Day 2 – Free lateral thinking and creativity lesson
Random starting points (or random entry points), (or random external stimulus technique)
Have you read my introduction to the lessons page? This course employs a strategy of building neural pathways of powerful habits. Please read the LATERAL THINKING LESSONS introduction page before proceeding.
Ok, if you have read my intro and also completed the first lesson, let’s proceed . . .
My personal lateral thinking journey commenced in 1990 when I went to work for one of Australia’s largest advertising agencies as their New Business Development Manager. I became friends with the Creative Director, Paul. Being a very large agency, it tended to put a bureaucratic shield of protection around him . . . there were procedures. I soon came to learn though, that it wasn’t the Creative Director that insisted on these shields. He resented the isolation. I was new . . . I was to be encouraged to break the status quo, much to the angst of some management and the bean-counters.
Paul hated the blinkered focus of the agency. His “creative juices” would not, and could not, flow without fresh input and diverse challenges. Risking our jobs, Paul and I decided to “break the mold” as I went out into the field and attracted non-traditional business. The agency specialized in recruitment and real estate. The clients I brought in were incredibly diverse; car wrecking, retail, auction, the ambulance service, shipbuilding, legal, and many, many more too diverse and numerous to go into here. We were amazingly successful.
Because neither of us knew a thing about any of the business I brought in. Therefore, our thinking was fresh and new (and not “blinkered”).
Sometimes Paul would get stuck . . . his “creative juices wouldn’t flow”. Typically, he would lock himself in his office with a “do not disturb” sign on the door, turn off the phone, and emerge sometime later with a brilliant new idea. He NEVER failed. Never.
Curious, I asked Paul what goes on in that office when he locks himself in. He invited me in. What happened next totally destroyed any perception I had that Paul was some kind of genius. Anybody could do what Paul did. He generated a random starting point to formulate a new idea. How?
To my amazement, Paul picked up a random book, opened it at a random page, and without looking at that page, he pointed at a random word. Then, he chose the nearest (workable) noun or verb to that word, and that is where his creative thinking process began.
LET’S GIVE IT A TRY
Reductions on the roads
You’ve been asked to devise a completely original idea to help reduce the road toll, carbon emissions and average travel times all with ONE simple innovation.
How can you use lateral thinking to generate an original idea? One way is to generate a random starting point for your thought process. For example . . .
Pick up any book, magazine or newspaper and open it to any random page, then select a keyword from the second paragraph. The word you find is “magnet”. Now our innovation is (for now) tied to a magnet.
How could a magnet be used to achieve these objectives?
- We could fit magnetic swipe cards underneath all vehicles. The card identifies the vehicle, it’s weight, speed, fuel efficiency, braking capacity, typical load, trailers etc.;
- Traffic light intersections scan all traffic approaching and determine the most fuel and time-efficient solution to let vehicles through;
- Warning lights on your dash tell you if you’ll be required to stop at a red light soon. It monitors your actions approaching the intersection, ready to warn other vehicles if you don’t demonstrate compliance.
Now, we decide the idea is good, but are magnetic swipe cards our best option? We might consider barcoding the underneath of vehicles, or, vehicle onboard computers negotiating with all major intersections. The point is that the “smart intersections” idea came about from the “magnet” starting point.
You will note that whilst the random starting point keyword of “magnet” started the lateral thinking process, it plays no role in the final solution. The random starting point was ONLY required to break the shackles of any preconceived thought patterns we may have had difficulty seeing past.
LET’S GIVE IT A TRY
Sink or swim
You’re on a sailing boat that hits a reef unexpectedly. The Captain hits his head and he’s out cold. A hole in the hull about eight inches across is letting in water at an incredible rate that is too much for the bilge pump to handle . . . you’re sinking. Guests aboard the sailing boat, like you, have no sailing experience and do not know what to do. Calmly, you go to a shelf that has a book, open it at a random page, and you see the word “sheet”.
Maybe you could use a sheet to put over the hole? NO!
Maybe you block the hole using the sheet somehow with something else? Possibly.
You race below to grab a sheet and you notice the pillows, so you put two pillows together, wrap them tightly in the sheet and jump overboard. Feeding the sheet through the hole until the pillows block any progress, you plug the hole as best you can. Next, you climb back on board, go below to where the sheet is now visible through the hole and you pull the sheet as hard as you can without pulling the pillows through. The water flow is substantially reduced; the bilge pump can now cope.
Is it the best solution? Possibly not. Probably not. (I actually have no idea).
The point is that it was through the use of a random starting point that I created a solution that at least saved the day. Sometimes, at a time when we really DO need a solution and a fast solution, lateral thinking can smash through the panic and confusion . . . but ONLY if your response is automatic. (That is why I encourage you to use, practice and impart your skills to others, to build neural pathways)
Lateral thinking doesn’t guarantee the best solutions, but it does promise creative solutions regularly and reliably. Sometimes, it will give you superior solutions, and sometimes it will give you AWESOME solutions.
