#TLS – Musing about Thinking-2

Edward de Bono distinguishes between ‘what is’ or judgment type of thinking with ‘what can be’ type of thinking. He coined the term ‘Lateral Thinking’ and advocates that ‘what can be’ type of thinking is imperative for ‘designing’ the future.

Lateral thinking is ‘idea creativity’ and is thinking that is concerned with changing ideas, perception and concepts. It is different from Artistic Creativity.

Edward de Bono explains Lateral Thinking by drawing a parallel with being stuck on a one-way street and figuring out a way of going in another direction. This is the same construct as that of humour (punch line in a joke is like going in a new direction, after being stuck on a one way street).

A very creative gentleman I know, while mostly agreeing with Edward de Bono, finds using the word ‘lateral’ for thinking a bit confining. He observes that if we believe ‘Creative Thinking’ does not clearly distinguish between ‘idea creativity’ and ‘artistic creativity’ then ‘Circular Thinking’ is a better descriptor because thinking by nature should go in all directions.

Going from A to B to C to D is logic and jumping from A to D is magic, Creative Thinking is generally construed as magic. That is, it is considered a leap of insight that only people with a crazy hairdo or whacky dress sense can have!

My take is that Creative Thinking is not a black box, the conventional idea of ‘genius’. It is a skill that can be acquired and honed.

My personal experience is that an urge to understand ‘first principles’ fosters creativity. E.g. say there is a ‘rate this article’ feature on a website. A deeper understanding reveals that this is really a ‘filter’ to help us sift through ‘the long tail’ of content on the web.

It is a feature that captures ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and helps users search for ‘relevance’ and ‘trust’ most ‘efficiently’ (i.e. helps users find content that is relevant to them in their given context, with least time, and since fellow users are recommending it, such recommendations are more trustworthy than say the author or the publisher recommending it). With this deeper understanding we can think of alternate, creative solutions that may be more effective than ‘Rate this Article’ feature.

The creative process thus starts with the ‘ability to wonder’ to be ‘inquisitive’ and the effort to understand first principles helps in fostering thinking of alternatives.

In his lecture at TED, Ken Robinson explains why he thinks creativity is as important as literacy, how every kid has creative talent but that the system (school, parents, society…) squander it and how you have to be prepared to be wrong if you want to do something creative. He defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. His lecture can be viewed here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

My 8 years old son has recently started learning how to play the Violin. He is finding it challenging and perhaps to share his anxiety, he told us that he is going to write a story about this boy who could not play the Violin right and hence was asked to leave the school orchestra. On hearing this, like all good parents, my wife and I told him, “So the boy practiced and practiced and he was accepted back in the orchestra.”

Later, in his Ideas Diary, where he jots down outlines for stories he would like to write, we found that rest of the story was same but for, “… the boy was asked to leave the school orchestra. So he started a new band and called it ‘Wrong Notes’…”

Our son is more ready for Education 2.0 than his parents are!

Share this Post