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How to Recognize if Your Business Idea is Rational or Just Plain Insanity

Continuing with our series on Lateral Thinking (LT) and the art of generating ideas we will develop the third step according Edward De Bono’s scheme:

  1. Identify the dominant or polarizing concepts.
  2. Search new ways to focus problems.
  3. Relax the rigid control of vertical thinking.
  4. Use of chance luck or opportunities.

As we exposed in previous article (click here to view), the logic reasoning or Vertical Thinking (VT) is the traditional and logic step-by-step way of reasoning we have learned through the years. We have probed its effectiveness when parting from the right frame of reference, yet it is very limited when we are trying a new approach to a problem. This is because VT requires a solid and justified brick in the path before going in a new step. But what if there is no path?

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Lateral Thinking (LT) jumps in the mud of the uncertainty and sometimes following opposite paths to the logic process. As De Bono pointed out, the VT is the instrument to test the new ideas. Yet a test too early in the spawning of an idea can take it down because as “Vertical Thinkers” we’ll try to lock it in a known frame of reference and probably it won’t work.

A good example of this is the transmission of intercontinental radio. At first, the transmission idea was discarded because logic dictated that the radio waves will be dispersed outside the space as light and there was no way to guide radio signals (satellites were out of the question in that time). Marconi had the idea that with power enough and sensitive equipment this communications can be done. Well, it worked. Why?

Some time later, in 1925, the Ionosphere would be discovered and this electric charged layer of the atmosphere was the responsible of bouncing radio signal back to Earth making possible intercontinental communications. Were all the physics wrong? No, they were limited by the logic based on the accumulated knowledge at the time. Remember the path of bricks we were talking about?

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This is the main reason logic can kill ideas not developed or explored enough. We are limited by our own experience! We must not jump in and logically discard because we may not have enough information to make a proper evaluation! The seeds of ideas should be nurtured so they can grow (even the more absurd) and be harvested in the proper time.

When you fathom an idea that is outlandish, it is enough to face a test: You must keep in mind your intention and observe its behavior in the real world. And here is when VT comes to the scene and evaluates your idea rigorously. If there can be a third-party to involve, all the more better. Also the logical criteria are the tools to select ideas that can go on to be tested.

Sometimes an idea can be checked going against all logic. The philosopher Karl Popper sustained that a Scientific Theory must be probed not as a reality, but on its falseness! So a way to test gravity would be trying to probe that objects are NOT attracted to the center of the Earth. Until we can’t probe this then we must take Gravity Law as real. Thinking or testing the way your idea can fail can strengthen it or show you the limits of your reasoning.

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A very wise and well-known man once said “Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result.” Our nature is going to guide us to the less resistant way as the flow of the river because these are the paths we know and are comfortable with. But always try to question how you’re approaching the problem. Is it approached from the path of sanity? Or insanity? Is it the way you have always done it? Is there no chance to be another possibility? Once you have solved the issue, can you trace the logical path you have follow to reach the answer? You will be surprised by the variety of solutions you’ll find.

Sounds like a slow path? Maybe at the beginning it is, but as any art the practice we take will lead us to mastery. I don’t think anyone gets “fit” working out at the gym once a month!

Also keep in mind that hitting the gas and going in the wrong direction can keep you busy but it’s not taking where you need to go. Maybe it is time that you tried a different approach.

Source = Edward De Bono’s book: New Think. The use of lateral thinking in the Generation of new ideas. 1967

Javier Dominguez – Design Professional

Gould Design Inc.