.

We need value concepts because we can not compete on price. In China wages are 100 $ per month and in Japan they are 3000 $ per month, so there is no way to compete on price, we can compete on values given by new ideas.

But there is another problem with new ideas. For representative policies like United Nations and other world democracies, new ideas by definition are not representative

Humans should make the best use of given information at any time. Sequences of information and the inherent potential at various times make well working brains better than any computer in the world! Think of chess legend Gary Gasparov and the monster chess player Deep Blue. Both have problems; despite hordes of engineers that have been constructing that computer.

Or another example... Man has 11 pieces of clothing. He doesn t know which to wear. So he let the computer calculates how many solutions he has. Computer works for 40 hours non-stop and gives out 39.916.800 options. If only one minute is needed to dress up, a man would need 76 years to try which is the most suitable combination for dinner. But a human being is a unique animal with highly developed brains; so s/he uses routine and creative processes in the brains. Upcoming information is compared to the routine patterns in the man s head and when a similar pattern is found, the problem is solved much quicker that by trying clothes for 76 years.

The biggest barrier in the progress of human race is language. Different meanings are frozen into language so they force us to think of the world in a very old fashioned way.

Aristotle s inclusion/exclusion logic is 2400 years old. His thesis that male species have more teeth than female is build upon recognition. He had more teeth than his two wives, and his horse had more teeth than his mare had. Of course he was wrong. The same logic is used today, and this tells us that human race have never learned how to think.

The next example is based on prosecution and defense lawyer interaction. Confrontation of two people, one stating argument A and another stating argument B, does not give a chance that they would even think of compromise C or D, because they are absolutely deeply rooted in their arguments.

One day a man painted his car half black and half whit. A painter asked him why he is doing something like that. The man answered: If I will have an accident, the witnesses will contradict each other. They will be right about the side of the car they saw, but wrong about the opposite side of the car.

This black & white story is the showcase for why people should use the concept of lateral thinking that Dr. de Bono developed.

Vertical vs Lateral Thinking
Lateral thinking is in contradiction in many ways to what vertical thinking is. Despite contradictions both of them are necessary for using human mind potential. For better understanding of what lateral thinking is and how to use it, here are listed some differences between both ways of thinking, the more common, selective way of thinking, the vertical one and the generative concept of lateral thinking.

The differences between both ways of thinking are fundamental.

Vertical Thinking
Selecting the right way forward to solution by excluding other pathways.
Sequential: one moves forward one step at a time. Each step arises from the preceding step to which it is firmly connected. Once one has reached a conclusion the soundness of that conclusion is proved by the soundness of the steps by which it has been reached.
One uses the negative in order to block off certain pathways.
Vertical thinking follows the most likely paths.
Vertical thinking is a finite process.
Vertical thinking should give us an answer.
Vertical thinking promises at least minimum solution.

Lateral Thinking
Not selective at all; seeks to open up other pathways.
The steps do not have to be sequential. Lateral thinking can make jumps. One may jump ahead to a new point and then fill the gap afterwards.
There is no negative.
Lateral thinking explores the least likely path.
Lateral thinking is a probabilistic one.
Lateral should increase the chances for restructuring the patterns, for an insight solution.
Lateral thinking increases the chances of maximum solution but makes no promises.

Where vertical thinking has come up against black wall one would have to use lateral thinking even if the chances of success were very low.

Lateral Thinking or Parallel Thinking
Person A is thinking about problem A. At the same time person B is thinking about problem B. They both have the same mind process about different problems, A about A, B about B. Why wouldn t they both think of A at the same time and then both about B? So first both are thinking in one same direction, later both change their direction together. In practice this has already given enormous results, meeting time was shortened up to 1/5 or even 1/10 of usual time!

Brain patterns system is asymmetrical .
We should think more asymmetrical and there should be involved as little patterns as possible. The solutions will be as creative as possible. Dr. de Bono developed has 4 fundamental tools. Try then if you want to be more creative.

