Individuals, groups and lateral thinking

May 08 2008 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

According to research, people who are very creative achieve more by themselves than in a group. They have to listen to others if they are in a group and they have to explain their ideas to others. Their own lines of thought are also constantly interrupted in a group when others speak, etc.

However, if people are not so confident of their creativity then they seem to do better in a group. There is a clearer definition of the idiom. They can listen to ideas from others, and also other people can help them take their own ideas further.

Some people find thinking on their own difficult and momentum soon runs out. However, in a group this doesn't tend to happen.

All the formal tools of lateral thinking can be used in a deliberate way by a person sitting and thinking on their own, or they can be used in a group scenario.

There's also the question of whether creative individuals work as a team if they are not sitting in the same room. They would be thinking individually but with more interaction than usual. However, there would not be the immediate interaction of a group session.

A 'team at a distance', in my experience, is not productive when it comes to creative ideas. However, this might be a reflection of the behaviour of the members of the team, rather than the format.

I often ask participants at seminars to spend three minutes 'thinking on their own'. This seems to be very difficult for some people.

There are people who say they get stuck and seem unable to move on from one idea to another. But there is less of a problem if there is a detailed problem to be solved, or something to be analysed.

There is difficulty when there is just a starting point and it is up to the individual to take the thinking further. This is especially true of creativity, where the usual track cannot be followed.

Lateral thinking and its formal tools can be of help. You can take the first and second steps, then follow the ideas that the tools have been triggered. You don't have to 'force' ideas any more. Instead, you simply follow and explore them.

If you are in a group, you might wait for your thinking to be triggered by someone else's remark. But you can produce the trigger yourself with the tools of lateral thinking.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono (1933-2021) was a leading authority in the field of creative thinking. Over 35 years after the publication of his first book, "The Mechanism of Mind", the basic principles he outlined are now mainstream thinking in the mathematics of self-organising systems and in the design of neuro-computers. His many subsequent books have been translated into 26 languages.