Detour techniques

In the realm of creative thinking, “detour techniques” call on a sense of the irrational, or perhaps even intuition. They relate to what Edward de Bono suggested in his principles for ‘lateral thinking’ when he describes the need to take paths that lead us away from the problem in order to better return to it later. Such techniques help thinking outside of the box. They work in the same way as ‘connections’ do in the Creative Problem Solving method, but leave more time for the imagination to express itself. Indeed, they were developed to help the fourth step of CPS, which is the research of ideas.

In his book Idées. 100 techniques de créativité pour les produire et les gérer (Ideas: 100 techniques to produce and manage creativity), Guy Aznar describes the path of the detour as a “journey in three stages”:

  • Exposure
  • Distancing
  • Intersecting

The different techniques used in these three phases are generally inspired by practices used in psychology or in the art world. These might include embodying the object of the problem like an actor playing a role, talking about the feelings of the object, practicing lucid dreaming or making collages.

Once exposed to the subject (at more than on just a conscious or rational level), it is possible to remove oneself to the imagination in order to find ideas. The practitioner can then return via the intersection with what is real to achieve ideas that are both original and feasible.

Guy Aznar invented, then practiced and taught these detour techniques from the end of the 1960s. His writings have been translated and published in Brazil and China.