Two kinds of focus exist in creative and lateral thinking. The first can be termed as ‘purpose’ focus: we know the purpose of our thinking and we know what we are trying to achieve. Problem-solving and task-fulfilment are two examples of this.
The second type of focus can be termed as ‘area’ focus: we do not have a clear idea of our goal, and we only know the point from which we are starting from and the area we are looking at. We are only looking for new ideas in a certain area, which is a very broad remit.
As an example, take a bar of soap and ask questions like:
Does it have to be so large? Could there be value in making it smaller, say in a variety of smaller balls?
Does the surface have to be smooth? Could a slightly rougher surface be effective in removing dead skin?
Would it be possible for the soap to hold its own water so you could use it instantly? How could this be done?
As soon as you have taken the first creative step then the mental operation of ‘movement’ takes over. Movement represents a vital aspect of lateral thinking and provocation. Any step defines a change in direction and we pursue that direction to see where it goes.
All of the time part of our mind should be used to ‘extract the concept’. Once the concept has been defined then we can then look at ways of delivering it. Also we should always be seeking value and judging how strong it is.
When things are going well and there are no problems we can see, complacency takes over and creativity takes a back seat. However if we choose to focus on things that are taken for granted and have no obvious problems, it can be very rewarding. It is likely that no-one has given it thought for a long time so some ‘new thinking’ can be very beneficial.