Logical thinking is vertical thinking, digging the same hole deeper in order to get a more correct hole. The right hole. The search for perfection. We need vertical thinking and we are already very good at it. Most of Western education is based on logical, step-by-step, vertical thinking. It is useful but it is not enough.
Lateral thinking is escaping from the hole in order to dig a hole somewhere else, perhaps sideways. The search for more alternatives, for reappraisal, for new possibilities and extra choices. We need much more lateral thinking because lateral thinking creates value.
Flashback to 1979
In 1980 I completed the world’s first PhD in Lateral Thinking conducting an idea-generation experiment I designed with 26 hospitals in New York. My project included a 30-day campaign in which 40,000+ hospital employees generated 33,000+ bvs ideas to the immediate value of over USD$10 million (1979 dollars). Employees were taught how to think up BAD ideas, ideas that could save the hospitals a Buck-A-Day (BAD). It was the first time in history that 26 NYC hospitals had ever co-operated in any enterprise. The x10 results were astounding and became national news – New York Times, Wall Street Journal and network news.
‘Alternatives’ with Edward de Bono
My PhD supervisor was the late Dr Edward de Bono, the Cambridge Professor of Investigative Medicine, who originally coined the term ‘lateral thinking’.
Here, we’ll go back in history to 1982 when Edward recorded a BBC series on lateral thinking and here is his lesson on “Alternatives”. The total lesson is 24 minutes divided into three clips: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I think you’ll enjoy Edward’s excellent presentation:
“God Particle” Physicist, Fabiola Gianotti, Academician, Pontifical Academy of Sciences
In 2020, Pope Francis appointed “God particle” physicist Fabiola Gianotti to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of CERN, is a particle physicist working at high-energy accelerators. In her scientific career, she has made significant contributions to several experiments at CERN, including ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Here she presents her credentials to the Academy …
According to Edward de Bono, “The most difficult feat in human thinking is to escape from your point of view”.
Two main reasons. One is biological and the other is cultural. That uniquely human brain feature, the Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC) is a patterning system. It stores thinking in patterns, like how to get dressed or how to remember your password. Otherwise, if we had to re-invent breakfast every morning life would be too difficult. So we repeat and then store patterns of thinking to use again and again. In that sense patterns are very useful but the downside is that patterns, by definition, are difficult to ESCAPE from.
The PFC has evolved to cognise patterns in order to be able to re-cognise them. Even one repetition can be enough to create a strong pattern in the PFC.
The other reason that ESCAPE is difficult is a cultural one. In the middle ages the Church re-discovered the Greek ideas of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. It developed these ideas into a thinking methodology – GrecoRoman Logic – and over subsequent centuries it spread this system around the world in a vast and largely successful global missionary education campaign.
Even today we still send kids to school giving them the impression that there is such a thing as RIGHT and WRONG and that their job is to get the RIGHT answer and “Don’t make any mistakes!”. It’s a crippling cognitive inhibitor and makes them very slow binary thinkers. All the thinking effort gets devoted to “I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong” creating conflict, anger, stress and lack of creativity. We can watch how this slow-thinking anger spreads like a plague across social media.
Lateral thinking is different from logical thinking.
Logical thinking defends the box. Lateral thinking offers an escape from the box.That is why, in the School of Thinking, we teach x10 Thinking as a powerful lateral provocation for offering an ESCAPE from the box of our own point of view.
x10 Thinking is not natural. It’s not easy. It’s not for everyone. But, like volleyball or chess, it has been learned and practised and found to create value by those who are interested.
For example, Jack Welch of GE said, “I wish I had a management team that really understood Michael’s x10 Thinking because it’s the value-added part of the management process”. And Larry Page of Google says, “I live by the gospel of 10x”.
A lateral thinker is an individual who consciously values the natural rights of independent thinkers. The School of Thinking supports the natural rights of lateral thinkers. Here are ten lateral thinkers rights which are supported by the School of Thinking.
A Universal Declaration of the
Rights of Lateral Thinkers
1. As lateral thinkers, we have the right to use thinking in a quiet and confident manner simply for its own sake.
2. As lateral thinkers, we have the right to have pride of virtuosity in our lateral thinking skills.
3. As lateral thinkers, we have the right to use that skill to think outside our box; to consider a “lateral thinking reaction” rather than a reaction based on emotion or past experience alone. The thinking might make use of experience and emotion, but these would be part of the lateral thinking instead of controlling it.
4. A lateral thinker has the right to escape from current views of situations and to search for much better views of situations because we can and because it pleases us to do so.
5. A lateral thinker has the universal right to be wrong.
6. A lateral thinker does not have to defend a point of view at all costs. There is the right to see other points of view and the right to design a much better decision.
