H.G. Wells in "The Brain: Organization of the Modern World", 1940 said that
"An immense and ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today; knowledge that would probably suffice to
solve all the mighty difficulties of our age, but it is dispersed and unorganised. We need a sort of mental clearing house: a
depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared".
So as a starting point, I agreed with Alex's excellent recommendations. However, I believe it is left to all of us to make the
best possible use of "lateral thinking", as Dr. Edward de Bono* recommends, since we're truly looking for a breakthrough in
augmenting human intelligence and not simply a "Consumers Guide" approach for determining the best knowledge management
practices and incorporating them into a OHS program.
* < http://www.edwdebono.co.uk >
Dr. Edward de Bono developed the concept of lateral thinking more than 25 years ago and has written several books on it.
According to current literature, lateral thinking is:
* seeking to solve a problem by apparently illogical means
* a process and willingness to look at things in a different way
* a relatively new type of thinking that complements analytical and critical thinking
* a tool to help solve tough problems and create new ideas, new products, new processes and new services.
Since that time, there has not been any significant development in lateral thinking. Application of computer technology to the
concept would be an obvious development today. Computers are very adept in storing, sorting and retrieving information, which
the human mind is not so good at. This will certainly add a new dimension to lateral thinking, especially if the OHS/DKR design
can successfully apply the following capabilities as recommeded by Dr. Edward de Bono:
On the generation of alternatives
"The most basic principle of lateral thinking is that any particular way of looking at things is only one among many
other possible ways. With lateral thinking, one is not looking for the best approach but for as many different
approaches as possible."
On challenging assumptions
"It is the purpose of lateral thinking to try and restructure any pattern. General agreement about an assumption is
no guarantee that it is correct. It is historical continuity that maintains most assumptions - not a repeated
assessment of their validity."
On suspended judgement
"The purpose of thinking is not to be right but to be effective. Being right means been right all the time. Being
effective means been right only at the end. Lateral thinking is concerned with change not with proof. The emphasis is
shifted from the validity of a particular pattern to the usefulnes of that pattern in generating new patterns. The
need to be right all the time is the biggest bar there is to new ideas. In lateral thinking one is not so concerned
with the nature of an arrangement of information but with where it can lead one. It is not a matter of doing without
judgement but of deferring it until later."
Being right all the time is like trying to understand everything all the time. It is important for us to be able to accept
information without processing it completely, i.e. we accept such information as random information.
On dominant ideas and crucial factors
"In a defining situation one picks out the dominant idea not in order to be frozen by that idea but in order to be
able to generate alternative ideas. Unless one can pick out the dominant idea one is going to be dominated by it."
" In order to make restructuring easier one tries to return to the collection of smaller patterns. In a sense the
whole point of language is to give separate units that can be moved around and put together in different ways. The
danger is that these different ways soon become established as fixed units themselves and not as temporary arrangement
of other units. If one takes any situation and breaks it down into fractions one can then restructure the situation
by putting the fractions together in a new way."
On the reversal method
"In the reversal method one takes things as they are and then turns them round, inside out, upside down, back to
front. It is a provocative rearrangement of information."
"The important point about an analogy is that it has a 'life' of its own. This 'life' can be expressed directly in
terms of the actual objects involved or it can be expressed in terms of the processes involved. One can translate the
problem into an analogy and then develop the analogy. At the end one translates back and see what might have happened
to the original problem. It is probably more useful to develop the two in parallel. "
On choice of entry point and attention area
"The most important feature of the mind as an information processing system is its ability to choose. Such a system
has a limited area of attention. A limited area of attention can only settle on part of an information field. That
part of the information field on which the limited attention area settles is thereby 'chosen' or 'selected'. To start
at the wrong end and work backwards is quite a well known problem solving technique. The entry point is the first
attention area. Sometimes however important parts of the problem are completely left out. It is only when these parts
are brought under attention that the problem can be solved."
On random stimulation
"... [I]nstead of trying to work from within the idea one can deliberately generate external stimulation, which then
acts on the idea from outside. With random stimulation one uses any information whatsoever. No matter how unrelated it
may be, no information is rejected as useless. Two main ways of bring about random simulation:
* Formal generation."
