I have always admired creative people – they seem to have a knack for thinking outside the square and coming up with creative ideas and solution – usually on the spot. So what makes some people more creative than others and what are these people doing differently?
To shed some light on the subject Improvement Advisor, Brandon Bennett held a workshop on ‘creative thinking’ at Ko Awatea, which attracted a large turnout of staff.
The workshop focused on the work of Dr Edward de Bono, originator of the term ‘Lateral Thinking’ and the popular “Six Thinking Hats” framework, and who many regard as the leading authority in the world in the field of creative thinking. According to Dr de Bono creativity thinking can be learned – you just have to follow a few suggested techniques to unleash the creative side that is in each one of us
Dr. Edward de Bono divides thinking into two methods. He calls one “vertical thinking,” which uses the processes of logic. He calls the other “lateral thinking,” which involves using a more creative approach to arrive at a solution from another angle.
The idea with lateral thinking is to get away from predictable, expected ways of thinking about problems by using techniques that help people approach problems in very different ways. Lateral thinking methods can lead to creative and “outside the box” thinking.
One of the techniques Dr de Bono suggests is Provocation – which means making deliberately outlandish or unusual statements.
Statements need to be outlandish to shock our minds out of existing ways of thinking. Once we have made a provocative statement, we then suspend judgement (i.e. we ignore that niggling voice telling us this is so ridiculous it could never work) and use that statement to generate ideas.
For example, we could say that ‘Libraries are noisy places’. This goes against our assumption that Libraries are usually quiet, however this leads one to think of libraries with interactive spaces/rooms. This provocation allows you to explore the positive and useful side of this idea.
To help us come up with some of these provocative statements Dr de Bono suggests the following techniques:
An escape provocation challenges the standard assumptions we make about a problem or opportunity by simply removing one of the assumptions.
Provocation: Computers don’t have keyboards – 5 years ago this statement would have been ridiculous – Fast forward today and a lot of computers don’t have keyboards i.e. IPads, IPhones
An exaggeration suggests that some measurement lies outside its normal range of values.
Provocation: When asked to address the shortage of police officers in New York Dr de Bono came up with a Provocation of “The police have six eyes”
From this came the suggestion that individual citizens act as extra eyes to watch for unusual activities in their neighborhoods. This led to the development of the Neighborhood Watch program
With reversal you reverse the usual direction of an action
Provocation: Patients are discharged before they get admitted to Hospital.
This may involve improving access to services in the community – preventing people from coming to Hospital.
A distortion disturbs the usual relationships between parties or actions.
Provocation: The TV will decide what you will watch
This is already happening in the US with Cable TV. Patterns are being learnt and suggestions made for what people should watch
A wishful thinking provocation is a light-hearted thought that is clearly impossibility. Never the less, it forces us to explore laterally other possibilities.
Provocation: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a money tree!
Once you have made the Provocation, you can start to look at how this could work. Dr de Bono suggests looking at:
- The consequences of the statement
- What the benefits would be
- What special circumstances would make it a sensible solution
- The principles needed to support it and make it work
- How it would work moment-to-moment
- What would happen if a sequence of events was changed
I found some of these techniques useful, and it certainly takes you out of your comfort zone, however the challenge is how do you find the time and space to be creative and how would provocation work in a group setting. For example if I’m in a group and I use a provocation such as ‘all police have 6 eyes’ I may have people staring at me as if I was mad.
Brandon sums it up nicely when he says we need to create a space where creativity can thrive and spread and we need to train our minds to put judgement aside. The good news is Provocation and lateral thinking can expand your thinking and you can be creative all by yourself.
Saying that creativity is important is not enough. You have to do something about it.
To download Brandon’s Slideshow & Resoruces click here.