In the 1950s and '60s, CEOs focused on maintaining profits and the status
The came total quality management, with its focus on faster, better and
Now, CEOs have downsized, re-engineered and restructured their companies,
and they are moving into a new era where the focus is not on just
quality, but also on significant improvements in the way their companies
This will require a new way of thinking, says Walter Derzko, head of
Walter Derzko & Associates and a strong proponent of lateral creative
thinking, a technique designed to produce innovative ideas.
Companies have been so tied up with downsizing, Derzko says, that very few
people have thought about the future. They have squeezed as much as they
can out of downsizing, but this has not brought them increased market
share or greater profits.
"Good process isn't a substitute for good thinking." he says."It is rare
to get breakthrough ideas."
This is where lateral or creative thinking comes into play.
To illustrate, Derzko describes a manufacturer that switched from
military production to making automotive breaks. The manufacturer
challenged traditional thinking and began looking at ways of improving
breaking by using the accelerator pedal.
The first step in emergency breaking is removing the foot from the gas,
which led to the idea that the break lights could go on when the driver's
foot quickly leaves the accelerator. This would give drivers behind a
fraction of a second more notice and an added chance to avoid a rear-end
"As the complexity of the world and the number of choices grows, thinking
becomes increasingly important. Without thinking, students and employees
fear ambiguity." Derzko says.
Derzko says the traditional corporate organization often discourages
creative thinking, reducing variation in thinking through rules and human
resources practices.Traditionally, companies have wanted to increase
convergent thinking, so everyone in the firm would be thinking along the
Now, he says, executives complain that employees and students aren't
creative enough. But creative thinking is a practical skill that can be
learned, the same way other skills, such as mathematics, are taught,
practised and applied."
In fact, it is often taught in the gifted or enriched programs in
elementary school, based on the concepts of Edward de Bono, author of
Teach Yourself to Think. De Bono uses a systematic approach to
problem-solving that is designed to take the confusion out of thinking
about difficult issues.
Derzko teaches creative thinking courses at the college and university
level. He is also the driving force behind the Creativity Consortium, a
group of like-minded people from all walks of life, ranging from
administrators at large corporations, such as Royal Bank and Bell Canada,
to artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs.
The group, which Derzko says is the oldest thinking club in Canada (and
North America, as well), started meeting in 1992 to practise lateral
creative thinking skills, the same way Toastmasters groups meet to
practise public speaking.
For more information on the Creativity Consortium and virtual membership,
visit our web page http://www.itrc.on.ca/CreativityConsortium/ or send
an email to email@example.com
Walter Derzko <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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