Lateral thinking is one of the most critical qualities for a modern leader and entrepreneur.Abandoning rigid structures and having the ability to look at challenges with a new perspective and solving problems by perceiving things that others don’t are all traits of a successful entrepreneur.Open mindedness and creativity are key not just for large scale innovation but also for everyday life.
Lateral thinking is a problem solving approach using indirect and creative standpoints.It helps innovation for tackling a range of individual ,organisational and social problems.Human beings often fall prey to the forces of group conformity and that is why lateral thinking is needed.It might happen that initially the idea might appear to be silly but it is often these are the ideas that lead to radical insights and innovations.Examples include low cost airlines that broke the rules of the traditional aviation industry.Lateral thinkers are curious and ask questions which others may even perceive as dumb.Some innovative companies that have made a complete turnaround include the following:Tiffany (from stationary to jewellery),Avon (books to cosmetics),Wrigley (baking powder to chewing gum),Nokia boots,mobiles,networks).The business world has also witnessed steady disruption in waves of expensive,cheaper and free products.Few such example include Encyclopedia Britannic, Wikipedia,Uber ,Airbnb etc.
Lateral thinkers are curious and ask questions which others may perceive as dumb.They never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights.Lateral thinkers are also rule breakers.Two such examples include Don Estrigde’s open architecture for IBM PC and Muhammad Yunus and micro finance.It is also interesting to note that immigrants because of their outsider mindset are often lateral thinkers.Elon Musk and Levi Strauss are two such examples. Many fast growing startups are founded by immigrants.
Entrepreneurs have to be constant adapters as they have to learn from experience.They need to be open minded and receptive to new ideas and be conscious that they do not retreat into a closed view of the world. Another common phenomenon that can be seen is that many entrepreneurs try to do too much themselves or they recruit people who do as they are told.They should recruit best people they can get and then delegate more to them and most importantly,they have to let go in order to grow.It is important to develop a mindset to keep experimenting,keep learning and keep adapting.Frugal innovation is also very important for business.Business has all sorts of unwritten rules that guide and limit the founder.Learning from failure is another lesson to be kept in mind ,It is important to distinguish between ‘honourable failure’ –which should be rewarded and ‘incompetent failure’–which is due to lack of effort’.
Companies needs to develop a restless quest for creativity ,improvement and self=renewal at all levels.Innovation is critical to building and maintaining a competitive advantage__and it gets harder to do as companies succeed and grow.Entrepreneurs as guerillas,can often find openings to attack against even the mightiest of gorilla companies.History is full of stories of those who successfully challenged ingrained assumptions in their fields .Few such examples … Copernicus (sun as a centre not earth),ford (car assembly line),Uber (shared mobility) and Grameen Bank (micro credit supported by soliditary groups.
Since lateral thinking also involves embracing messiness and unpredictable situations,lateral thinkers end up being very open minded and quick to learn from accidents.They are ready to observe and adapt when the unexpected happens.