Welcome to the Telling of Story podcast. I’m your host, Storyteller Jewels, and along with my guests, it’s my endeavour to explore the art and science of storytelling, to attract, engage, and retain a business audience, and to unpack why it works for some, and not for the many that try. Listen in as Paul talks about lateral thinking in search of the big idea.

[00:00:31] Paul: Most organizations are set up to be risk averse, to be incremental, to do safe things, and to not waste money on experiments that don’t work. Lateral thinking involves experimentation, it involves trying things, and most of the things you try won’t work. So if you have a budget for lateral thinking, a budget for experimentation, Which I would strongly recommend.

[00:00:52] Paul: Most of it will be wasted on things that don’t work, but occasionally you will hit a really big idea which pays back enormously.[00:01:00]

[00:01:03] Jewels: In this episode I have the pleasure of talking with Paul Sloane. Paul is an author and speaker on lateral thinking and innovation. His latest book, published by Kogan Page, is entitled Lateral Thinking for Every Day. He has over 40, 000 followers on Twitter, and his TEDx talk, Are You Open Minded?, has over 150, 000 views on YouTube, which I highly recommend, as it is both entertaining and thought provoking.

[00:01:31] Jewels: Paul, welcome to the show. 

[00:01:34] Paul: Great to be here, Jewels. 

[00:01:35] Jewels: Paul, tell me a little bit about your background and education. So I 

[00:01:40] Paul: went to a Catholic boys grammar school in Blackpool in the north of England. I was a nerdy kind of kid. I loved maths and science. I got into Cambridge University to study engineering.

[00:01:49] Paul: First week I was at Cambridge University when I was 19 years old, I met a girl from Manchester. And last year we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. So that’s, that’s, [00:02:00] that’s a nice story there. 

[00:02:01] Jewels: Congratulations. 

[00:02:02] Paul: I worked for IBM for a while in sales and marketing, and I became a marketing director of a database company, managing director, CEO, and ran the international operations for a U.

[00:02:12] Paul: S. software company. And then, for the last 20 years, I’ve been running my own business, helping organizations improve lateral thinking and innovation. So how does one 

[00:02:21] Jewels: go from engineering, marketing, CEO into lateral thinking? Where’s the link 

[00:02:27] Paul: there? Well, the route was puzzles. I’ve always liked lateral thinking puzzles and I collected them.

[00:02:33] Paul: Uh, these are strange situations where you get a little bit of information. You have to figure out what’s going on by asking questions and you get yes or no answers. You’re probably familiar with them. And I wrote a book of lateral thinking puzzles in way back in 1990, and it became a bestseller and then I became interested in how you’d use the same methods for solving the problems, whether on your own or in a group.

[00:02:53] Paul: To solve business problems. And I found that it was a niche that nobody else was in, um, Typically we approach problems [00:03:00] in a very logical, rational way, which is good, but sometimes a lateral solution just gives you a much better approach, a much better solution, a fresh way of solving the problem. And that appealed to me.

[00:03:12] Paul: And I developed that as a methodology and I’ve written a number of books on the subject. I’ve given talks on it and I’ve got a very successful online course on the topic too. And 

[00:03:22] Jewels: so can you just define for me or for the audience, what lateral thinking, what is that? 

[00:03:28] Paul: Well, in conventional thinking, we tend to go straight ahead, and we build block on block on block, as it were, in a very logical, rational way.

[00:03:36] Paul: Lateral thinking, a phrase coined by Edward de Bono in the 1960s, means coming at the problem from the side, from a completely different perspective, in order to find a fresh solution. So, you know, a lot of what we do in business is incremental improvement, incremental innovation. We make things better and that’s important, but you can’t incrementally improve an aeroplane to create a helicopter.

[00:03:58] Paul: You have to start again with a [00:04:00] completely different concept. You can’t incrementally develop an aeroplane to create a a space rocket, it’s an entirely different concept. And sometimes you’ve got to say, is there a significantly better way to do what we’re doing? And the answer to that typically is yes, but we just haven’t thought of it yet.

[00:04:16] Paul: And the way to, the key to unlock radical innovation, really creative ideas is 

[00:04:22] Jewels: lateral thinking. And so are we talking about when a company or an organization needs to make sort of significant changes and significant jumps, or is it actually quite useful, even in our, you know, product development cycles and business process improvement, for example?

[00:04:37] Paul: Yes, it’s very useful in business, very useful in every walk of life. I think, I think if you’re a lateral thinker, you become a more interesting and varied person. But in business, yes. And it’s the key to radical innovation. So there’s two types of innovation to oversimplify. There’s incremental innovation, where you improve things, and radical innovation, where you do something completely different.

