Edward De Bono is credited with beginning the so-called lateral thinking movement with an approach that inspired people to look outside the so-called square to find new horizons.
According to Wikipedia the term “brainstorming” was popularised by US advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborn in the 1953 book Applied Imagination. Osborn claimed that brainstorming was more effective than individuals working alone in generating ideas, although more recent research has questioned this conclusion.
The above conclusion questioning the real value of open brainstorming is well-founded. Indeed it was failures with this approach that led to my development of Matrix Thinking, a systematic approach to achieve outside the box thinking, innovation and opportunity capture.
How do you brainstorm?
If you ask somebody to brainstorm a glass of water they look at you with a blank stare or a bemused laugh. This has been proven time and time again through many conference presentations and in-house workshops.
However, if you ask a direct question, you most often get a direct answer.
Instead of the open question asking people to brainstorm a glass of water, ask people to answer a direct question by completing the sentence: “I wish this glass of water would…?”
Many answers are usually forthcoming, such as stay hot, stay cold, not spill, not empty etc. It is this type of direct questioning that led to the development of the Matrix Thinking approach, now adopted in some 26 countries, countless businesses worldwide.
How does “Matrix Thinking” work?
Put simply, Matrix Thinking is embodied in an array of key words arranged in a rectangular matrix diagram. The intersection of a so-called Seed (fundamental key words) on the left vertical axis of the matrix, with a Catalyst (or thinking trigger-word) on the top horizontal axis gives rise to a particular direct question about innovating a new product, process or service.
Armed with these simple matrix diagrams innovative thinking can be inspired in seconds with usually quite amazing outcomes.
A typical matrix will have 48 or more intersections each of which inspires insightful thinking in a way not seen before. This may be brainstorming, but in a structured manner that provides critical questions that lead to real solutions.
A typical Matrix Diagram:
What’s the key to Matrix Thinking?
The secret to Matrix Thinking lies in the selection of both the Seeds and Catalysts. These have been developed, refined and tested over many years with many businesses and different types of products and services.
What is an Opportunity Matrix?
One of the keys to developing innovative solutions to problems and issues is to first identify the opportunity. This is called “opportunity capture” and is embodied in a specific “opportunity matrix” developed for just this purpose.
This simple opportunity matrix has just five Seeds and just seven Catalysts.
Using this approach as a precursor to using the other matrix diagrams immediately directs your thinking to the ideal place to find real value added change, or innovation.
Where to from here?
Embracing structured thinking in the manner described gets everybody “on the same page” and has been shown by a university masters research thesis and independent consultants audits in the UK to be a most effective way of developing outside-the-box thinking.