7. A lateral thinker has the right to acquire wisdom or to seek it out wherever it may be found. Wisdom is quite distinct from the sort of cleverness that is taught in school. Cleverness may be useful for dealing with set puzzles or defending local truths but wisdom is required for creating value and designing a better future.
8. A lateral thinker has the right to get on with his or her own work and to get along with other thinkers and if things go wrong a lateral thinker has the right to think things through and to fix them without creating a fuss.
9. A lateral thinker has the right to spell out the factors involved in a situation and also the reasons behind a decision.
10. Above all, a lateral thinker has the right to be asked to think about something, to focus thinking in a deliberate manner upon any subject. Lateral thinking can be used as a tool by the thinker at will. The use of this tool can be enjoyable whatever the outcome. This applied thinking can also be practical—the sort of thinking that is required to create value and get things done. Lateral thinking can make things better.
Since the sudden spread of silicon across the States in recent decades there has been an enhancement of the American amygdala. This consequence has fired up a significant increase in FEAR and a subsequent increase in violence.
The unprecedented storming of the Capitol, like the storming of the Bastille, is strong in our memories and will not easily fade away.
The ubiquitous saturation of siliconphones in America has fattened the American amygdala and lowered the fear threshold. People have shorter fuses than they did in the 80s. People with fat amygdala syndrome are quick to hate and quick to bully. FAS or fat amygdala syndrome can be fatal. It can even lead to civil war.
The amygdala is the fear centre of the brain. Another big fear, especially in business, is the morbid fear of ‘mistakes’. Much innovation, engagement, satisfaction and returns are lost due to this widespread fear …
Think Australia. Think lateral. Think Australia x10. If we invest in our thinking and develop Australia’s brainpower the clever country can be even cleverer than ever before. – Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson
What if Australia could be ten times better than it is today? Who, in their right mind, would make this happen? How could they do such a thing?
The Who … is the 26 million brains of Australia. That’s who.
In this exciting book, Michael Hewitt-Gleeson introduces a new way to think about business. He describes the x10 meme – the innovative idea of multiplying your business by 10.
Currently the business growth meme in most people’s brain is 10% per annum. Here the author stresses that the market is changing rapidly and businesses cannot stay the same. The 10% per annum meme is outdated and needs to be upgraded.
x10 is the focus for future thinking and for customer-driven businesses bent on profit share. Using three easy-to-follow tutorials, Hewitt-Gleeson guides you through The x10 Memeplex. Finally, a case study plan helps people to transfer these ideas into their own business practices.
This book will change the way everyone thinks about business. Go ahead. Read the x10 gospel. Infect your mind with the x10 meme. Be like Larry Page and multiply your business by ten!
I’m often asked why I am known as “the father of x10 Thinking”. Although, today it might be more accurate to say ‘grandfather’. As an innovator in the new field of cognitive neuroscience my own original idea was ‘thinking instructors’. My specific idea was: ‘Anyone can learn x10 Thinking if they have a thinking instructor.’
In 1980 in New York I started the Learn-To-Think Project with a goal to train 300,000 Thinking Instructors in the US. Today there are over 6 million thinking instructors worldwide.
My first big breakthrough came in April 1983 when I collaborated with the Readers Digest (#1 audited magazine in the world) in an initiative to publish my book on thinking lessons in a cover story across all international editions. Anticipating the internet, this media Big Bang went viral and totalled a distribution of over half a billion thinking lessons in a major international publishing event.
It was a part of a cascading media phenomenon which was launched on January 9th, 1983 in a special 2-page supplement in the New York Times called Teaching Thinking: The new trend in education.
But, the BIG question is: do the efforts of thinking instructors really have a significant impact on schools, businesses and communities? Yes they do and the evidence is both positive and plentiful. Like the flap of a butterfly’s wings or a pebble in a pond the sudden intervention of the ‘teaching of thinking skills’ in schools and businesses can trigger a concatenation of consequences that go on and on over long sequels of time.
SFUSD and Silicon Valley
For example teaching x10 thinking disrupted the standard curriculum in schools in the Bay Area in the mid-80s with very valuable consequences not only for graduate students but also for their employers. The sudden introduction of x10 thinking skills to the SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District) in 1984 was signed off by Superintendent Robert Alioto. I was personally invited to train all the primary school principals. By 1985, all public primary schools began the special lessons for teaching these thinking skills to students across the Bay Area.
In the 90s and 2000s a significant explosion of cognitive surplus took off in the valley. The majority of all male and female paid thinkers on the Silicon Valley payrolls were products of the SFUSD system, and among the first in the US to be taught by thinking instructors. The return on payroll for Bay Area employers was exponential far outpacing both the state and the nation in patents issued. Many scholars have pointed out this overlap of education and economy in the Bay Area.
