Add VALUE with original thinking

… that doesn’t go against the flow 

Lateral thinking tool to escape dominant thinking

Lesson SEVEN

With many things in life, there is a dominant way of thinking; a prevailing idea or accepted “norm”. Try recognizing dominant thinking and deliberately going off on a tangent. The less-traveled path you choose, the more “creative” your thinking becomes.


Fine-tuning fair

A school holds its fairs annually just after midyear exams to raise funds. The fairs are motivated by the needs of the school to have sufficient funding to deliver the quality of education expected by parents, thereby gaining full support from the parents, teachers and the wider community.

Each year the school “more than adequately” manages to get by, and it is thanks to the annual school fair and the combined hard work of parents, teachers, and students that they create such a successful outcome.

Now you might ask why I would question such a successful and positive event?

The accomplished lateral thinker questions EVERYTHING!

In fact, I would suggest to you that because this annual event is so successful, nobody has ever substantially questioned the operation for a considerable time.

If you look at the picture/diagram I’ve drawn above, you’ll notice that the tangent or off-shoot I’ve drawn is running parallel with the dominant thinking. The reason for this is that when you are questioning existing dominant thinking, you have to realize that it is usually dominant for good reason . . . it is popular and it works.

“Dominant thinking is usually dominant for good reason … it works!”

Rather than looking to drastically change what is happening (a high-risk strategy) consider instead merely improving on something; fine-tuning it a little. When approaching large successful groups proposing to change what they have worked so hard to achieve, this is a relatively subtle and non-threatening review.

Let’s take a closer look …

The school fair is a lot of fun. There are rides and competitions, and people make food and all sorts of treats to be consumed on the day as well as take home. There are arts and crafts, displays of learning like science exhibits and so on. The school successfully reaches out to its local community. Due to continued outstanding success, the fair has remained pretty much unchanged for 50 years. We clearly have an extremely dominant thinking direction here.

Okay, before we go off on a tangent, let’s be clear about what we are trying to achieve here so that we don’t lose anything. I think anything we come up with MUST include:

  • Income equal or greater for the school;
  • Continuing positive contributions from parents, teachers, and students that continue to create strong community bonds as they unite for a common cause;
  • Continued wide involvement/inclusion of the local community; and
  • It must not create any problems with the normal functions of the school.

Further investigation of the school fair reveals that it is run by the school’s “P & C” (parents and citizens) with the entire proceeds going to the school’s needs. Let’s challenge this existing concept (Why? Lesson 6).

Why is it run by adults? Couldn’t this be turned into a great learning experience for the kids in the fields of:

  • Business;
  • Accounting;
  • Marketing;
  • Event Management;
  • Security;
  • Sales;
  • Insurance/liability risk;
  • Franchising;
  • A/V production, etc etc.

What if we just tweaked it a little to let the kids run the event with supervision?

My vision is to create a student-managed business, one that is run by the succeeding years of senior students who further garnish skills from the local community to take their success not only locally, but well beyond as they develop and refine their successful business model and share it throughout the nation’s schools and beyond.

The school might create a not-for-profit business enterprise that is run by the senior students under the guidance of their teachers and the P & C. So successful a model, they could potentially franchise.

Every grade of the school would be involved, with higher grades getting higher responsibilities and requiring higher skill sets. Teaching within the classroom could incorporate studying, managing, and contributing to every aspect of this exciting teaching and business enterprise.

The fundamental change here is that I have taken this from something that is run by parents to something far more beneficial in that it becomes a tool for learning and experience for the students (but still under the ultimate control of parents).

Have we successfully moved away from the dominant thinking?

Absolutely. You have taken the school fair from something mostly managed by adults with the assistance of the students to something managed by the students with guidance from adults. However, to the person attending the fair and spending their money, there may be no noticeable change at all.

It is a concept worth bringing up with the next P & C meeting, that’s for sure.

Lateral Thinking Lesson 7 – Summary

No matter how successful, popular, or dominant prevailing thinking might be, there will always be alternatives, and more than occasionally, superior alternatives.

Lateral thinking requires that you deviate from the herd. Question the norm, move out on a tangent, and explore any untapped potential. 


You should be extremely confident to discuss the seven following subjects now:

  1. Our education and life experiences can often lead to a “blinkered” viewpoint;
  2. Random starting points (or random entry points) are a lateral thinking tool (or skill) that can be easily learned and used to break the shackles of our blinkered thinking;
  3. Creative thinking is merely the combining of two or more ideas that haven’t been combined/considered before;
  4. Considering the viewpoints or perspectives of others is an effective tool for lateral thinking;
  5. Provocation is a great way to start new thinking;
  6. Challenging the status quo by asking “why?” is an excellent lateral thinking tool of creativity and a great introduction to creativity for kids; and
  7. Dominant thinking isn’t reviewed often enough. There are often better ways to do things without substantially altering the outcome or benefits.


Please take a moment to share these lateral thinking lessons with friends, family, and/or work colleagues.

Be warned! Be prepared!

We really begin to ramp up the pace now. It’s HUGELY important that you have these first seven “foundation” lessons firmly implanted inside your head. If you haven’t done so, do this now:

  • Discuss with others what you have learned here;
  • Practice the skills you have learned;
  • Share your experiences with us by using the comments section below


Contact me if you are having any difficulty. I am always glad to help people along this worthwhile journey. There is NEVER any charge.


Go to lesson 8

Working backwards


Check out the concise definition: What is lateral thinking?

 – – – – –

For the complete lateral thinking menuClick here

 – – – – –

Classic lateral thinking examples

Coming soon:

Creative lateral thinking fiction!

Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

These free lateral thinking lessons are brought to you by Michael John Muxworthy

2 thoughts on “7. About dominant thinking

  1. I thought I’d start small and use my upcoming Oscars home ‘event’ as my guinea pig.

    Every year I take the day off work and have a small group of girlfriends over to watch the red carpet live, drink bubbles and critique the fashion, and drink more bubbles.

    Every year, I create the same layout, re-arrange TVs, tables, chairs etc to ensure the environment is the best for watching the awards and group conversations because “it’s always worked”.

    It has always worked, mostly, but there is always that one seat that is on the sidelines and a little on the outer. Every year when I suggest a different format, I am met with ‘no just leave it the way it is, it’s worked fine”. What I now know to be my blinkered thinking, has resulted in leaving things the same.

    It’s going to be different this year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s