"There is no question that the named unit system is highly effective. There is no question that the polarizing
properties of this system make it possible to react with very little information. The whole information processing
system that arises from the basic mechanism of mind is immensely useful. The disadvantage mentioned above are minor
ones compared to the userfulness of the system. But the disadvantage do exist. Moreover they are inseparable from the
nature of the system. So one uses the system to its full effectiveness but at the same time realizes the errors and
tries to do something about them.
The major limitation of the named unit system is the rigidity of the labels. Once establised the labels are fixed. The
labels alter the incoming information instead of the incoming information altering the labels.
The aim of lateral thinking is to break out of cliché patterns and rigid lables are a perfect example of cliché
patterns. In order to escape from these labels one can do three things:
* Challenge the labels
* Try and do without them
* Establish new labels "
On the new word "po"
"PO is to lateral thinking what NO is to logical thinking. NO is a rejection tool. PO is an insight restructuring
tool. The concept of the laxative is the basis of lateral thinking just as the concept of the negative is the basis of
On blocked by openness
"There are three ways in which thinking can be blocked.
o One is blocked by a gap. One cannot proceed further because the road runs out. One needs to find more road or to
construct a bridge across the river. This is equivalent to having to look around for more information or having to
generate some by experiment.
o One is blocked by there being something in the way. Here there is a definite obstacle which bars progress. In order to
go on one has to find a way of removing the obstacle or getting round it.
o One is blocked because there is nothing in the way. Here a particular way of looking a things leads one straight past
a better way of looking at them. Because the first way is adequate one does not even consider that there might be
another way - let alone look for it."
On Description/Problem Solving and Design
An object or a situation may be described by someone in a particular way and by someone else in a different way. There
can be as many descriptions as there are points of view. Some descriptions are more useful than others, some
descriptions may be more complete than others. But there is no one description which is correct, leaving all the
others to be wrong.
Generating and solving problems is the basis of forward thinking and progress. If description is a matter of looking
back to see what one has then problem solving is a matter of looking forward to see what one can get.
Design is really a special case of problem solving. It requires more creativity."
In summary, credit must be given to Dr. Edward de Bono for identifying so many techniques related to thinking. Edward de Bono
also emphasises the importance of rearranging information to gain insight into the issues. Unfortunately, without the ability to
store, sort, classify, connect and retrieve related information, lateral thinking is limited to the ability of the individual
mind. While lateral thinking can be used to solve tough problems, its use for solving complex problems with hundreds or
thousands of issues is limited.
Other profound recommendations can be found by reading:
F. Shipman and R. McCall, "Supporting Incremental Formalization with the Hyper-Object Substrate", ACM Transactions on
Information Systems, 17, 2 (April 1999), pp. 199-227. < http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/~shipman/tois-hos.pdf >
F. Shipman, C. Marshall, M. LeMere, "Beyond Location: Hypertext Workspaces and Non-Linear Views", ACM Hypertext '99 Proceedings,
pp. 121-130. (won the Douglas Engelbart best paper award) < http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/~shipman/ht99.pdf >
Alex Shapiro wrote:
> Categories: http://www.iaslash.org/ia/
> Check out the "topics" link. You get older links archived by category.
> Ratings + Categories: http://www.halfbakery.com
> The content is a little silly, but they're ratings.
> Combinations: I believe this one requires visualization. I apologize for
> the self promotion, but observe how easy it is to make combinations using
> the TG Link Browser:
> http://www.touchgraph.com/browser/LinkBrowser.html just add a new node,
> and link it to the nodes that it is a combination of.
> >The "information explosion" exhibited by these pointers alone
> >illustrates some of the *vital* requirements for a useful collaboration
> > 1) Categories
> > When recommendation "X" comes in, it needs to come in with
> > a category (or multiple categories) or, better, categories need to
> > be retroactively applied, so I can tell which recommendations
> > achieve similar goals, or perform similar functions.
> > 2) Ratings
> > There is no way on God's green earth I am going to investigate
> > 700 recommendations, until and unless that is my paid job
> > (at which point I will be more than happy to undertake the task).
> > Until that I occurs, I *must* have ratings for these things, so I
> > can idendify "best of breed" in each category.
> > 3) Combinations
> > If someone can say, "we can combine technology X with
> > technology Y to do Z". That new combination can then
> > be categorized and rated, so it can be compared with
> > combinations X and M, or combination M and N and P.
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