[00:04:58] Paul: And existing [00:05:00] businesses, large businesses, typically are very poor at radical innovation. If you were running a taxi company, there’s lots of ways you could improve it, but you would never have come up with Uber. If you were a spectacles manufacturer, you could have asked a thousand customers, how can we improve our product or service?

[00:05:14] Paul: Not one of them would have said, invent a piece of glass I stick on my eyeball in the morning, or change the geometry of my eyeball with laser surgery. No spectacle company would have ever conceived of contact lenses or laser eye surgery, though it solves the same problem for the customer. So the customer has a problem and there are multiple ways to solve it.

[00:05:34] Paul: You’ve found one, but your competitors may find a better way, which will put you out of business. It’s a 

[00:05:40] Jewels: little bit of like, like, uh, Henry Ford’s. Now, if they’d have asked me what they wanted, they would have given me a NA, asked for a faster horse, right? So. 

[00:05:48] Paul: A faster horse. That’s a very good example. Yeah.

[00:05:50] Paul: And people did want faster horses. And there’s a very, one of the best books on innovation is called the innovators dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Harvard professor who’s now sadly died [00:06:00] and in it he says successful companies make this classic mistake of listening to their customers when I read this I nearly fell off my chair I said that’s what you’re supposed to do isn’t it he said no because customers mislead you customers say we would like what you’re doing we want more of it we want it slightly better we want it in green we want it in German we want it on Tuesday whatever it is they look for incremental innovations and they initially reject it you Radical innovations because it’s too unusual.

[00:06:25] Paul: It’s not what they’re expecting, but eventually the radical innovation gets better and better and it kills the incumbent suppliers. And he gives many examples in his book. It’s a great book.

[00:06:35] Jewels: So I would make the assumption that critical or lateral thinking is not common. Practice, and it’s probably not a trait that’s within naturally within the organizations.

[00:06:46] Jewels: How is that something that you can develop or people can develop further? What is some of the ways to think about lateral thinking? 

[00:06:54] Paul: Well, that’s exactly the topic that I speak on and run workshops on. How can we develop that culture? [00:07:00] Inside the organization, and it’s a big challenge because most organizations are set up to be risk averse to be incremental to do safe things and to not waste money on experiments that don’t work lateral thinking involves experimentation involves trying things and most of the things you try.

[00:07:18] Paul: Won’t work. So if you have a budget for a lateral thinking, a budget for experimentation, which I would strongly recommend, most of it will be wasted on things that don’t work, but occasionally you will hit a really big idea, which pays back enormously. So it’s something I help organizations with. Google 

[00:07:35] Jewels: is famously, I’m not sure if it’s an urban myth or not.

[00:07:38] Jewels: I’ve never really been able to confirm it, but I was told that within Google themselves, they have a time budget. They’re allowed 20 percent of their time to just experiment, to just play with the tech. 

[00:07:50] Paul: And they’ve had, they got Gmail from that. They got Google earth from that. They got maps from that. They got all sorts of ideas from that freedom.

[00:07:57] Paul: And it is something like 20%. They typically [00:08:00] fit it in between projects. But if you’ve got an idea that you’re interested in, you’re allowed to explore it. And you’ll get support from senior management and you’ll get funds to explore it. And other companies 3M did it, uh, Genentech do it. So the really innovative companies, uh, Facebook, they, they let their programmers experiment on the live code some of the time as well.

[00:08:20] Paul: So the most innovative companies do that, they allow people, they empower people with, with freedom to experiment. With that 

[00:08:27] Jewels: freedom, I assume that you’ve got to kind of get comfortable with a bit of failure too, 

[00:08:32] Paul: right? Yes. If you give people freedom to succeed, you’ve also got to give them freedom to fail.

[00:08:37] Paul: And that means you’ve got to be comfortable with failure. And Google have had some enormous failures. Amazon have had some enormous failures. You know, we don’t recall them, but there’s plenty of them around. Google Glass was a big experiment that didn’t work. So innovation involves failure. It’s just a normal part of the process.

[00:08:52] Paul: I thoroughly 

[00:08:53] Jewels: enjoyed watching your TEDx talk. Very informative. So yeah, please do go and listen to it if you do get the chance or [00:09:00] watch it. But you did talk about three techniques. And I love the little phrases that you’ve kind of wrapped around them. Could you take me through those little three techniques?

[00:09:09] Jewels: So number one was the, uh, the change routine, and I love the little David Bowie snippet there. He’s, his one line was turn and face the strange. It was kind of a favorite, favorite 

[00:09:21] Paul: line there. And that’s what I recommend people do. And I tell a lot of stories about this in my talks. A lot of the talks, I illustrate it with examples.