Today, it is said that If the Bay Area was a country like Switzerland or Saudi Arabia its own GDP of $790+ billion (which outstrips them both) would be one of the highest GDPs in the world.
In New York in 1985 Jack Welch of GE introduced teaching thinking to all GE senior executives and middle managers. Jack read my book NewSell (Boardroom Books, NY 1984) and personally authorised the teaching of ‘x10 Thinking’ (cvsx10=bvs: software for the brain) across the GE enterprise.
In subsequent years GE executive have been sought out by Fortune 500 companies because they were considered the ‘creme de la creme’ of the US leadership crop.
With regard to the corporate sector it started in 1984 when IBM became the first of the Fortune 500 companies to introduce the x10 thinking skill to senior executives. Shortly after that Jack Welch made a corporate mission three-year commitment to training all GE senior executives in a program I designed called GE x10. The investment for this project was $50,000 and I was retained for top fees to create a 30 x projector multi-media training experience to teach x10 Thinking and we flew this unit around the GE world from New York to Crotonville to Acapulco training GE executives in ‘x10 Thinking’ from 1985-1987. At that time it was the biggest investment any US company had ever made in teaching x10 thinking skills.
Jack died earlier in 2020 so looking at his legacy it’s worth noting the following facts:
Jack Welch of GE was himself a master of x10 Thinking. He nicknamed it ‘boundaryless thinking” and also “boundarylessness’.
By the time he left Jack had grown the world famous General Electric Company from a market value of $14 billion to a market value of $410 billion – an increase of more than 2,700% – making it the most valuable company in the history of the world. Thinking way outside the box he had transformed it from not only a century-old manufacturer but also a national broadcaster and a global bank!
“Our dream for the 1990s,” Welch wrote in GE’s 1990 annual report, “is a boundaryless company where we knock down the walls that separate us from each other on the inside and from our key constituencies on the outside.”
In his book about his time at GE Jack: Straight From the Gut (2001) he wrote about x10 Thinking: “It would make each of us wake up with the goal of “Finding a Better Way Every Day”. It was a phrase that became a slogan, put up on the walls of GE factories and offices around the world. It was the essence of boundaryless behaviour, and it defined our expectations”.
Famous for the little handwritten notes he would send to people, Jack sent me several and the one I prized most said simply: “Michael, you are a friend of our company”.
In 1999, Fortune magazine named him “Manager of the Century”.
These three cases – Google, GE and SFUSD – show the compounding value and return on payroll of using thinking instructors for the direct teaching of x10 thinking skills.
Many other case studies, like The Clever Country in Australia, and thousands of other experiments in business and education are still going on around the world today.
Recently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched Operation Moonshot using x10 Thinking to help solve the wicked problem of Covid19 in the UK.
Going forward and in a Darwinian world where human intelligence is now being seriously threatened by artificial intelligence (AI) we may need the idea of ‘thinking instructors’ more and more than ever before.
Michael Hewitt-Gleeson is the Count de Saint-Arnaud and he is internationally recognised as the father of x10 Thinking. The Visiting Fellow in Innovation, Latrobe University, holds a PhD degree in Cognitive Science from the elite International College. It was the world’s first PhD in Lateral Thinking.
At that time, International College was an independent, private, licenced college, founded in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Licensed to grant degrees by the California State Department of Education, its degrees were recognized by Harvard, NYU and other Ivy League colleges. But, it had no classrooms, libraries or laboratories having a business model that was ahead of its time. As its motto, In Vestigiis Institutorum Antiquorum indicated, the college followed the methods of the first Greek and Roman universities, where gifted students were paired one student/one master with outstanding tutors. At International College the outstanding tutors were: Leonard Bernstein in Music and Conducting; Anaïs Nin in Novels and Writing; Buckminster Fuller in Innovation and Design Science; Lord Yehudi Menuhin in Violin and Music; Professor Edward de Bono in Education and Psychology.
In 1980, Hewitt-Gleeson was admitted to International College and paired with Edward de Bono for the world’s first PhD in lateral thinking in an x10 Thinking project he designed involving 26 New York hospitals and 40,000 healthcare employees.
Prior to his career in thinking, he had already 7 years of service in the ADF (Australian Defence Force). He had been educated and trained at Scheyville OTU and after a tour of duty in the Vietnam War he continued as a reserve officer and Chief Instructor in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).
Dr Hewitt-Gleeson is Australia’s best-selling author of Software For Your Brain (1990), The x10 Memeplex (2000). His current projects include advising leadership strategy and innovation in agricultural research for the Victorian state government where he has designed a new online pandemic education experience for teaching x10 Thinking to research scientists. He is also designing a pandemic recovery project called Australia x10.