Lateral and creative thinking examples

“Think of yourself as being like a tradesman … ineffective without tools at the ready”

The following examples are ALL real:

The “lecturing atheist” example


A very elderly gentleman was on the receiving end of a rather “heated” lecture from a well-dressed young man who was obviously passionate about his atheist beliefs … too passionate perhaps. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.

The poor old guy couldn’t get a word in so I decided to make sure everything was okay and went over and introduced myself in a non-threatening way. It turns out that they were related … the young man was his grandson. Their conversation had turned to the topic of evolution and continued now in my presence.

‘What do think?’ the young man asked of me. ‘How can religion explain the proof of evolution?’

The old man looked at me looking for any sort of lifeline. I’m an atheist, but I couldn’t resist that look. LOL

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Try to view that question from an ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE . . . God’s perspective.’

‘There’s no such thing as God,’ the grandson insisted.

‘But, we can still imagine that God exists, and we can try to imagine how he would answer that question. For the moment, imagine YOU are God. YOU are master over everything in our universe. Are you in the role?’

‘Yes,’ said the young man, reluctantly. 

‘Okay, how do YOU explain the evidence of evolution?’

The young man, to his tremendous credit, thought about the question seriously.

‘If it exists, it is because I made it so,’ he answered. The old man was beaming. ‘If God did exist, evolution would be part of His design.’

BOTH sides of the argument saw something they hadn’t seen before. An excellent example of the simple and effective use of one of my favorite lateral thinking tools.

(See the ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

Keep your lateral thinking tools handy
Keep your tools handy

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Test yourself:

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The “difficult teens” example


We have two teenage girls that are quite frankly … demanding! Living on acreage well outside of town, the girls wanted to be driven “everywhere”, causing quite a bit of tension in the household. It felt a bit like our entire lives revolved around the whims of these girls.  LOL

Some other issues causing us concern were:

  • They wanted more pocket money;
  • They wanted more freedom;
  • We were worried about their activities/safety when spending so much time such a long way from home (Melbourne is more than 50 kilometers away);
  • They were unfit and overweight.

Using “creative combinations” we decided to tackle all of these problems with a single comprehensive solution.

The “deal” we offered the girls:

  1. Quality mountain bikes for Xmas;
  2. Whatever we save on car/transport costs they get as additional pocket money;
  3. They must never ride alone at night;
  4. They must always know where the other sister is at all times;
  5. They must allow us to track them via their phones at all times, and
  6. They must always answer when we call.

One year later . . .

The girls LUV:

  • Having the extra $100/week pocket money (although they must now pay ALL of their own public transport costs);
  • Their new-found freedom;
  • Their improved appearance and health;
  • The new network of friends they’ve made with such positive attitudes and activities.


  • The better atmosphere around the house;
  • The fact that they now look out for each other;
  • Having more “adult-only” time;
  • Feeling confident that the girls are taking safety very seriously;
  • That their local friends seem to have negotiated the same deal (and benefits) with their parents;
  • That everyone in the house seems fitter and healthier;
  • We’re doing something positive for the environment;
  • The cops do random drug and alcohol tests on bike riders frequently (LOL);
  • The girls seem happy to self-inflict earlier and more sensible curfew times because of public transport limitations;
  • That they’re learning to manage money;
  • That they now seem happy to go “with” us to more places now.

I really love this simple and easily recalled tool.

(See the CREATIVE COMBINATIONS free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

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The “dangerous journey” example

Lateral/creative tool in play: BACKWARDS PLANNING

In Australia, we have a tradition called “schoolies”. Basically, at the conclusion of their senior school education, the kids take off to one of several iconic locations to party for a solid week. Probably the most popular destination is the fabulous beaches and party atmosphere of Queensland’s famous Gold Coast.

Yes . . . every parents’ worst nightmare. (LOL)

To make things MUCH worse, our eldest and her best seven friends decided to drive (in two vehicles) the entire 1,701.9 kilometers so they could “enjoy the sights”. They had no plan, thinking that they would stop and camp “wherever”. Oh dear . . . I didn’t like the sound of that one bit.

The solution that immediately came to mind was to “backwards plan” their trip. Instead of “telling them” what they should do, I “involved them” in the process of imagining the best trip possible.

Their accommodation wouldn’t be available until midday the following Saturday.

‘Where will you spend Friday night?’ I asked, innocently. ‘So that you arrive fresh and ready to make the most of your time on the Gold Coast?’

A quick look online revealed that the scenic community of Coffs Harbour was just over a three-hour drive south, the perfect easy commute for the final leg of their journey on Saturday morning.

‘I’ll get online and book you guys a camping spot close to the beach, shall I?’

We backwards planned the entire journey. I knew where they were expected to be at every stage, and they had an achievable three to five hours driving per day which made all the parents feel a lot better about the journey.

Lateral thinking is often about disrupting something you don’t like, to create a better outcome.

(See the BACKWARDS PLANNING free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

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The “family holiday” example

Lateral/creative tool in play: RANDOM STARTING POINT (RSP)

Sometimes I think we might be the ultimate dysfunctional family . . . Can you relate?

