Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Lateral thinking

The term "lateral thinking" was coined by Edward de Bono in 1967, and it has become widely used since then. I found myself admiring how some people had been thinking laterally when I was following a country footpath the other day.

Stiles and footbridges on such footpaths work better if they provide some kind of grip for shoes and boots. In some places, this is done by wrapping the wooden planks in chicken wire to make for a ridged surface. However, I noticed that several stiles and bridges now use decking planks instead. These are grooved to provide grip. The popularity of decking means that such planks are readily available, whereas there would be insufficient demand for such planks if the only consumers were people making stiles and footbridges.

Similarly in O.R.; there are solutions which would not be affordable unless some other group of users were also going to use a similar solution and the expense could be shared ... or even completely paid by the others. The moral is to think laterally when a solution has to be implemented.