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Provocation is a technique that requires lateral thinking, similar to Random Stimuli, it involves moving your thinking out of the established patterns that you use to solve problems normally. Edward de Bono popularised Provocation by using the word 'Po'. 'Po' stands for 'Provocative operation'. He suggests that when we make a Provocative statement in public we should label it as such with 'Po' (e.g. 'Po: the earth is flat'). This does rely on all members of your audience knowing about Provocation!
Generally we think by recognizing patterns and reacting to them, such reactions come from our past experiences and logical extensions to those experiences, all too often we do not venture outside of these patterns. While we may know the answer as part of a different type of problem, the structure of our brains makes it difficult for us to link this in.
The technique requires you to make deliberately stupid statements (Provocations), in which something we take for granted about the situation is not true. Statements need to be stupid to shock our minds out of existing ways of thinking. Once we have made a provocative statement, our judgement is then suspended and the statement is used to generate ideas. Provocations give us original starting points for creative thinking.
For example, imagine making the statement 'Houses should not have roofs’. Normally this would not be a good idea! However this leads one to think of houses with opening roofs, or houses with glass roofs. These would allow you to lie in bed and look up at the stars.
Once you have made the provocative statement, you can use this checklist to examine all its aspects:
- The consequences of the statement
- What the benefits would be
- What special circumstances would make it a sensible solution
- The principles needed to support it and make it work
- How it would work moment-to-moment
- What would happen if a sequence of events was changed
The Provocation technique often helps you to generate completely new concepts.
The information on Provocation is Copyright ©The McQuaig Group Inc. Reproduced here by permission from APTT