[00:09:29] Paul: from life of people who did turn and face the strange and how it was successful. And one of the stories I tell is about Sidney Bernstein. And, you know, until the 1950s, there was only one TV company in the UK. It was the BBC. And then the government decided to auction licenses. Or TV stations by region.

[00:09:50] Paul: And a lot of companies thought this was an opportunity to make a lot of money. We could sell commercials on TV for the first time. So they looked at which areas had the best demographics, the wealthiest people [00:10:00] who would generate the most advertising income. And there was a little cinema company in the south of England called Granada Cinemas, run by a Jewish businessman, Sidney Bernstein, whose parents had fled persecution.

[00:10:10] Paul: In Eastern Europe, and he wanted to get involved in this, and he said to his marketing assistant, he said, I want to bid for one of the regions in this auction, he said, but I don’t want you to find me the richest region in the UK. I want you to find me the wettest region. In the UK and the system went away and they came back and they said, well, the area with the most precipitation per head of population is the northwest of England, Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton, Bury, all those places.

[00:10:37] Paul: So he said, let’s bid for that and they got it fairly cheaply and he created Granada TV in Manchester and he’d realized there’s no point in getting Chelsea and Westminster or Brighton. If everyone’s out walking the dog, they’ve gone to the park. You want someone where it’s pouring down outside and people stay in.

[00:10:53] Paul: But the point about the story is that when everyone else is looking in one direction for the richest, the lateral thinker looks in a [00:11:00] completely different direction for the wettest. They deliberately look in a different direction. And as de Bono says, you can’t see What’s over to your right by staring harder and harder straight ahead of you have to turn to see it.

[00:11:12] Paul: And turning is part of being lateral. It’s about taking a different perspective, a different starting point. And that’s the story. And then Granada Cinema, Granada TV went on to create Coronation Street and all sorts of great series. A 

[00:11:26] Jewels: really good example of turning and looking the other way, look where everybody else is not looking.

[00:11:31] Jewels: And number two in the open minded techniques was introduce the random. 

[00:11:36] Paul: Introduce the random. Absolutely. Yes. So there are many examples, you know, George de Mestral went for a walk with his dog in the Jura mountains in the 1940s. When he came back, he noticed that the dog’s fur and his trousers were covered in little seeds, little burrs, which had become embedded.

[00:11:52] Paul: And most people would think that’s very inconvenient. I’ve got to brush my trousers, I’ve got to brush the dog’s hair. But he thought, this is a random [00:12:00] intervention and it’s interesting. And he studied it under the microscope and he saw that the burrs were hooked into the fur like a little hook. And he went on to develop Velcro based on that idea.

[00:12:10] Paul: Velcro comes from the word, the French, velour crochet, a hook in velvet. That’s what it means. And initially it was rejected. It didn’t, none of the big clothing companies were interested. It was the space program that accelerated the adoption of Velcro. Now it’s ubiquitous, but it’s all based on a random thing that happened.

[00:12:28] Paul: And there are many, many, you know, the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming was an accident. He came back from holiday and he found that one of the Petri dishes he’d left had developed. A mold, which was resistant to bacteria. He had stumbled by accident on penicillin, but he was receptive to the idea.

[00:12:44] Paul: He was curious. And one of the pieces of advice I give to business people is when something unexpected happens, when customers do something unusual, don’t get annoyed, get curious. Levi’s noticed that people ripped their jeans, that they stone cold washed them when they received [00:13:00] them. They would do things like that, and they adapted that to build it into their products.

[00:13:04] Paul: And we can incorporate more random in the everyday, the everyday things we do. So we tend to get into a routine, and routine is the enemy of lateral thinking. So we go the same way to work every morning, sit in the same place, have the same breakfast, do all those things. I’m suggesting you break that up deliberately.

[00:13:20] Paul: You take a different route to work. You read a different newspaper. You go on a different website from the one you normally go on. You know, if you go onto Wikipedia, there’s a random page of the day and you can go there and it’s something unusual. It’s a ballet school in India or something you’ve never heard of, but it will give you something new.

[00:13:37] Paul: Instead of reading the same websites and the same articles from the same people that reinforce your views, read something that challenges your views and stimulates 

[00:13:45] Jewels: you. So it’s really about introducing them on purpose, doing these things on purpose. 

[00:13:51] Paul: Go into the library and pick four books at random.

[00:13:53] Paul: Bring them home and read them. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn. Go to a museum or art gallery you’ve [00:14:00] never been to before, and it will give you inspiration. So deliberately introduce the random, and you’ll find it makes your life more interesting and gives you better ideas. 

[00:14:09] Jewels: Because, you know, by nature, we’re kind of a little bit lazier, aren’t we?

[00:14:12] Jewels: We slip quite easily into those routines, you know, it’s just easy. We don’t have to think about it, drive the same way, as you say, read the same articles. 

