Add VALUE with original thinking

… that doesn’t go against the flow 

Lateral thinking tool to escape dominant thinking

In lesson 1, we discussed blinkered thinking … a situation where dominant thinking reaches an impasse and we need to go back to find an alternative turnoff before moving forward. However, when there is no impasse, we’re less likely to think creatively.

With many things in life, there is a dominant way of thinking, a prevailing idea, or an accepted “norm”.

“There’s often a good reason for dominant thinking … it’s because something is working and if it ain’t broke …don’t fix it.”

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “tweak” it a little every now and then.



Fine-tuning fair

Your child’s school holds annual fairs after midyear exams to raise funds. The fairs are motivated by the needs of the school to have sufficient funding to deliver the quality of education expected by parents, thereby gaining full support from the parents, teachers and the wider community.

Each year the school “more than adequately” manages to get by, and it is thanks to the annual school fair and the combined efforts of parents, teachers, and students that they create such a successful outcome.

Now you might ask why I would question such a successful and positive event?

The accomplished lateral thinker questions EVERYTHING!

In fact, I would suggest to you that because this annual event is so successful, nobody has ever substantially questioned the operation for a considerable time.

“It’s usually inadvisable to swim against a strong current”

Rather than looking to drastically change what is happening (a high-risk strategy) consider instead merely improving on something; fine-tuning it a little. When approaching large successful groups proposing to change what they have worked so hard to achieve, this is a relatively subtle and non-threatening review.

Let’s take a closer look …

The school fair is a lot of fun. There are rides and competitions, and people make food and all sorts of treats to be consumed on the day as well as take home. There are arts and crafts, displays of learning like science exhibits and so on. The school successfully reaches out to its local community. Due to continued outstanding success, the fair has remained pretty much unchanged for 50 years. We clearly have an extremely dominant thinking direction here.

Further investigation of the school fair reveals that it is run by the school’s “P & C” (parents and citizens) with the entire proceeds going to the school’s needs. Let’s challenge this existing concept.

Why is it run by adults? Could this be turned into a great learning experience for the kids in the fields of:

  • Business;
  • Accounting;
  • Marketing;
  • Event Management;
  • Security;
  • Sales;
  • Insurance/liability risk;
  • Franchising;
  • A/V production, etc etc.

What if we just tweaked it a little to let the kids run the event with supervision?

My vision is to create a student-managed business, one that is run by the succeeding years of senior students who further garnish skills from the local community to take their success not only locally, but well beyond as they develop and refine their successful business model and share it throughout the nation’s schools.

The school might create a not-for-profit business enterprise that is run by the senior students under the guidance of their teachers and the P & C. So successful a model, they could potentially franchise.

Every grade of the school would be involved, with higher grades getting higher responsibilities and requiring higher skill sets. Teaching within the classroom could incorporate studying, managing, and contributing to every aspect of this exciting teaching and business enterprise.

The fundamental change here is that I have taken this from something that is run by parents to something far more beneficial in that it becomes a tool for learning and experience for the students (but still under the ultimate control of parents).

Have we successfully moved away from the dominant thinking?

Absolutely. You have taken the school fair from something mostly managed by adults with the assistance of the students to something managed by the students with guidance from adults. However, to the person attending the fair and spending their money, there may be no noticeable change at all.

It is a concept worth bringing up with the next P & C meeting, that’s for sure.


No matter how successful, popular, or dominant prevailing thinking might be, there will always be alternatives, and more than occasionally, superior alternatives.

Lateral thinking encourages you to deviate from the herd. Recognize dominant thinking for what it usually is … the best “currently known about” alternative.

Always question the norm, move out on a tangent, and look for any untapped potential. 


Go to lesson 8

Working backwards

Lateral thinking backwards planning

The ultimate definition of lateral thinking can be found here