Futurology blog: what’s the next trend that’ll disrupt our world, financially, socially or just pointlessly?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Do I need a diagonal thinking cap?

My sister’s great at thinking literally, logically and systematically. I tend to think sideways in a jangling chaos of pictures, words and noises. Now the ad industry is trying to push “diagonal” thinking on us as the next big thing.

They all have their uses and we all end up, hopefully, doing the sorts of activities and work that make use of our thinking modes. Literal thinkers work with and within systems, lateral thinkers head for the creative world and diagonal thinkers tell us how wonderful they are.

All fine and dandy. Except occasionally I need to get literal for a few hours. Like when I’m doing my tax return, or I’m in a supermarket or sitting in a meeting with an anally retentive client.

I’ve also watched literal thinkers struggle to handle situations where they really need to just chuck their preconceptions in the bin. Handling little children, for instance, or getting a new piece of technology to work.

The diagonal thinkers never have a problem, of course, because they can “switch effortlessly” from one mode of thinking to another. Which may or may not explain all the puerile advertising we see on the box. Personally, I don’t have that ability and simply end up with rude letters from Her Majesty, all the wrong stuff in my trolly, or picturing my client with an axe buried in her head.

But I imagine that everyone’s brains are physically capable of thinking in any way, we just end up training our brains into one path or another over time (or having them forcibly retrained at school). So what we need is some way to “jolt” our brains from one mode to the other as the occasion demands. Nothing as invasive as an axe, hopefully, but probably a sort of hat with electrodes that stimulate different parts of the skull.

And preferably with the controls disguised so that my client can’t see me desperately stabbing the “ossified and constipated” setting five minutes into the meeting.

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