First up, a disclaimer – I’m in Byron Bay. I’m not eating any sprouted mung beans but I am feeling the flow of self-reflection. So I’m thinking about being lateral.
Lots of us want to think we’re laterally minded, but mostly people are pretty linear. I know I prefer order, rules, templates and ticking boxes! These days I make a living reinforcing these, but I once was the radical in the group. Remember management guru Edward de Bono’s theory of six thinking hats? I was green (creative) and white (facts). Now I’m blue (structure) nearly all the time, from the kitchen to the boardroom.
I think going into professional editing made me focus on fixing, improving and honing, instead of inventing. I still love it though when someone zigs while the crowd is zagging.
Team planning “retreats” were originally intended to boost creativity by changing routine. Then agendas, tea breaks, eggtimer brainstorms and evaluation forms crept in. I doubt relocating to bland hotel meeting rooms boosts lateral thinking; better chat happens at the bar after.
When’s the last time you genuinely did, or fostered something lateral?
At the best management meeting I ever had, we all lay on the floor! Literally being lateral gave everyone unexpected perspectives. Can you change your space and/or your approach? Maybe ask the most junior colleague to lead for a day; hold meetings in the carpool; imagine pitching your idea to 5 year olds or Chinese customers; and start discussions with “what if” or “why not”. Why not?