[00:14:20] Paul: We’re all in our comfort zones, and comfort zones are the enemy of lateral thinking. So number 

[00:14:25] Jewels: three on that lovely list of open minded techniques was welcome the unexpected.

[00:14:29] Jewels: You’ve touched on a little bit, but welcome the unexpected. And I love the line, don’t get annoyed, get 

[00:14:35] Paul: curious. That’s right. That’s right. That’s harnessed the, um, the unexpected, the, uh, yeah. Deliberately take a different point of view. Challenge assumptions, ask very basic questions. These are all things that are in my book, my new book, Lateral Thinking for Every Day.

[00:14:49] Paul: I give a lot of examples of this and I give a lot of tips and techniques as to how you can do it. And that’s the way. And stories are a key part of this and I use stories a lot in my books and talks [00:15:00] to illustrate these points. 

[00:15:01] Jewels: Perfect segue. Thank you. Tell me a little bit about your story. You know, you do stand on stage quite a bit and I’ve seen a couple of different variations of it.

[00:15:10] Jewels: And most of your technique is, you know, story after story after story, which is fabulous. And you’ve even exhibited those same examples just in this talk to you, you tell little stories. Tell me about the effect that storytelling has on, for example, if you’re, if you’re doing a Ted talk or a keynote address, how does that help?

[00:15:31] Jewels: Keep the, both the audience engaged and also get your message across. 

[00:15:36] Paul: Well, I think people love stories and they relate to stories. They can understand stories. If you’re trying to get a principle across, an idea, then you can just state it and it just goes over their heads. But if you illustrate it with a powerful story, especially one from history that they can relate to, um, Innovator.

[00:15:56] Paul: In 1865, an 11 year old [00:16:00] boy, James Greenlees, Was run over by a cart in Glasgow. He, his leg was broken. He was rushed to the Royal infirmary with a gashed leg containing multiple fractures. Now the normal outcome of this kind of injury at that time was either amputation or death through infection.

[00:16:14] Paul: Sometimes both typically gangrene, but very fortunately for James Greenlees. The surgeon who treated him was Joseph Lister, who had some radical ideas about infection. You see, at that time, doctors thought that infection, or sepsis, as it was known, was caused by bad air. But Lister had studied the work of French scientist Louis Pasteur, who found that organisms in the air caused food to rot.

[00:16:36] Paul: Lister thought that similar organisms might cause sepsis in wounds. He’d also learnt that Manchester chemistry professor had discovered that carbolic acid delayed the decay of corpses. And he thought that carbolic acid might help kill the organisms. So he dressed the, he, he, he, um, repaired the, the broken leg, and then he dressed the wound with a lint dipped in carbolic acid and put splints on the broken leg.

[00:16:59] Paul: Four days [00:17:00] later, he removed the dressing to examine the wound. Normally, he would encounter the smell of rotting flesh, but the wound was clean. After six weeks, the bones knitted together, and the boy recovered. So that’s the start of the story. Now, he published his findings, and he recommended that there should be changes in surgery.

[00:17:19] Paul: Doctors should wash their hands, they should sterilize their instruments, they should wash the gowns that they wore, and that they should have carbolic acid, they should use these procedures. And it was stoutly resisted by the medical authorities of the day. There’s another guy in Austria called Hemmelweiss, who had a similar experience when he recommended sterilization.

[00:17:36] Paul: Doctors were very resistant. Doctors At that time, they were amongst the most educated people in society, but they were resistant to change. They had very bad practices, which they did not recognize. And the point of the story is this, that we have all the bad practices at work, in business, at home, which we don’t recognize.

[00:17:55] Paul: Just like doctors going from one operation to another without sterilizing their instruments or [00:18:00] washing their hands. And in 50 years time, people will look back and say, You know, people back in the 20, 23, They did all this stupid How can you imagine how stupid they were? They continued to do this, year after year, And we now know how silly that was.

[00:18:11] Paul: Like, we look back on people smoking, or whatever else, All those years ago. The story gets that message across far more powerfully than just saying we’ve all got bad habits which need to change. The story that even doctors were resistant and it took a long time and a lot of effort to get them to change their habits shows how powerfully ingrained this whole approach is.

[00:18:33] Jewels: And you mentioned earlier, you know, people are resistant to change in general though, right? No, nobody likes, you know, everybody says they love change, but the reality is not many people really do when it comes to, you know, particularly things that have been in practice for such a long time. You know, I come across organizations all the time that say, You know, I’ll ask a simple question.

[00:18:53] Jewels: Why do you do something a certain way? And the response invariably is, well, it’s because we’ve always done it [00:19:00] that way. And it’s not until you sort of stop and think about it. And it’s like, well, why, you know, what’s the history behind it? Why are we doing it a certain way? What’s the effect on it? Have we tried new things, different things?

