Now de Bono’s lateral thinking to solve prison problems

June 30th, 2008 - 12:22 pm ICT by IANS  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Kolkata, June 30 (IANS) Prison reforms in West Bengal have gone creative. Jail officials are now being empowered with tools of lateral thinking to find easy solutions to complex problems and change their attitude towards prisoners. Lateral thinking, a concept propounded by Maltese professor Edward de Bono, would mean solving problems with ideas that are out-of-the-box and unconventional.

A team of 15 senior prison officials recently attended a three-day workshop on lateral thinking at the NSHM Knowledge Campus, a college that offers management and communication courses here. And they are now ready to implement these new ideas as part of prison reforms.

“I personally like the innovative method of learning. We have decided to implement this system of training among the senior officials as it would help bring jail inmates back to the social mainstream,” West Bengal Inspector General (Prison) B.D Sharma, who also attended the workshop, told IANS.

De Bono’s tool - the Six Thinking Hat (STH) - teaches parallel thinking as an alternative to argument. The parallel thinking method helps people to effectively analyse issues, generate new ideas, and make decisions during critical junctures. The STH method helps put opinions aside so that people can focus on a way forward, without argument.

Former Indian cricket coach Greg Chappell had employed the STH method to enhance the performance of the team. Besides, the Australian rugby, football and cricket teams have also benefited from his lessons.

Jail authorities say training officials in de Bono’s lateral thinking methods would help in improving the way they treat prison inmates.

“Despite having a progressive Correctional Services Act in the state, we didn’t have adequate training on how to treat our prisoners. The training could be a great creative tool for us to reform prisoners into good citizens,” Sharma said.

He added: “First we are introducing this training programme for the senior officials, but we will implement it amongst the junior staff later. It will help us see things from a different perspective.”

According to NSHM officials, the training would help officials of the correctional department develop self-esteem, objective thinking qualities and enhance their ability to handle tough tasks innovatively.

“People behave negatively when they have low self-esteem. Their actions are self-defeating and they act negatively. If the quality of thinking is improved and objective thinking is put in, we can make full use of available intelligence and experience,” said Krishnendu Sarkar, a professor at NSHM.

“We have seen a great response from the police officials and all of them were very enthusiastic about the training. It would really help them to reform the typical derelict system in jail service,” he said.

As part of prison reforms, the police have earlier introduced innovative programmes for jail inmates like cultural therapy, literacy drives and soul well-being workshops.

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