By @SimonCocking interview with Paul Sloane Speaker, Facilitator, Author. Entertaining talks & workshops on creativity, lateral thinking & innovation. Book me for your meeting. +44.(0)7831112321. We’ve reviewed several of Paul’s books recently so it made sense to have a more in depth conversation with him.

Klout.com rates Paul Sloane as one of the leading experts on innovation on social media.  He is the author of 30 books and some 600 blogs. He has 43000 followers on Twitter (@paulsloane).  He writes about lateral thinking, creativity and innovation.  He worked for IBM for 11 years in Sales and Marketing. He was Marketing Director and then UK MD of database company Ashton-Tate. He was VP International for MathSoft and CEO of software start up Monactive.  He now helps corporations improve ability and innovation.

How did you get from a software background to what you do now?

I enjoyed working in Marketing and Leadership positions in software companies and loved trying to find new ways to market products and solve customer problems.  Along the way I wrote a book called Lateral Thinking Puzzlers which became a best seller.  The puzzles work as a game. One person knows the answer and one or more others ask questions which can be answered yes or no.  I became interested in how you could use the same techniques that help solve the puzzles to help solve business problems.  I started speaking and running master classes on these topics and it has grown from there.  Now I go around the world teaching these methods.

What are those techniques?

The first thing you have to do with any puzzle (and many business situations) is to check your assumptions.   We tend to approach issues with many assumptions which limit our ability to conceive of radical approaches.  A good approach is to ask ‘What if everything we thought we knew for sure was wrong?’  Secondly you have to ask very
searching questions.  Great business innovators are always asking questions such as ‘Is there a better way to provide this service to customers?’  Thirdly you have to approach the problem from fresh perspectives and it is here that lateral thinking methods are really helpful.  Lateral means from the side and you have to deliberately displace yourself from your normal point of approach.

Why do technical people need lateral thinking skills?

There are two primary reasons.  First, nearly every technical problem can be solved in several different ways – not just the traditional way.  IT people should be constantly looking for smarter, better, quicker ways to do things.  Secondly I believe that IT should stand for Innovation Technology.  IT is not just a tool to run the business.  It is an enabler to transform the business.  It can deliver new business models and solutions.  The IT professional should be applying lateral thinking to business challenges in order to help the organisation innovate.  IT should be leading the revolution not following.

What do you mean for example?

Uber, Whatsapp and Airbnb are all apps which have created new business models.  They have spawned companies with massive valuations and seriously threatened existing players.

Will Artificial Intelligence put us all out of work?

I am sure that AI, big data and machine learning will transform business and replace many jobs. But the one thing that AI cannot do is ask intelligent questions.  That is our job as leaders and lateral thinkers.  We need to find ways to use AI to gain competitive advantage and improve customer service.  AI offers threats and opportunities.

Tell us about your latest book?

I have just released is the third edition of one of my most popular books, The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills.  It explains how you can use lateral thinking methods to understand and analyse problems and to conceive entirely fresh solutions.  It is packed with examples, tips and workshop methods that you can use on your own or with your team.

The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills, reviewed


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