[00:19:12] Jewels: Um, so people. Get as you know, as we spoke earlier, people get into a habit and it becomes normal behavior and then they pass it on to the next employee and that becomes their normal behavior. And nobody, often nobody even knows the. the source of the original process or the original thing that they were doing, then nobody knows why they do it.

[00:19:32] Jewels: They just do it that way. I’ll 

[00:19:34] Paul: tell you a story about that. I had a friend who worked when he was a student at a brewery and he went out on the deliveries in the van, delivering the beer. And on the Monday morning, they went out to do the deliveries and the man said, we always do the furthest. Pubs on the Monday, we go to the furthest ones furthest away and do all of those on the Monday and then gradually get closer as we go through the week and he said, why is that?

[00:19:55] Paul: And the man said, I don’t know. That’s the way we’ve always done it. And then investigated and he asked around and [00:20:00] eventually one of the oldest employees at the brewery said, well, the reason we go to the furthest pubs on the Monday. Is that when we used horses to pull the carriages, they were rested after the weekend and they could do the longest journeys on the Monday and then during the week, they got more time.

[00:20:13] Paul: So we’d have the shorter journey. And that’s how we laid out the routes with the most distant pubs on the Monday to make it easier for the horses. And we’ve kept that same schedule of deliveries all this time, even though we did away with horses. 50 years ago. Yeah. So you’re right. These things do become embedded and very often based on history.

[00:20:32] Jewels: I did see one of your videos, you did a little exercise, which I think forms part of your workshops, but you did a little exercise where. You combine a problem with something that is quite random. So, you know, on stage, you actually had a dictionary and you just randomly opened it up, uh, found a noun in that, picked a random word, and then by association, you had to say, how do we make You know, come up with some ideas on this random word to help [00:21:00] solve the problem.

[00:21:01] Jewels: Tell me a little bit about that exercise and what that does

[00:21:03] Paul: . That’s one of the most lateral thinking brainstorm exercise. I do a lot of brainstorms. I’ve got a lot of different brainstorm methods. They’ve written an online workshop with 16 different brainstorm methods suitable for different types of problem.

[00:21:16] Paul: And the lateral, the random word is one of the most. And it’s people are uncomfortable with it to start with. They don’t believe it works until they see it, but you take a problem, whatever the problem, how can we recruit the best engineers? How can we increase awareness of our product with customers? How can we shorten development times?

[00:21:33] Paul: Whatever it is. And then you open the dictionary at random and you find a word, any old word, a preface, simple nouns of the best, and you write the word on the flip chart. And then you write some associations with the word, uh, lateral associations. So if the word was corner, you might say it’s a triangle, it’s a corner shop, it’s a corner in football and soccer, it’s a corner that a spider lives in, whatever.

[00:21:58] Paul: You put in all of these, and then [00:22:00] you go from there and you say, how can we use any of those association, any of those ideas to come up with, with solutions for our. problem. And the brain’s very good at that. When you put together two really weird different things, the brain finds connections, and off you go.

[00:22:14] Paul: And people come up with all sorts of ideas, and then you select the best one, you move on to the next word. Um, another way of doing it is with a newspaper. You take a newspaper and you say, And you can do this on your own, or with a group. A serious newspaper is best, but it works with a lightweight newspaper too.

[00:22:28] Paul: And you say, inside this newspaper, there are sources of ideas that are going to help me solve my problem. And you articulate your problem, whatever it is. We’ve got to find ways to reduce the number of customer complaints. And then you open the news page, and you read news about a castle. Or you read news about somebody’s won the lottery.

[00:22:45] Paul: Or you read news about A woman who’s murdered her husband because he was annoyed or whatever it is. And you try and generate ideas based on that. And then you go from the home news to the world news. You go from the world news to the comment and letters to the editor. Often very, very good [00:23:00] idea. And then you go from there to the business section, which is not quite so good.

[00:23:04] Paul: From there to the sport, which is not quite. And from there to the obituaries and obituaries. Often there’s somebody in a really interesting life and there’s an idea. And then you go to the home and garden section, the fashion section. The lifestyle section, and you re and there’s an agony aunt who’s talking about some problem with some teenage child.

[00:23:20] Paul: And all of these give you ideas. If you’re open minded, if you’re forced, if you say I’ve got to find a connection here somehow, your brain will. And it’s just because you’re deliberately going to a fresh starting point. You’re deliberately staking, starting in a different place to approach the problem.

