Lateral Thinking

August 7, 2009 at 7:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The single biggest problem facing engineering is a lack of perspective. Here’s a good quote from DeBono (from his classic book “Lateral Thinking”) that helps explain this:

Sometimes the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists.

For example, let’s say you are given the task of “children get lost in large crowds”. There are different ways to look at this:
– preventing children from being lost
– finding a way of very easily finding children once they get lost
– make it unnecessary for parents to have to enter large crowds. That way, children don’t get lost.
– make parents less careless about their kids so the kids don’t get lost.

You see? Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can automatically suggest answers. The key is defining the problem specifically. The less general you define the problem, the more likely it is to suggest answers. The problem with people, even smart ones, is that they have this sort of “tunnel vision” in their approach to solving problems. The key to breakthroughs is to look at things that no one else really bothered to look at.

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