Fresh Thinking

Lateral Thinking_0001Creativity receives an immense amount of lip service. Too bad that doesn’t correlate to actual appreciation. I’ve been working since I was 14. In all the jobs I’ve had, the first was the one that used my creativity most fully. I was a teenage assistant-janitor, doing manual labor. Laborers have great incentive to be creative since it can reduce the amount of work you have to do. Of course, at other times it can create more work. While I was teaching (the second-most creative job I’ve held), I picked up Edward de Bono’s classic, Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. Shortly after purchasing it I lost my teaching job with a change of administration and I’ve been involved in the least creative phase of my career ever since—publishing. I hope that I’m still a lateral thinker, and I read de Bono wishing to verify that I might be.

Lateral thinking, simply put, is the ability to see things differently. Logical thinking, with which we’re all familiar, is linear, or what de Bono calls “vertical.” Each step is based on the previous step and each step has to be right all the time. My mind, however, finds avenues out to wander among the daisies during the whole process. My interior dialogue is often a long stream of “what ifs” and questioning why things are done the way they are. I guess it’s no wonder that the church was leery of me. Lateral thinking, de Bono notes, does not sit well with dogmatism, nor with the arrogance of presuming you’re already right. If you’ve already got the answers, you need not ask any more questions. You go to seminary to learn to shore up the party line. Individual thinking is unwanted, and what’s more, it’s even dangerous.

So I have moved into the realm of business which, it would seem, stands to gain the most from creativity. Instead, standard business practices hamper, if not actively discourage, creativity. Having people sit in cubicles and maintaining rigid, often long, hours, and performing tasks that a lemur could be trained to handle. This is hardly the breeding ground of new ideas. I’ve attended “brainstorming” sessions in the industry where the leader shoots down immediately any idea that doesn’t lock-step with where s/he believes the company should be going. That’s not brainstorming, it’s brainwashing. Creativity may indeed lead to a temporary loss of profits. The truly creative business mogul will know, however, that it will lead to great leaps ahead further down the road. If you want to find the truly creative among the company, I suggest one place to go. Ask the janitors. Their ideas are likely the most creative of all.

3 responses to “Fresh Thinking

  1. I read the de Bono book years ago and still have difficulties NOT ‘digging the hole’ he talks about. I’ve witnessed untold corporate allegiance pointed at creativity and ‘disruptive innovation’, but when it comes right down to ‘ring-fencing the revenue’ (yeah, that is a thing….) and assuring we’re ‘all on the same page’ as the presence at the front of the conference room, it is a choice between putting forth that potentially valuable new idea and being miserable at your job (if you still have one after that…), or nodding like a bobble-head. Most of us go for the latter and take our creativity elsewhere. The job becomes ‘tent-making’ and not a true calling, which is sad. Who knows how many organizations have utterly lost out on creating neat stuff and doing neat things…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jeff! I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I’ve only been in the business sector for about six years, but I’ve been absolutely stunned at how little creativity I’ve witnessed.

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  2. The “business sector” game is called Follow the Money, Screw the Consequences.

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