[00:23:36] Paul: And that’s exactly what lateral thinking is all about. Starting in a different place. Instead of starting here, we start way over here and approach the problem from the side. I think 

[00:23:45] Jewels: it’s a fabulous technique and what I found super interesting about it was the similarities that in the technique in how I actually take people through a little exercise where I talk about storytelling in [00:24:00] business and how do we inject some of that personality and and so micro stories into You know, sometimes very technical kind of presentations and, you know, I, I will use any sort of random story from my childhood perhaps, and then somehow bring it into association with a particular story.

[00:24:19] Jewels: And the technique that I use is to pick any old random story, whatever it may be, and then just list out some key points that are in that story and just list out as many as you can on that sort of random story. , and then you have the point you wanna make on the other side of the flip chart. Yes. And you do the, and you do the same thing.

[00:24:37] Jewels: You just list out all the con the things that you know, the points that you wanna make and all the aspects of the story. Yes. And invariably what you find on these longer lists, you know, you try and get sort of 10 or plus words on each of the lists at least. And what you’ll find is there’s often a commonality in amongst it.

[00:24:52] Jewels: So there’s a linking word or two that can take you from one side of the page to the other side of the page. And so [00:25:00] by linking these things, you can actually have this completely random story out here on the left hand side that at some point you go, and the reason I’m telling you this story, and then you link it with the point that you’re trying to make.

[00:25:14] Jewels: And the natural progression is really quite good. So I love the way you did the workshop because that little sort of piece just triggered me and said, it’s exactly the same. 

[00:25:22] Paul: Yeah. And there’s other variations I do. Sometimes I do random pictures. Some people prefer pictures to words. But another very powerful way is the random object.

[00:25:31] Paul: And what you do is before the workshop, and you ask people to do that, you don’t tell them why you say, I want you to bring any object to the workshop. And it might be a stapler. It might be a picture. It might be briefcase. It might be anything they’ve picked up or, I mean, a bottle of Coca Cola or whatever it is.

[00:25:45] Paul: And they bring this to, and they don’t know why. And then they’re sitting there with this object in front of them. And you say, now here’s the challenge, and the challenge is, you know, how can we double the average customer order value? And then they have to stand up and they describe their object, and then they have to say why this object is the [00:26:00] key to finding ideas for the objective.

[00:26:02] Paul: So the guy with the, um, Coca Cola bottle stands up and he says, this is my Coca Cola bottle and I enjoy a Coca Cola with my sandwich at 11 o’clock. And this represents refreshment and stimulation and inspiration. And the shape of the bottle is very And we could change the shape of our products to be more inspiring.

[00:26:19] Paul: And we could offer refreshment. And he comes up with it and he’s struggling here, this guy. He’s really struggling. And then other people around the table have to say yes. And they had another idea we get from the coca cola bottle is this and there’s somebody else. Here’s another idea I’ve got and then the next person comes up with his stapler gun or whatever We could shoot people who don’t Order the product or whatever and then it goes around the table and we could stick things together with this and we could add it things so Then it’s a random thing but it forces people go around and the first person will often struggle but other people leap in If they’re told to leap in, they’re not allowed to criticize, whatever the idea is, you’re not allowed to say that’s a terrible idea, it’ll never work, even if it’s true, you know, you’ve got to leap in with a suggestion, which reinforces the first [00:27:00] idea or comes up with an alternate approach.

[00:27:02] Jewels: I love it. And I think it’s fabulous and a hell of a lot of fun just participating in that. And I think, you know, different people will see exactly the same thing and have a completely different perspective. So you got it, you know, an orange. Could be so many different things. You know, it could be a color.

[00:27:17] Jewels: It could be a fruit. It could be a texture, orange peel. It could be alcohol. 

[00:27:23] Paul: The Dutch national team play in orange. Yeah. So there’s all sorts of things you can get from orange or from any word. Yes. 

[00:27:29] Jewels: Right. And I think almost if you do it rapidly, you get some of the most diverse and perhaps the most interesting.

[00:27:36] Jewels: I think if everybody sat in and talked about it in a committee for too long, you’d end up with the same result. It’s almost better to do it quickly. You get groupthink. Yeah. Fabulous. Tell me a little bit about, you’ve got your latest book out called Lateral Thinking for Every Day. Tell us a little bit about that and what’s, what’s the premise of the story within.

[00:27:55] Jewels: Well, I 

[00:27:55] Paul: collected at blog a lot. I’ve got about 500 blog articles on my [00:28:00] website and I post about the blogs and I decided to collect together the very best blogs, the most up to date, the most powerful stories that I thought and put them into a book, which is examples of lateral thinking in every day. And methods and techniques, the most popular methods, such as the, the random word and things like that.

[00:28:19] Paul: And examples of lateral thinking in the fight against crime, lateral thinking in marketing, lateral thinking in warfare, lateral thinking in the arts. And I’ve got a lot of examples and stories in here with lessons, which are relevant to people in any walk of life, not just in business, but in your social life at home.

[00:28:37] Paul: With your children, with your friends, and so on. And it’s a fun book to read. It’s very easy to read. You can dip in and out of it and just go into a chapter. It’s all in bite-sized chunks, as it were, and people have really liked it. It came out earlier this year. 

[00:28:49] Jewels: Where can one 

[00:28:50] Paul: purchase this said book a lateral thinking for every day.

[00:28:54] Paul: It’s available on Amazon or from all good bookstores. 

[00:28:57] Jewels: Excellent. And have you ever come across [00:29:00] a bad bookstore? So everybody says a good book store. What’s the definition of a good book store these days? One that has their doors open is probably not a bad start. That’s 

[00:29:09] Paul: right. It’s a tough place. Retail generally is a tough place to be.

[00:29:12] Paul: But book stores in particular. 

[00:29:14] Jewels: Paul, tell me if I’m a business owner, come coming back to sort of storytelling and engaging an audience. So you’re, you spend time on stage, keynote speaking, you spend time in front of corporations and help people along there. Sort of working day as well, what’s some of the secrets or a couple of tips perhaps that you could share with the audience in regards to both getting somebody’s attention initially and then keeping their attention and over a longish period because sometimes.

[00:29:45] Jewels: Keynote might only be, you know, in a TEDx might only be 10, 15 minutes, but if you’re doing a workshop, that might be an entire day. What are some of the tips to keeping the engagement 

[00:29:55] Paul: going? What I say to leaders is if you want to get a message across to your team, [00:30:00] say you want to improve customer service, you don’t show a chart with graphs and numbers, and you don’t say we want to move our customer service up from the 75th percentile to the 83rd percentile.

[00:30:11] Paul: People just, they just treat that as management bullshit. What you do is you say, I want to tell you a story about a customer we had and this customer came in and she had this problem and Jane here in the front row sitting here, she did something exceptional. She went out of her way to solve the problem for the customer.

[00:30:27] Paul: And then you talk about what Jane did and how she did it and how it was difficult because it was against the rules in the company and how the customer was really pleased. And they wrote a really nice review on TripAdvisor for our hotel or our restaurant or wherever it was. And you say, and that’s the sort of thing we want around here.

[00:30:43] Paul: We want more people like Jane who are prepared to go the extra mile, do something special, break the rules a little bit in order to help and people’s get the message they understand. And for example, big problem is we’re, we’re risk averse in this company. We don’t like taking, we don’t like failure.

[00:30:58] Paul: People don’t like to fail. This is [00:31:00] particularly true in the public sector. A very powerful thing for the leader to do there is to tell a story about a failure in their life. And they say, when I was a young executive, I was a marketing manager, a different company, and I made this terrible mistake and we got it completely wrong.

[00:31:14] Paul: We waste all this money and I would look foolish. But the lesson I learned from that was, and you go into the light and you talk about, and people really relate to that. He’s talking about a failure that he had, or she’s talking about something that went wrong on her watch, instead of boasting about how clever she is.

[00:31:28] Paul: She’s talking now about some, and people get it. They get that failure is part of the process and that you overcame. It didn’t hold you back. Another very powerful thing to do is to praise somebody for doing something that failed. You say, John here, he tried this initiative. He went out and it didn’t work.

[00:31:45] Paul: The customers didn’t like it. We couldn’t crack the technology, but we learned a lot of lessons from that. And it’s helped us improve in this area. And we want more people doing things like John and people say, wow, the boss is praising somebody for something that failed. Obviously you should praise people for [00:32:00] successes.

[00:32:00] Paul: That’s for sure. And we don’t do enough of that, but you should also praise somebody for being enterprising, entrepreneurial, trying something. That maybe didn’t work because that’s the key to success. You know, Hewlett Packard for a long time had an award called the Medal of Defiance. And the Medal of Defiance was awarded to somebody inside Hewlett Packard who tried something, gone out of their way to do something for customers which broke the rules, which was in defiance of the normal procedure.

[00:32:28] Paul: But the customer had a big problem. They’ve broken all the rules to get something to the customer to solve that problem. And what they were saying was, we’re a big company, but we can act like a small company. We can be entrepreneurial. We can solve customers problems. We can react quickly without following, having to follow every procedure and every rule and fill in every form.

[00:32:46] Paul: And stories like that are very powerful and leaders can lead through telling stories. And can change the culture, the way you change the culture in organizations with stories and actions, not through grandiose [00:33:00] statements. 

[00:33:01] Jewels: I love that you went there, Paul. I agree, but we don’t celebrate successes, let alone failures.