Fundamental Tools of Lateral Thinking
1. Blocked by openness.
This is technique that helps us avoid inadequate patterns and find much more effective patterns. For easier understanding here is one very successful example of using this method. In 1971 the petrol giant Shell has had significant problems with his oil platforms. While trying to pump oil they have been stopped by enormous granite rock layers in the sea ground. They were searching for a solution for weeks but haven t found one how to skip the problem, so they were thinking of moving platforms. Dr. de Bono asked them, why they wanted to move the oil platform to reach the right position above the gap in the granite layer defending access to oil. He suggested: why not just orientate the drilling head of the pumping pipe? They said that the problem was not in the pipes but in granite layers. He answered that all you had to do is to develop the kind of pipe head that can make bends. That was the ultimate solution, which prevented Shell and many others to move the sea platforms and avoid huge costs. Instead they have just modified the drilling heads and saved a lot of money.

2. Defining the basic concept.
In 1971, again, NASA allocated 2.000.000 $ to solve a space problem! Their cosmonauts needed a pen that would leave ink tracks despite the fact there is no gravity. So for ink to be pressured out of the pen, they developed a space pen in which ink was pushed out by gas. This cost NASA those 2 millions dollars. When the same problem was tackled by the Russian space program, their solution was simpler: they extracted the concept.

The point of this technique is to ask yourself, what the basic concept is, isolate it and take a look where can you go from there.

With concept extraction they needed: something that writes in zero gravity. They used a pencil and by-passed the costs of 2.000.000$.

3. The new word PO.
Provocative Operation is a very useful tool for reaching creative solutions. Usually people are ashamed to say something stupid. But if there would be a special tool that would prevent from sounding stupid, people would have said many more different and creative things.
1. The PO word helps us to say anything we want, not to sound funny. PO the factory is downstream of its output. It doesn t seem logical; to place a factory down the stream her polluted output is, but why not! Using this kind of solution in California they have reduced pollution.
2. PO word is being somewhere between yes and no, so you can use it wherever and whenever.
3. PO is helping us to create new patterns and as well it helps us to challenge old arrangements of information.
4. PO is a random word used by a chance. It helps us to move out of the usual way of thinking.

4. Using side track.
Instead of taking the same (mind) ways everyday, you should experiment using different approaches. Let say driving from home, you always take the main road thought the town. But one day you car breaks down in the periphery of your town. You walk in the town and take the side road and find out that this way is much shorter than the way you have usually been taking with car.

These were just few fundamental tools of lateral thinking. It is not enough that you understand them; you should use them in practice. Some people are unhappy about lateral thinking because they feel that it threatens the validity of vertical thinking. This is not so at all. The two processes are complementary not antagonistic. Lateral thinking is useful for generating new ideas and approaches; vertical thinking is useful for developing them. Lateral thinking enhances the effectiveness of vertical thinking by offering it more to select from. Vertical thinking multiplies the effectiveness of lateral thinking by making good use of ideas generated.

Most of the time you might be using vertical thinking but when you need to use lateral thinking then no amount of excellence in vertical thinking will do instead. To persist with vertical thinking when one should be using lateral thinking is dangerous. You need some skills in both types of thinking.

Lateral thinking is like the reverse gear in a car. You would never try to drive along in reverse gear the whole time. On the other hand you need to have it and to know how to use it for maneuverability and to get out of a blind alley.

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About Dr. Edward de Bono

Dr. Edward de Bono is listed as one of the 250 persons who made the most significant contribution to humanity. His special contribution has been to take the mystical subject of creativity and for the first time in history, to put the subject on a solid basis. While his methods are based on a fundamental understanding of how the brain handles information, de Bono's "powerfully simple" thinking techniques can help you make good decisions, solve problems, challenge assumptions and produce practical improvement in your occupation and in life.

NEW MOMENT, Creativity in all its aspects
New Moment is a network of agencies for New Ideas in the territory of the New Europe. It is divided into Advertising Agency (Total Communications), PR Agency (PR & Events) and Ideas Gallery (New Moment Magazine, Ideas Campus creative workshops, BeogrAD review of creativity, and other theatre performances and art exhibitions).

New Moment, Magazine for Art & Advertising was established in 1993. It got many awards for its design and production. The most famous intellectuals and artists contributed for it. 26 issues were produced so far. The subject is always connected with creativity in some form: art, photography, theatre design, design, psychology