A few years ago, we were having one of our more animated discussions on where to go on holiday. We’ve had our fair share of both successes, and failures. After several weeks had passed without resolution, I decided to get everyone together and try the RSP lateral thinking tool to see if we could break through the stale thinking. 

Pinning a map of Australia to the wall, I gave a throwing dart to my lovely (but slightly inebriated at the time) partner and said “let’s think about what we could do in and around wherever the dart lands”. Well, she threw the dart, and despite being close and the map being of considerable size, she missed completely.

We bought a boat.

It has been the source of much fun and family togetherness now for several years. We’ve sailed, as a family, more than 3,000 kilometers (so far) and we are considering our first overseas destination soon.

(See the RANDOM STARTING POINTS free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

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The “can I borrow the car?” example

Creative tool in play: PROBLEM-SOLVING


ONE:       What is the REAL problem?

TWO:      What is the cause, (or causes), of the problem?

THREE:   What are the possible solutions?

FOUR:     What is the BEST possible solution?

Let’s look at a problem I faced recently . . .

Julie (not her real name) had just got her driver’s license and wanted my permission to borrow the car … after her mom has said “NO!”

Julie thought we were being unfair by NOT TRUSTING HER. “If you hadn’t MADE me finish school, I would have a job and could’ve bought my own car”, she insisted. “You would have had no say in it then!”

Julie and her mom were both in tears over the issue.

LOL . . . memories!

ONE: What then, is the real problem?

Mon insisted the problem was about “safety”. Julie insisted the problem was about “trust”.


After much discussion and more tears, we determined that the real problem wasn’t about trust, it wasn’t about safety … it was about her mother’s (and mine also) fears NOT being satisfactorily dispelled by Julie.

With all parties in agreement, NOW we can move on.

(N.B. We’ve made no judgment here as to whether the fears are real, imagined, or reasonable. That is irrelevant to this stage of the process.)

TWO: What are the causes of this problem?

Mom says:

  • Beginner drivers are disproportionately killed on the road;
  • Julie’s skills are not yet what they could be;
  • Some of Julie’s “less than sensible” friends might encourage her to push beyond her ability.

Julie says:

  • She’s an adult now, and should be treated as such;
  • She will have to be able to drive on her own eventually anyway;
  • She passed her driver’s test without a single blemish;
  • She’s done MUCH MORE than the recommended hours of driver training.

I say:

  • Julie needs to consider the stress she is causing us.

THREE: What are the possible solutions to this problem?

In no particular order we brainstormed between us (and Julie’s younger sister):

  • Do more hours driving practice with one of the adults sitting beside her;
  • Start off with short journeys alone;
  • No passengers allowed for the first few weeks;
  • Advanced skills driving course;
  • Journey computer in the car to record speeds/locations etc;
  • Daylight only until more practiced;
  • Dry weather only and definitely no icy roads without specific training;
  • Staged/gradual relaxations of the rules as she proves herself.

FOUR: What is the best possible solution?

“From conflict comes opportunity”

This is why I’m sooooo passionate about creative and lateral thinking. We started with a bad situation and we’re about to turn it into a positive. Here is what we decided …

  1. Julie IS allowed to use the car on her own for short journeys only and without passengers, until she completes an additional 10 hours driving experience on the busy Melbourne roads with either myself or her mother beside her;
  2. After 10 hours of extra experience on the busy city roads, she IS allowed to drive to Melbourne in daylight hours only, and still, no passengers allowed. During this time, she must complete an additional 10 hours of nighttime supervised training on the busy city roads;
  3. After the now 20 hours day/night experience, she IS allowed to borrow the car at any time that doesn’t have inclement weather or icy roads. Still no friends in the car though. Before being given open access to the car and being allowed to have friends on board, she must complete a further 10 hours of supervised driving in “poor and dangerous driving conditions”.
  4. The vehicles onboard computer and tracking technology (with camera) must remain on at all times.

The outcome: Two weeks later, Julie had full access to the car. Her driving skills had improved considerably, and she was a model of safety for her soon to be driving younger sister. 

It’s always a worry when new drivers first hit the roads, but I think we’ve prepared this young one as best as possible.

These four simple provocative questions should be considered for EVERY significant or important problem you face for the rest of your life.

(See the Problem Solving free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

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Coming soon:

“A powerful investigative series into the alien question”


Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

About the first book:

For most of his adult life, Evan Armstrong has been afflicted by dreams of a frightening encounter that warns of an apocalyptic future. A traumatic incident ends the dreams, to be replaced by fractured memories of something he was never meant to remember.

A twisted evolutionary pathway . . . a bridge from science to religion. Was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy an unintended consequence of Roswell?

Illuminati – Majestic 12 – Freemasons – A New World Order

 Not just theories . . . you will believe.


“Breakthrough science and philosophy to ignite your passions . . . disruptive creativity to haunt your dreams”


More lateral thinking examples coming soon

The example

Lateral/creative tool in play: CHALLENGE EXISTING CONCEPTS


Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction