I was reminded recently of the value of horizontal thinking which is trying to find a way to accomplish the same goal but with new or different means. This could be because of cost, available labor, or space, or even because the original methods or tools have been lost.
1. Think of a group of friends planning a road trip. Instead of randomly stopping and camping along the way, they use backward planning to determine their destination for each night and book accommodations in advance. This approach helps them have a more organized and enjoyable trip.
- Traditional vertical thinking suggests it’s necessary to work more to “have more money”. However, lateral thinking suggests the reframing of the problem to “save more money.” By focusing on reducing expenses instead of working more, it is possible to achieve the goal of having more money.
3. Here’s horizontal thinking in the context of a chef perfecting a classic dish in a fine-dining restaurant:
A team of chefs collaboratively reimagine a classic dish through a cross-disciplinary lens. Instead of relying solely on traditional culinary techniques, the team engages in brainstorming sessions, drawing inspiration from various culinary traditions, art, and even science. They experiment with alternative ingredients, cooking methods, and presentation styles, encouraging an open exchange of ideas. This collaborative and exploratory process leads to the refinement of the classic dish, incorporating diverse perspectives to create a culinary masterpiece that honors tradition while introducing innovative elements.
4. I make cat kickers, (fabric tubes stuffed with cat nip and filler). They are a bit picky to make and cost more than I’d like. I gave them 10 minutes of lateral thinking the other day and I’ve reduced the cost a bit but reduced the construction time by about 20%, just by thinking through how to achieve the result differently.
5. Many years ago I was lucky enough to be in a training session on team building. One of the tasks had us separated into small teams of five people. Two teams lined up across from each other over an imaginary line. Each team member had to persuade the person in the other team to cross the line to join them. The team that had the most members at the end won.
Lots of begging and bribery by the individuals. But the team that prevailed was the one that said simply: ” If you all join us, we will split the prize evenly.”
6. So here’s my armadillo story:
I make slipcovers for furniture and I’m good at it. But recliner wingback chairs? Nope, not going there. They are ridiculously difficult to do well. A few months ago, I decided to make a cover for mine, the other three wing-backs have slipcovers, so the recliner was a bit of a sore spot. I had made one recliner cover several years ago and said never again. Way too difficult and time-consuming. But I was determined to do this. I fussed, thought, and poked around on slipcover sites looking for some new techniques.
I finally posted for help and a colleague, who is generally regarded as the Queen of Slipcovers in North America, responded. She said all the things I needed to hear.
Manage your expectations.
Understand the furniture and fabric limitations.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
And she ended with, “Linda, you could slipcover an Armadillo if you just do it step by step.”
I did follow her advice and the slipcover is done. While it’s not perfect, it fits my expectations and I’m thrilled.