Through the eyes of others
LET’S GET INTO IT
Where there’s smoke…
A police officer attends a warehouse fire.
The rear door of the warehouse has had its lock forced. The distraught owner says there had been a lot of cash in the safe, and sifting through the burnt-out mess that was his business, he could see that the safe had been broken into. The officer concludes that a burglar forced his way into the warehouse, broke into the safe and took the cash, lighting the fire to destroy any evidence. The officer believes that there is no way to determine who burgled the warehouse as everything was destroyed and there are no witnesses. The burglar got away cleanly it seems.
We call this process vertical thinking. There is a logical explanation well supported by solid evidence, but unfortunately, it leads to a dead end. Should the investigation stop there?
Let’s take a creative look at some alternative perspectives to imagine how others might potentially be involved.
A detective skilled in lateral thinking techniques decides that whilst the scenario given by the police officer is probable, there may still be alternatives worth investigating.
He considers the possible perspective of the business owner. He imagines himself trapped in a failing business he can’t sell. He might take out a large insurance policy in case of fire and/or theft. He could stage the break-in, claim to have lost the cash, and then reap the insurance while quietly pocketing the cash. He makes a note to check out the insurance situation and talk to the accountant/bookkeeper for the business.
Next, he considers the landlord/owner of the warehouse viewpoint. Perhaps the tenant’s business was failing and he was a long way behind in the rent. Knowing that it would be a costly exercise to get the tenant out, the landlord may have decided to burn the place down for insurance and steal the cash in the safe as compensation for the back rent. The detective makes a note to investigate the rent situation. He also decides to check with the local government authorities to see if the property had recently been cited for falling into disrepair or needing expensive renovations. Any application to develop the property could pose some interesting questions also.
Next, the detective considers the viewpoint of the fireman who first attended the blaze. The fireman may have seen the safe and opportunistically decided to break it open and save the contents. He certainly has the right tools on hand. Seeing a great deal of cash he gives in to temptation, forcing the back door lock to make it look like there had been a burglary. The detective makes a note to thoroughly search the fire engine and firemen before they leave. A quick check of any criminal records might be a good idea here also.
Next, he considers the viewpoint of employees. An employee, realizing that a huge amount of cash was in the safe, concealed him/herself inside the warehouse until everyone had left. Then, with plenty of time to break into the safe, he/she only had to force the back door lock and light the fire when the most difficult part of the crime was complete (breaking into the safe) without risk of being seen and easily avoiding security patrols. The detective decides to get a list of employees and check their alibis for the time they left work until the time of the fire.
It’s quite easy to imagine other roles or viewpoints the detective could consider like:
- The security patrol officer;
- A friend or family member that visited the business owner just before the business closed for the day;
- The grounds maintenance contractor;
- The adjoining tenants etc etc etc.
The lateral thinking detective has a number of feasible scenarios. The case is not closed just yet.
The consideration of alternative viewpoints is a tool of lateral thinking creativity that can be applied to a wide and varied range of applications;
- Planning parties or events;
- The design of buildings;
- The creation of a service;
- Dispute resolutions;
- Finding common ground etc etc
The consideration of alternative points of view/perspectives is an excellent tool for creating and delivering fresh ideas.
CREATING NEURAL PATHWAYS
Remember to discuss what you have learned with someone. Try role-playing with someone as you apply “alternative perspectives” to imagined scenarios. It is important that you do so to embed this knowledge firmly within your repertoire of skills and learning. We are building neural pathways that will benefit you for a lifetime; neural pathways that will only form if you regularly practice your learning and teach/share with others.
You should be confident to discuss the four following subjects:
- Our education and life experiences can often lead to a “blinkered” viewpoint;
- 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;
- Creative thinking is merely the combining of two or more ideas that haven’t been combined/considered before; and
- Considering the viewpoints or perspectives of others is an effective lateral thinking tool of creativity.
FEEDBACK AND SUPPORT
Please share your experiences below, and feel free to contact me with any difficulties you might be having.
Lateral Thinking Author and Alien Conspiracy Protagonist