August 30, 2011 by Jeff Hurt
Ever been stuck and feel like you can’t get out of your box? Maybe even backed into a corner?
I have. And I suspect you have too.
I believe that often we do the same thing so much that we can’t see another way of proceeding.
Our minds really don’t like to think. It defaults to a mental path we’ve created over and over again. It takes less energy and mental work to follow the same path or process.
It’s just like driving home from the grocery store. We tend to take the same path and never vary our trek.
But what’s wrong with that you might ask. Well, a lot. If we don’t vary our methods, we miss the obvious or some fresh idea. We get stuck.
The consequence? We are predisposed to ignore the open spaces of our box. Our logic becomes counterproductive because we box ourselves in and produce the same solution to problem that we’ve always done.
Psychologist Edward de Bono noticed the same issue.
He said, “You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.”
Think about it. Trying harder in the same direction, especially if the direction is wrong, will not lead to any progress. It actually hinders the chances of breaking out of the box.
De Bono created the term lateral thinking to help others think differently about their problems. Lateral thinking asks you to dig as many holes as you can. Each new hole may help uncover a new possibility. It might work or it might not. If it does, then great. If not, you simply dig another hole and continue the search.
Here are seven tips to help you dig new holes and get unstuck.
Question everything that has been done. Challenge assumptions. Ask why or why not?
Pick a random object. See what thoughts the object inspires. How does it apply to your situation?
Intentionally create an off-the-wall, wild counterpart to the normal accepted idea. See the process as a way to new ideas and not an end in itself.
Set a minimum goal of 50 alternative ideas no matter how odd they may be. Don’t over analyze at this point.
During your brainstorming of digging new holes, don’t rush to judge new ideas. Suspend judgment for now.
Look closely at some of the ideas you’ve brainstormed. Can you group any of them into similar categories?
Now it’s time to analyze and judge. Begin this process by selecting the best ones that deserve more attention.
When using lateral thinking just go crazy. Consider mundane and ridiculous ideas. You’re looking for the knock-off effect. One idea may be a stepping stone to another. It may feel strange and odd and don’t give up. At some point you will reach new innovations.
What are some other ways to encourage thinking differently about our problem or situation? Why do we allow doubt and preconceptions to dismiss original thinking?
Filed Under: Conference Education, Experience Design
I still remember attending a de Bono seminar as a young association professional. Eight hours of the man sitting in the center of the stage next to an overhead repeatedly interspersing brief lectures with exercises we did on our own or with a partner.
One of the things that still stays with me 20 years later is the value is his concept fan. When you stall on generating new ideas, return to those already generated, determine the concept behind the specific ideas (example: idea = chair, concept i= something you can sit on>, and then start generating more ideas consistent with the concept. It always amaze me how immediately dozens of new possibilities start to emerge.
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I use animals to inspire out of the box thinking in very unique workshops. Animals are great for snapping people out of their structured business minds and routine thinking!
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