Through the eyes of others
LET’S GET INTO IT
Where there’s smoke…
A police officer attends a warehouse fire in an isolated area.
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, 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.
Everything was totally destroyed in the fire. There are no witnesses. The enormous amount of activity putting out the fire has destroyed any remaining hope that a tire track or footprint might be found. The office believes there is no way to know who burgled the warehouse.
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?
A lateral-thinking-skilled detective arrives at the scene . . .
The detective decides that while the scenario given by the police officer is probable, there may still be alternatives worth investigating. He IMAGINES the possible perspectives of others.
The business owner possible perspectives:
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.
The detective makes a note to check out the insurance situation, check the tax records, and talk to the accountant/bookkeeper.
The landlord/owner of the warehouse possible perspective:
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 owner of the property might have needed to redevelop, renovate, or repair.
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.
The fireman’s possible perspective:
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.
The employees’ possible perspectives:
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 case is not closed just yet.
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Some easy exercises to practice this skill can be found here:
A real-life example of Alternative Perspectives can be found here:
The consideration of alternative points of view/perspectives is an excellent disruptive technique 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.
YOUR JOURNEY SO FAR
If you’ve been doing the lessons in the correct order, 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