Po and crazy aunt at software development office

Convergent thinking: Our experiences help us to solve familiar problems. We use logical thinking to find a suitable solution in an efficient way. Unfortunately, our experiences are limited. They are not sufficient to solve all possible problems. When we lack relevant experience, they can instead become a barrier that prevents us from thinking outside the box.

Divergent thinking: With creative thinking, you generate ideas that are not based on your experiences. You don’t judge ideas while you generate them. Then when you have enough good ideas, you use your logical thinking to categorize, judge and prioritize them. But how can you generate ideas that are free from your experiences?

Po: provocative operation

Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking technique includes the concept Po. A Po is an idea which moves thinking into new unknown territory. You make a statement and see what the consequences are. The syllable “po” is found in English words like suppose, possible, and hypothesis—words that point forward. De Bono says that provocation goes hand in hand with movement and that’s why Po also can mean provocative operation. With Po you release all the crazy ideas:

  • Po cups have holes in their bottom
  • Po customers will have yellow t-shirts
  • Po blogs don’t have letters

Instead of judging the value and realism in a Po statement, you look for what is interesting about it, what is different in it and what this idea might lead to. Perhaps the crazy idea is a stepping stone to something new and successful.

Atelierista: the crazy aunt

Reggio Emilia is an Italian pedagogy for preschools. Every Reggio preschool has a centrally located place called Atelier. It is a place for experimentation and discovery. What makes Atelier so unique in child pedagogy is the person who works there: the Atelierista—a practicing artist. She has no training in pedagogy; she does not even work as a teacher. Think of her as the crazy aunt. She does things in a way that you really wasn’t taught to do.

“Creativity seems to emerge from multiple experiences, coupled with a well-supported development of human resources, including a sense of freedom to venture beyond the known”, wrote Reggio’s initial idea blacksmith Loris Malaguzzi. What workplaces can see the value in hiring people without any clear relation to the services or products produced—someone who is at the office only to inspire and create new ideas?

Consider this statement. Is it possible in your workplace?

  • Po software development companies has an Atelier with a Atelierista—a practicing artist, without knowledge of software development. She shows us crazy ideas.

4 Responses to “Po and crazy aunt at software development office”

  1. 1 Jack 2010-01-19 at 11.49

    “software development companies has an Atelier with a Atelierista—a practicing artist, without knowledge of software development. She shows us crazy ideas.”

    Most places I’ve worked have had this, but never intentionally. Sometimes it was the CEO. Almost always this “crazy aunt” was actually a man.

  2. 2 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-01-19 at 15.43

    Even though the CEO by definition isn’t an Atelierista—he’s not hired as a practicing artist—you’re close to one of Reggios key concepts: the extended normality. With a sharper eye you may find that the person you always thought were mad, actually has a great potential for being creative and inspiring. Think about it.

    And happy birthday, btw :-)

  3. 3 Måns Sandström 2010-01-19 at 22.27

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a boss/formal leader acting that way but I’ve met quite a few fellow developers that have been excellent brainstormers. Some were mad, some not.

  4. 4 Morgan 2010-01-20 at 20.53

    Great idea. The question is how long a person can stay crazy in any “normal” environment without turning mainstream? Do we want to risk the mental health of the few crazy people we have by putting them in an office?


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