[00:33:06] Jewels: You know, failures are often brushed under the carpet. We don’t want to talk about that. We’re kind of afraid to talk about that. And the other side of that is when we do tell a story about a success, sometimes we don’t tell the micro successes. We just want to tell the big stories. So, and that might not happen that often in most organizations, you know, the big story that might be PR worthy doesn’t only might occur once a year.

[00:33:32] Jewels: So in the entire rest of the year, not much is said because nothing big enough has occurred. So we, I think getting into the habit of telling. All the stories, the good ones, the bad ones, the learnings, you know, as you say, it draws people in, it builds culture, it builds, you know, the evidence that, you know, we’re here to try and we’re here to do better and it’s okay to fail and we, we keep experimenting and we keep doing a little bit [00:34:00] better.

[00:34:00] Jewels: So I’m glad you went there. It’s some fabulous advice. 

[00:34:03] Paul: Well, you know, very often if you go to a sales meeting, I was in sales and the sales director stands up and he said, well, last quarter. We exceeded our target by 7 percent and the Northern region came in at 97 percent and the Eastern region did, and the Western region brought in three new accounts.

[00:34:17] Paul: And that’s all good and it’s good stuff, but it’d be so much better if he said, let me tell you a story about a major win that we had in the last quarter and what this salesman did to do it. And let me tell you about a bid that we lost and why we lost it. We think, and the lessons we can learn from, and that was so much more powerful to tell a story of a sale or a story of a bid that went wrong and.

[00:34:38] Paul: The people get that and the message is so much more powerful than percentages and numbers. 

[00:34:43] Jewels: Paul, I’ve absolutely enjoyed having a conversation with you. And I know you and I could talk for, for hours and hours on storytelling. What parting advice might you give to somebody who’s listening, who might think, okay, great, I want to inject some stories and some personality and build some [00:35:00] culture in my business, but I also want it.

[00:35:02] Jewels: Want the business to start being more innovative, you know, and start actually using some lateral thinking to see, to get some of these really big gains. What advice would you give somebody who’s listening, who’s ready to go and just wants to go in hard? 

[00:35:16] Paul: Well, if you’re in a leadership position, Um, look to the people that work for you, that you’ve got some bright people, keen people, and they’re probably frustrated, and you should have a heart to heart with them.

[00:35:27] Paul: And when leaders say to me, how can I improve innovation in my organization, Paul, I say, well, find out what’s stopping it today before you do anything else. And if you ask your bright young people in the organization or bright old people, you know, how many ideas were implemented last year? And they say, well, not many.

[00:35:43] Paul: And you say, why? What’s stopping it? And did you have any great ideas? And they say, yes. And I say, what happened to them? Well, we couldn’t get it through approval. It was too difficult. We couldn’t get IT support. There was no money. There was no time. And you find, and that’s where you find the blockages. And the first thing to do is to remove the [00:36:00] barriers that are stopping your people doing well.

[00:36:02] Paul: When I first became a manager in IBM, the manager I had was a very, very good guy called Jim Thatcher. And he said to me, he said, Paul, management’s easy. He said, you tell people what you want them to achieve, and then you get out of their way. He said, your job as a manager is to remove the barriers that stop them from succeeding.

[00:36:20] Paul: Not to micromanage them, not to tell them what to do. If you’ve got good people, and it’s really important to recruit really good people, then they’ve got great ideas and you should give them the chance to try those. So your job is to remove the barriers, the things that have prevented, the obstacles, to make it easy for them to succeed.

[00:36:37] Paul: And I’ve always remembered that. And it’s a difficult thing to do because as you become a boss, you tend to want to manage and get in there and show people how to do things and, and, or even impose more obstacles unwittingly. So, listen to your best people, give them more freedom, take more risks, praise them when they succeed, and praise them when they try, honestly, and things don’t work.[00:37:00]

[00:37:00] Jewels: Oh, absolutely fabulous advice. Thank you so much for being so kind and generous in your sharing. Where can the audience find out a little bit more about you? Well, you 

[00:37:09] Paul: can come to my website, which is DestinationInnovation. com, if you search for that, Destination Innovation. You can find me on LinkedIn, I’d be happy to link with you on LinkedIn.

[00:37:19] Paul: You can find me on Twitter at Paul Sloan, and I’m on YouTube as well. And of course my books are in, uh, on Amazon and, you know, good and bad bookstores. 

[00:37:30] Jewels: Fabulous. Thank you, Paul. Appreciate your time. Thank you, Jewels. Cheers. What a fantastic subject lateral thinking is. One that we could all do some more of.

[00:37:42] Jewels: I love that lateral thinking gives you the permission to fail at a lot of swings at bat. Get comfortable with failure. And my favorite, don’t get annoyed, get curious. Much love, chat soon.[00:38:00]

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