Creativity and lateral thinking in the workplace

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


“Stop competing” example


I was appointed General Manager of a group of auction centers across Australia … an industry I knew little about even though I had broad business experience.

Let that sink in for a moment . . .

I was given the top job despite not having specific experience

(See my free lateral thinking lesson Blinkered Thinking)

The business was in financial trouble. General auction is “slim pickings” . . . basically, the idea is to keep the doors open and hope to pick up a “forced” liquidation or major stock clearance with some sort of regularity.

The managers assured me that they had submitted for every known receivership and forced liquidation. They believed that the ONLY reason they didn’t win a proposal was because of undercutting of rates by competitors. The competition was tough, with strong downward pressure on commissions.

The task at hand was to find a differentiated niche market that would provide reliable profit with minimal competition.

I called a meeting of senior staff.

‘Please open a magazine to a random page?’ I asked one of the managers. ‘Without looking at the page, point to a random position? What’s the nearest noun or verb to that word?’

‘My finger is pointing at a picture of a man sitting at a desk,’ he answered.

‘Okay, it seems to me that we’re extremely competitive in the auction marketplace, and maybe that’s the problem. Competition drives down . . . ‘ I deliberately left the sentence hanging.

‘Profit?’ said one of the younger managers nervously.

‘Exactly. Competition drives down profit, so let’s keep our competing to a minimum.’

‘How?’ it was a chorus of like minds now.

Competition Vs Differentiation

‘Okay, we’ll use “desk” as a RANDOM STARTING POINT to begin some original thinking,’ I said, to some very confused faces. ‘Give me some thoughts around the word “desk”.’

The young manager eventually shot to his feet.

‘We’re selling “seconds” for a local office furniture manufacturer.’

‘Okay, is that profitable?’

‘No. Office furniture has become too competitive with all the cheap stuff coming in from China.’

‘That’s it,’ I might have startled him. ”All this new competition from China is driving businesses to the wall.’

‘We’re already on top of that side of the business,’ insisted someone.

‘I know you are, but what would happen if we approached businesses BEFORE they were forced to close their doors?’

I took the young manager for an impromptu visit to the furniture manufacturer. Four hours later, we had an agreement in place to market and sell everything “NO RESERVE”.

It was the beginning of something. Lateral thinking had “disrupted” the established ways we thought about doing business.

“Lateral thinking disrupts what exists and frees your mind to consider alternatives”

A simple example of the effective use of one of my favorite lateral thinking tools. (See the Random Starting Points free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

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“Never enough leads” example


My job title was NEW BUSINESS DIRECTOR. I was young, enthusiastic, and determined to blaze a trail LOL.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d taken on one the toughest, (if not the toughest), jobs in the advertising industry. I felt very much on my own, so decided to turn things around.

The agency specialized in real estate and recruitment, and I was expected to prospect ONLY within those categories. However, after breaking the rules and speaking directly to the creative staff, I realized that they had quite diverse experience.

I approached the Creative Director and asked him what his passion was … boats. He said that he’d love to have a little diversity in the creative demands and we agreed to work TOGETHER to bring on something from the boating field. A few months late we had LLOYD’S SHIPS.

By COMBINING the passions of the staff with my task of bringing in new business, I found myself not alone … I found myself with an enormous swell of support and creative thinking about new business.

The agency grew and diversified.

CREATIVE COMBINATIONS had focused and energized the agency’s thrust for new business under my leadership.

(See the Creative Combinations free lesson for a deeper understanding.)

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“Coming soon” example



“Coming soon” example



You might also take a look at some practical examples of lateral thinking tools in daily use:

Lateral Thinking Everyday Examples

Think YOU can do this? Take the test LOL:

Lateral Thinking Puzzles

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This is a brand new page.

Come back tomorrow for a brand new example of lateral and creative thinking in business.


Coming soon:

Michael Muxworthy

Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction

“A powerful investigative series into the alien question”

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?

Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

Illuminati – Majestic 12 – Freemasons – A New World Order

 Not just theories . . . you will believe.