It is impossible to talk about Lateral Thinking without honouring the man who identified the process, Edward de Bono. Edward de Bono describes lateral thinking as a process of creativity.
As a problem solving tool, lateral thinking is the process of looking at subject matter or problems from different perspectives. Changing the point of reference from where you look exposes new information that can change everything. Innovation occurs when many view points, regardless of merit, are considered. The abundance of ideas, no matter how silly or stupid, can lead to the one break through discovery that is genius!
Lateral Thinking exposes aspects of a subject or problem that may be hidden from logical analysis. But once a great idea is thought of, a logical mind will run with it!
Lateral thinking inspires while logical thinking implements, they work hand in hand.
We have countless ways to practice logical thinking, mathematics is one of them. But we have very few ways to develop and practice lateral thinking. Which is the process of creativity.
The Hula hoop and Frisbee are two very simple toys that made millions of dollars. Both existed prior to taking the world by storm, the Frisbee a pie plate and the Hula hoop an exercise device. Someone looked at them from a different perspective and created multi-million dollar toy frenzy.
I am sure you are familiar with the saying, “there are two sides to every story”. Lateral thinking exposes other sides.
Most new ideas, once thought of, seem so obvious it boggles the mind as to why they were so hard to see in the first place.
Take steam for example, it’s been around since long before man, millions of years, yet it has only been recently, (relatively speaking) that someone came up with the idea of harnessing it’s tremendous power. This “idea” revolutionized the world. If you look into the history of just about everything mankind has accomplished you will find lateral thinking sparked the idea and logical thinking executed the innovation.
LATERAL THINKING GENERATES NEW PATHWAYS and ORIGINAL IDEAS.
We know that a great many discoveries and inventions have happened by chance and accident. Formal education has ill prepared our mind, when it is called upon, to come up with new ideas, new and better ways to do things.
Educators have not undertaken a serious effort to teach lateral thinking in our schools, colleges and universities with a systematic method to find new ideas. Only a small number of creative people are self taught at using thought provoking techniques. The use of provocative methods for opening up new alleyways to new ideas is the foundation of lateral thinking.
Poets use provocative thinking processes when creating beautiful and unusual verses. Painters and sculptors are forever breaking away from the established logical patterns of thought to stimulate new insights. Many of history’s most creative individuals have used bizarre ways in an attempt to put themselves in a creative mood and incite new ideas.
From keeping rotten apples in their desk to immersing their feet in ice-cold water, wearing monkish working garb to dressing in magnificent style, creative thinking geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci and Poets like Schiller inspired their minds with random practices.
The importance of chance is now readily acknowledged in science, art and psychology. It may have been a chance observation, a mistake in an experiment, a chance meeting of two people. Chance input from the outside, when it happens, causes a breakout from conventional and established patterns of thought. The source for inspiration has to be “by chance” because we have been programmed to find the solution we seek through the exploration of current well-established ideas we already have.
New ideas cannot suddenly jump out of the usual, predictable, and familiar ideas and concepts. A new idea is new, because it is strange, unfamiliar, and it does not fit existing molds.
The main characteristics of Lateral Thinking and its basic processes are:
A. IMPOSSIBLE IDEAS ARE STEPPING-STONES.
B. DELIBERATE USE OF RANDOM OR CHANCE EXTERNAL STIMULUS
C. CHALLENGING PRESENTLY ACCEPTED IDEAS
If you want to develop your lateral thinking skills, grab a complimentary PDF copy of my 8 Page Lateral Thinking Mini-Course here.