Use Lateral Thinking to Light Your Creative Fire

Let me start by telling a quick story from Turkey in the time of the great statesman, Mustafa Ataturk.  During his period as President of Turkey in the early 1900’s, Ataturk established a series of policy reforms so that Turkey could transform into a modern, westernized and secular nation-state.

To accelerate the separation of state and religion, Ataturk set about removing symbolic barriers such as religion-based clothing from everyday life.  The use of the veil was so widespread at that time that Ataturk risked a social revolution if he banned the veil outright.

So what to do.  A ban would be an unenforceable tinderbox for the state and there were few other options.…

The answer was to look at the situation from a different perspective.  Instead of banning the veil, Ataturk set about changing the values that society placed around the veil.  He tackled this with an ingenious approach.

Ataturk’s answer was to make it mandatory for all prostitutes to wear a veil.

He tackled the veil by identifying current perceptions and making it unfashionable to publicly wear the veil.  Eventually his government was able to outright legislate a ban on the veil without threat of societal revolt.

This type of thinking is called Lateral Thinking, a term coined by Edward de Bono to solve problems via indirect approaches, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious.

Lately I have been studying the concept of what it means to “think” and I strongly believe that all marketers should make an effort to unlock the potential of lateral thinking.  The primary benefit is that lateral thinking is very much about challenging routine patterns and the status quo when generating ideas.

Within the structured methodologies of de Bono’s Lateral Thinking, he emphasizes creative problem solving.  The end result is typically an innovative approach that stands apart from what is expected.  As marketers, I am sure you can appreciate the need for this type of creativity and perspective.

A few of the tools de Bono recommends within his 1967 book called “New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking” include:

  • Idea generating tools that are designed to break current thinking patterns—routine patterns, the status quo;
  • Focus tools that are designed to broaden where to search for new ideas;
  • Harvest tools that are designed to ensure more value is received from idea generating output;
  • Treatment tools that are designed to consider real-world constraints, resources, and support.

Marketers are challenged with looking outside of the boundaries of the obvious and lateral thinking represents a structured and practical approach towards idea generation.

If you are looking to inject a new perspective towards your brand, campaigns and perception I highly recommend you try a few of the tools used in Lateral Thinking.  The end result is ideas that are rooted in unconventional thought which are far more likely to be noticed then traditional step-by-step logic.


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