LET’S GIVE IT A TRY
The complexities of coffee
You own a coffee shop. Business is terrible and you are close to a point that you will have to shut your doors.
I come into your coffee shop and you tell me about your problems so I offer to do you a big favor and choose a random starting point for an alternative thought process. I’m currently reading RED NOTICE by BILL BROWDER, so I open a random page (299) and I point to a word (“store”, “department store” actually) and I start my random thinking there.
You could do a joint promotion with a department store? Boring.
You could offer a discount to the staff at the local department stores? Boring.
You could become a department store? HMMMMMMM!! You could think about some sort of business and income diversification just like a department store maybe. Still, you need more.
You could provide something that compliments what the department stores offer?
I GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!
I notice that there are hundreds and hundreds of people that pass your coffee shop each day to go to the various stores but never stop. Many would like to stop for a coffee as I did, but they have purchased items that need to be refrigerated, or they are overloaded and just want to get home and therefore they are in a hurry. They would enjoy a coffee but it’s just too hard.
You could offer lockers, or even cold room lockers while people enjoy a coffee and take a moment to relax before returning home. Shoppers who go to your coffee shop can unload their burden securely, leaving them with you for a short while as they pick up a few last items or simply browse in a relaxed fashion. Spend $20 at your coffee shop and get a free locker in or out of the cold room for an hour. You only have enough space to put in 20 small lockers but still, your business takes off as you generate up to an additional $400 per hour turnover.
Next, you create a business model (with space for many more lockers) that can be an international franchise success as shoppers spend more time shopping using the convenience of your coffee shop lockers all over the world. You rename your coffee shop to something like “Unload and Unwind”.
The random starting point was “department store”.
You have a genuinely (I think so anyway) interesting new idea for consideration and I walk out without having to pay for my coffee because you are so happy with this creative opportunity.
If you don’t like my idea, that’s fine, simply start again with a new random input. Keep repeating the process until you do find something you like. Even if you find a great idea early in the use of this process, keep repeating the idea anyway. Come up with a “top ten” new business ideas for your coffee shop and then select the best one or two or three to proceed with. Your business WILL succeed eventually if you practice these skills I promise.
(Please let me know your ideas for generating a random starting point. Use the comments section below)
Lateral Thinking Lesson 2 – Summary
Learning to use random starting points is easy, and gets immediate results. The strength of this lateral thinking tool is its mobility, and how quickly and easily it can be applied.
(I recommend that you do not buy expensive software to create a random starting point . . . it completely defeats the purpose.)
CREATING NEURAL PATHWAYS
That’s enough for today. Please make sure that you practice your new Random Starting Point lateral thinking skill regularly. Set yourself problems to solve, and choose a variety of methods to generate your entry point. Take a few minutes to discuss what you have learned so far with someone you know.
In my experience, the skills and knowledge I hope to impart to you will implant themselves better into your memory if you take small but steady steps and ALWAYS share by discussing with others what you have learned and are now an expert in.
YOUR LEARNING JOURNEY PROGRESS
Now you should be able to discuss fluently:
- Our education and life experiences can often lead to a “blinkered” viewpoint; and
- Random starting points (or random entry points) are a lateral thinking skill that can be easily learned and readily used to break the shackles of our blinkered thinking.
FEEDBACK AND SUPPORT
Please share your experiences in the comments section below. And please let me know how you improvise alternative random starting points.
See you tomorrow.
MICHAEL’S RANDOM STARTING POINT
The “Lateral thinking investigations . . . of the third kind” series
My first novel, THIS IS FICTION. YOUN WILL BELIEVE is almost complete.
Here is an example of a highly advanced random starting point I use frequently . . . Random Introductions.
THIS IS FICTION. YOUN WILL BELIEVE was written as a result of a “random starting point” experience.
My enthusiasm and expertise on the subject of all things alien had evolved over half a lifetime; I was an expert. A supposedly “chance/random” meeting with an actual witness to the alien UFO encounter at Roswell completely upheaved my life . . . I came to a very stark realization that like all so-called “experts”, I had become lost in the mechanizations of my own expert beliefs and opinions. I was a cog, churning out the same “blinkered” misconceptions and blind obedience to dominant thinking that saturates our structured existence.
The Roswell witness proved to be a random starting point like no other in my life. Even a lateral thinking enthusiast such as myself can fall victim to expertise; to become a cog in the machinery of my own creation.
I broke free. What I found is absolutely terrifying!
Michael Muxworthy – Disruptive Author
Lateral thinking investigations . . . of the third kind
This free random starting points lateral thinking lesson is brought to you by Michael John Muxworthy