Lateral Thinking meets Business Model Innovation

random wordsLateral thinking can be thought of as logical thinking but form a different starting point. If you are able to shift your starting point enough before your logical mind gets to work, you can find yourself with surprising results. Hopefully, novel ideas with some value that you just wouldn’t have thought of using regular logical thinking.

The use of random words is one of many techniques designed to disrupt your regular, left brain thinking and enable you to start thinking creatively. In this post, I’ll continue my theme of putting the innovation back into business model innovation by applying the random word technique to business model innovation.

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Random word dice game

I wrote about the application of de Bono’s random word entry to business model innovation here. It’s a great tool, but it can be a bit daunting for newbies, so I thought I’d try to provide some support reusing the story cube game and some directions. A bit like a second look at SCAMPER dice but using random words. This is probably the last post I’ll write on dice games for business model innovation, but I’m not sure the SCAMPER dice really hit the mark so here is a second attempt at applying story cubes to business model innovation.

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Using SCAMPER to Play with your Business

Today’s post is a work in progress. I’ve been thinking about developing toys and games to apply lateral thinking to business. Today’s exploration is about SCAMPER, and Rory’s Story Cubes, and TRIZ.


Bob Eberle developed SCAMPER as an educational tool for improving imagination and creativity in children; the acronym stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Rearrange). The basic idea is to use each of the prompts as a starting point for exploring some idea, for example:

  • Challenge: how can we get executive teams to enjoy creating business strategy?
  • Combine: what if we combined executive away days with children’s parties…a bouncy castle might be a good ice breaker, asking children for their ideas might provide a new perspective, setting up a stall and telling a five year old your business strategy whilst doing some face painting might improve your elevator pitch

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Provoking your Business Model

This post continues my exploration of lateral thinking techniques and their application to the business model generation space. You can see my original post on how lateral thinking applies to business problems here, and a previous post on using random word entry to stimulate business mode innovation here.

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Using Random Words to Disrupt your Business Model

Lateral thinking is all about movement, and the deliberate movement of logical thinking to enable creative thinking. When it works, we can look backwards from our creative solution and make sense of the path we took to get there. But looking forwards “we just can’t get there from here”.

De Bono uses a number of techniques to achieve lateral thinking. One such method is random entry, the concept of using a different, randomly selected starting point as part of the creative problem solving process. You can do this with a well selected pool of words to be drawn on at random:

  • Bench, envelope, radio, landlord, candy, gutter, sword, motor, bag, chain, beer, shoe, egg, field, gun, wine, acid, parking meter, brick, lipstick, ring, ghost, peanut, olive, panda, salt, windsurfer, pilot, barbeque, arrow, turtle, hockey, tent, diaper, jam, silver, stomach, mouth, champagne, ashtray, x-ray, artist, storm, flamingo, truck, volcano, mud, ostrich, caviar, bubble, helmet, screwdriver, bath, dinner, key, rocket, coupon, Christmas, politician, chimney, herd, flute, subway, beer, dictionary, clouds, canister

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Assumption Busting

Make me laugh

This hilarious commercial works because our expectations are set, reinforced and then smashed to pieces with a great punchline. Creative thinking  can work in much the same way, with solutions only making sense in hindsight. One technique for directing our creative efforts effectively is assumption busting.

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SCAMPER revisited

SCAMPER: noun, to run playfully about…as a child; acronym, Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Rearrange

Bob Eberle was an educational administrator from Edwardsville, IL. In 1991 he developed SCAMPER, an educational tool designed to improve imagination and creativity in children. You can get the get the teachers resource kit here, it has some really cool stuff in it. Drawing on the work of Dr Frank E. Williams, Eberle set out to improve creative imagination in two ways:

  • Thinking – should be fluent (lots of ideas), flexible (ideas which can adapt), and elaborate (the ability to add detail to ideas)
  • Feelings – to develop curiosity, willingness to take calculated risks, preference for complexity, and intuition
Eberle noted that our schools seem to educate the creativity out of our children instead of into them. SCAMPER was designed to change that. Another great speaker on the problem of our schools educating the creativity out of our children is Sir Ken Robinson. His fantastic speech on the subject, ‘are our schools killing creativity?‘ can be found on TED here, and has been set to some quite exquisite animation here. I urge you to view these.
SCAMPER is still in use in a wide number of schools today, and has since been taken on by grown ups the world over as a generally useful creative thinking tool. This post will explain how it works, and how you can learn to use it better.

Hall of Fame: Shakespeare in your Kitchen

Imagine if Shakespeare was designing a new kitchen gadget. Can you picture him walking around your kitchen for inspiration, perhaps he is quoting from As You Like It, quietly muttering to himself “I will forget the condition of my estate, to rejoice in yours“. Would he be rejoicing in the amount of food you have in your cupboards…wondering why you have so much extra food in your cupboards when he has only enough for the next couple of meals? Perhaps his instinct is to start cramming his pockets with as much of your food as he can whilst nobody is looking? After all, what is Shakespeare doing in your kitchen anyway? If only he had some sort of pocket lunchbox gadget he might think to himself…a new device designed to be filled with random assortments of food, keeping somehow separate whilst still being small enough to fit into ones pocket…

Okay, so the example is clearly a bit silly. But that is the point. It is designed to give us an escape from our own perspective so we can approach creative thinking from someone else’s shoes. In this case Shakespeare’s. It is also fun to try, which is a great plus for a creative thinking tool in my opinion.

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Provocative Statements

Today’s post continues my series on Disrupted Thinking, in which I’ll be posting lots of different approaches for disrupting logical thinking. Today is all about stating the ridiculous. Also known as a Provocation Operation.

Underwater Hockey

In her rather excellent blog, Katie Konrath tells the story of a snorkeling club coming up with the idea for underwater hockey to make their boring winter pool time a bit more interesting. Starting with the knowledge that people don’t like snorkeling in the pool (because it’s boring) and retrospectively applying Edward de Bono’s Provocation Operation Katie imagines the club saying ‘PO: people want to go snorkeling in the pool’. From here the club innovators could have deliberately set about finding ways to make people actually want to go snorkeling in the pool. And so underwater hockey is born.

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Random Word Force Fit

This is part of my series on Disrupted Thinking. I’ll be posting a different approach every day. Today is all about forced connections.

Forced Connection tools work on the following principle. Logical thinking moves us in a predictable sequence of thoughts from our starting point to our answer. As we follow this logical train of thought, we quickly evaluate our options before choosing what we think is ‘the logical right answer’. Logical thinking is predictable, and leads us to predictable answers. With lateral thinking our goal is to follow unexpected, illogical paths and then make sense of them later. By forcing ourselves to make useful connections between seemingly unrelated subjects we can disrupt our usual line of logical thinking just enough to introduce some creative thought.

In today’s post I’ll look at the use of random words as a nice, simple and self contained technique you can use in about five minutes to generate some really quite creative ideas.

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