The whole basis of Western thinking is challenged by Edward de Bono, a medical doctor and researcher credited with inventing lateral thinking.
De Bono said thinking skills in the West have been based on "rock logic" with absolutes and hard edges. The thinking system is rigid and lacks creative and constructive thinking.The thinking system of the future is based on "water logic," with emphasis on perception instead of processing, said de Bono.
Utah Valley Community College presented an interactive video conference last week where de Bono shared the tools of lateral thinking. De Bono said our civilization has developed excellent processing systems but has done very little about perception.
De Bono illustrated the use of perception with the story of an Australian boy named Johnny. Some older children gathered around Johnny to ask him to choose between the large $1 coin and the smaller $2 coin. Johnny chose the $1 coin. The older children laughed, saying among themselves that it was so funny that Johnny didn't understand the $2 coin had more value. The incident repeated itself again and again.
An adult observer took Johnny aside to explain the $2 coin had more value. Johnny responded he knew that but if he chose the more valuable coin, the other children would no longer give him money.
De Bono said Johnny's choice was based on his perception that several $1 coins were better than one $2 coin. A computer would have chosen the $2 coin because the computer cannot use perception.
Since the Renaissance, thinking has been based on classical thinking methods based on what de Bono referred to as the "gang of three," - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Socrates was after questions and not conclusions. The argument was the important thing. Plato sought for truth and rejected distracting ideas. Aristotle set the rules for formal logic.
De Bono said classical thinking is only one part of thinking. It is important, but inadequate. It lacks creativity.
When confronted with a problem, thinking processes are vertical. We move from one step to the next and only consider alternatives when we are stuck, he said.
De Bono recommends considering alternatives, or lateral thinking, at every step. He said specific tools can help a person develop the ability to think laterally.
One tool for lateral thinking is association. A random word is used in connection with a problem. A person considers how the word relates to the problem. The association of the unrelated word leads to creative thinking.
De Bono said a friend sent him a newspaper clipping of an interview with Peter Ueberroth, the organizer of the financially successful 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Ueberroth said in the interview that his success was based on his ability to think laterally.
De Bono called Ueberroth to find out where he learned about lateral thinking. Ueberroth said he was a faculty host for de Bono years before at a conference. He learned the skills from de Bono. After years of practice, he was able to apply the skills successfully in business.