Short interview with Michael

This was a recent interview with Michael by a School of Thinking member on the teaching of lateral thinking skills across cultures …

Do SOT lateral thinking tools actually work for Asian students?

In theory the tools are designed for the human brain so they can work for all human brains. However, in practise, translations and cultural expectations and motivations can also play a big part.

It has been argued that Asian students are less creative than Western Thinkers, would you agree to this claim? 

I have not seen any evidence to support such a claim per se. I cannot see how this would be possible from a cognitive neuroscience viewpoint. Again, there may be local factors that influence educational outcomes, as is widely experienced across the pedagogical spectrum, due to political, cultural expectations, socio-economic and other factors.

Should lateral thinking be a stand alone subject taught in higher ed or even as early as high-school?

In many schools thinking skills are taught, sometimes under the heading of Critical Thinking. The range of skills varies so it is unclear to what extent Lateral Thinking skills are taught. 

A lot more emphasis should be placed on lateral thinking rather than learning. Lateral thinking is about outcomes, performance and value-creation. In SOT we focus less on Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and more on Student Performance Objectives (SPOs). 

We ask the question: what can students do? not what did students learn?

SPOs are an education strategy SOT imported from the Australian military leadership training doctrine known as The Scheyville Experience.

What implications does lateral thinking have on the quality of teaching and learning? 

In many ways lateral thinking is an alternative to teaching and learning, although I think both are necessary. Teacher-driven learning is not preferable to student-driven learning although it is traditionally treated as such. I would like to see the balance restored. 

From a strategic thinking perspective, one could argue that students need only be taught Lateral Thinking, Latin and Physics from primary school onwards and with these cognitive skills they can search for whatever other information they need. Music, dance, art and sport could get more time, too. 

Non-compulsory National Service could also raise Australia's national value-creation skills level.

Why does lateral thinking matter?

Because of the shadow of the future. Currently, the world’s *GDP is US$60 trillion. (*the total of all the countries of the world’s products and services for the year). In 30 years, by around 2050, this will grow to an estimated US$200 trillion. This will be the most exciting time for innovation and growth in all of human history. 

The next 30 years will yield US$140 trillion in new customers—globally! 

So, the shadow of the future means this … which countries will be the ones to win the lion’s share of this growth? Which enterprises will be the first to get these brand new customers? Which products and services will be in most demand by this coming tsunami of customers? 

Those products and services which will be in big demand by this next boom of customers will be those clever ideas created by the most engaged employees, the most innovative employees, and the most entrepreneurial.

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