Friday, June 15, 2012

PO - The Tool To Lateral Thinking

What is Lateral Thinking?

For any job at hand, there are methods, methods which have been formed and moulded into shape. There are ways which look straight, there are tracks less explored. The ones that have set foot have been created out of experience, experience of repetitive success, experience of not choosing other paths and choosing the one that has worked well so far. This is the logical way of doing things.

There are also ways around the mould to achieve the same goal, however quicker, or slower, or easier or harder or safer that detour might be. You will have to get out of the regular path, and attempt to take the path less travelled. It is not guaranteeing you a success, but it is guaranteeing you something new, something useful - if not for this task, for some other. To go for such paths, is the basis of lateral thinking.

For any logically true path to have come to the fore, there were paths tried out. Lateral thinking helps you choose the right path for logical thinking to take you ahead. Lateral thinking opens up doors to new ways of doing a task, logical thinking methodologically takes you ahead in a chosen path. Lateral thinking allows you to take risks, as it doesn't care about mistakes, while logical paths have a set path with no choices.

Lateral thinking is there to help you come out of methods, clichés, patterns, foregone assumptions etc, and allows you to think beyond what is already set and known.

PO - The tool

There are quite a few ways by which you can practice lateral thinking. The best way is by making use of the language tool - PO.

What does PO mean?

Logical thinking has "NO" as a tool for rejection of an idea, or suggestion. Lateral thinking has "PO" as a tool to consider that very idea or suggestion, ignore any negative implication that may have caused its rejection in logical thinking, and go ahead and see how the approval of the idea may have taken the thought process further.

Usage of PO in a language pauses normalcy, and triggers alternative possibilities of moving ahead; lateral thinking sets in.
Among various usages of PO, and the respective concepts of lateral thinking they relate to, here are three major ones :-

PO delays judgement

Usage of PO does not defend or disagree with an idea. It merely lets the idea bloom into something better. It delays judgment. How often have you rejected something, only to regret it later? You might've ordered your pizza toppings, rejected olives, only to later realise that they would've gone well with the Italian seasoning. If you had thought for a bit longer about olives and the seasoning, maybe you would've wanted to have it.
PO protects a thought from immediate judgment.

PO generates alternatives

PO takes you out of the patterns and clichés. For the moment, you may ignore that the process you had been following all life and try out another way. It is what kids do when you don't watch over them. Parents teach you how to climb down from a bed, but kids always want to jump, slide and fall. You know the goal, and you know what is right (the method). So, there is nothing wrong in exploring another way, something that may help you some other day (if the legs of the bed are greasy and not suitable to be used as a step?).

PO is provocative

There are divisions cut out in almost every field. PO explores ways in which you can use both the poles and generate ideas out of them. It explores the division to create ideas. Also, PO can be used to generate ideas around a single word, or a phrase or a sentence. Random. When a group of ideas flutter around a central word/phrase, you get something out of it.
Usage of PO in its provocative sense can be sometimes humourous.The above mentioned usage is bound to be funny if you have 8 people talking on a monkey's tail, for example.

Usage of PO

1. Generating alternatives.

"PO the tree has branches" may lead to a discussion about trees and branches, why branches appear on trees, why they branch outward etc. It gives an alternative perspective of the situation. 
"PO you need fork to eat noodles"  will diverse into ways of using a fork, and ways of eating noodles differently, and trying to figure out why forks were used to eat noodles.

2. Provocation

"shoe PO food"- shoe and food are seemingly unrelated. By inserting PO between the two words, you deliberately extract ideas that relate to both shoes and food. Maybe, pizza delivery guy? How shoes have helped deliveries faster on foot. Or, why shoes are not worn in some kitchens, to keep kitchens clean?
"Black PO White" must be a famous one.
"PO advantages of buses"- here, PO is used to discuss a topic, a phrase. Just like, how it would be for a single word, for example - "PO newspaper". You get people to bring out anything related to the word. This helps people to relax from stress, helps put a smile, maybe bring out laughter once in a while. It leaves your mind fresh for further decision making.

3. Protection from judgment

Anytime you are about to hear a "NO" or "NOT", bring out the tool "PO".
"This is not the right way to dress to an awards function"- here, the thought of wearing something casual would be rejected immediately. If you say "This is PO the right way to dress to an awards function", then the dressing is discussed - what should be word, what occasion suits casual wear, what dress suits an award function. This may cause a change in how the speaker and the listener had initially perceived the situation as. This would not have been possible in logical thinking.

In any discussion, before rejecting an idea, use PO, and look at what might happen, if the idea was taken ahead. What if it were assumed to be right and taken ahead. It may be such that the job works well in the successive stages, but not for this stage. So, you hold the idea, and explore alternative ways to help reach the stage from where that idea fits into the plan. Hence, the idea that may have originally been disposed off, has helped bring out a solution.


PO creates diversion, reduces over-reaction by removing emotional attachments reserved to polarized sides of an argument. PO is counteracting, but not arrogant. PO never takes sides, but always gives room for generating alternatives.

To sum up, PO helps challenges established patterns, and extracts information trapped in pigeon-holes and brings out alternative arrangement of information.

Lateral thinking is always going to be in use. If you are looking for ideas to go ahead, employ lateral thinking to find one. If you have an established method, explore new methods to improve upon what you already have - satisfaction is not an end point. If man was satisfied with postal services, emails would have never been a reality.

For more about PO, and all about Lateral Thinking, read "Lateral Thinking" by Edward de Bono.

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