The marketing department of a company is known for being creative, proactive and the kind that can take a bull by the horns, but little do we realize the challenges faced by this department. To keep up with its glorified reputation people in this department constantly push their limits, but that is not quite necessary if they plan to follow a different approach.
Change in attitude and approach can breath life into any domain be it marketing or finance, and for which it is very essential for them to try different thinking approaches like lateral thinking. This thinking process prompts you to think “out of the box” and break the bounds of vertical thinking.
Importance of Lateral Thinking
A constant push to formulate strategies and develop ideas can be extremely exhausting, creativity has been commoditized and the demand is constantly increasing, in such situations lateral thinking is very important to come up with fresh ideas. Corporate biggies have understood this demand very well and they frequently conduct workshops to train their employees to follow a different approach in generating ideas and solving problems.
The need for lateral thinking gets even direr in advertising agencies where almost everybody is instigated to give up vertical thinking to avoid a regular pattern of ideas, which is fair enough considering the diverse demands of their clients. Almost every client wants a ground breaking advertisement which is not possible if the think tank of the advertising agency follows a regular approach in generation of ideas.
What really is Lateral Thinking?
Lateral thinking is pretty much about standing back and looking at the big pictures without going into details of falling prey to heuristic thinking. This theory can be well explained by one little story that is widely used to give people a firm understanding of it.
A greedy moneylender forces a farmer to gamble with him, the farmer being awfully poor has nothing to gamble but his daughter is known for her wits and smartness gambles herself in exchange for heir freedom. The shrewd money lender puts pretends to put a white pebble and a black pebble in a bag and promises to grant them freedom if she pulls out the white pebble, but he cleverly replaces the white pebble with another black pebble and the daughter notices this transaction. Now a heuristic or a vertical thinker would ideally go around telling people about the unfair deal and ask for a fair re-match, in which case her chances of winning will slim down to fifty percent. This girl chooses to ‘think outside the box’ and does not ask for a re-match rather she pull out a pebble and throws it far away where it cannot be found. Now, the pebble which is left in the bag is a black pebble which proves that she had pulled out a white pebble and is granted freedom.
The benefits of lateral thinking are many, but most importantly it breaks the conventional methods and paves ground for innovative ways.
Provocative operation is a part of lateral thinking which propels thinking to a place where new ideas or solutions can be found. It refers to generation of an idea which in turn prompts an individual to think in the lines of that generated idea. An example of provocative operations will definitely help you get a firm grip on the subject. An owner of a apparel design house decides to get rid of his entire existing collection of bridal gowns and instead he wants to showcase his brand new spring collection. A lot of money will go down the drain if he chooses to discard his existing line of bridal gowns, so he frantically starts thinking about ways to save his invested money and comes up the following ideas:
• Print bold patterns on the dress and sell them as regular gowns, since most of the wedding dresses are white in color no one would be able to tell a difference.
• Remove the seam from all the dresses and use the fabric in some other apparel.
• Put up a stock clearance sale.
• Convince all the unmarried female friends to get married and buy the gowns.
• Open another shop to showcase these gowns.
As you can see, some ideas are not sensible, not prudent and impractical, but all of these ideas are capable of initiating thought process. Now, from scratching his hair in despair the designer has five ideas to chew upon, he does that in following ways:
• First option, to decide the prints a lot of time and energy would be consumed, which is not feasible as the designer has to make way for his new collection.
• Second option, again, a lot of time and effort will go in doing unnecessary work besides the fabric won’t be of much use since it has already been cut in predefined shape.
• Third option, this would attract a lot of customers to his design house and while they are busy picking their discounted bridal gowns he can also showcase his brand new collection to them.
• Fourth option sounds completely daft
• Fifth option, the cost of opening another shop could be huge and economically not suitable.
After thinking in the lines of the five ideas he realizes that the third idea is fairly worthwhile and goes ahead with it. In this example we observed that Provocative operations can seem quite silly and unnecessary but is if followed it may lead to a good idea.
This technique is extremely helpful to proceed case of an impasse, where the possibility of an existing solution in seemingly impossible. This theory was brought forward by Edward de Bono and ever since it has been extensively used in many avenues of creativity. This approach can be incorporated in marketing and business development to obtain solutions for deadlock problems and optimize results. We will discuss few ways which can help you find ways to introduce provocative operations and lateral thinking in your business processes.
• Provocative operations prompt creativity at deadlock situations.
In most of the business processes there are times when your creativity is exhausted but the demand is far from being satiated, it is then you realize that a lateral approach to spark creativity is not a bad option after all. Consider the think tank of an advertising agency, they can very well adopt this technique to come up with brand new ideas to floor their clients. It is quite necessary for them to adopt this technique as their clients are usually on the look-out for ground breaking concepts no matter how stupid they are.
• Provocative Operations can get too random, learn to narrow down the idea generation procedure.
As we know human brain is capable of linking diverse thoughts, it can gallop like a wild horse if it is left untamed. One must learn how to and when to pull the leash, and when it comes to provocative operations, it is very important to think of ideas inline with the topic. Once you loosen the leash you will be inundated with random ideas and skimming through them will be another herculean task. So basically, if you thinking of ways to boost the sales, stick to sales and marketing and do not get involved in random ideas like EBITDA margin and cost control.
• Do not get disappointed by initial outcomes.
Provocative operations are all about taming randomness and since randomness constitutes a major part of this procedure you will have to learn to put up with it. This is probably why it is so important as a social media marketing tool. The first stage of idea generations can get too random and you may come up with seemingly irrelevant results, but the trick in skimming through them and narrowing it down to the relevant ideas. One must have patience, as results in the initial stage are usually very disappointing, it is only in the secondary stage where ideas start shaping into action plans.
• Review the ideas thoroughly.
When you devise an action plan for random concepts you will have to evaluate the pros and cons thoroughly to avoid any kind of trouble in the later stages. It is advisable to invite views from different sources; it helps you to evaluate your action plan in a better way. Since most of these ideas are new they might need a different approach and when the stakes are high one can’t afford to have any loopholes in the action plan.