Lateral thinking is a way of analysing problems and looking for alternative solutions through a more indirect and creative approach rather than using step-by-step logic.
Lateral thinking is a skill for seeing solutions that lie outside the box that are maybe not as obvious as those that spring first to mind, for these reasons lateral thinking can be used in business and other critical thinking processes where a range of alternative ideas need to be sought.
It was once thought that only some people could do it yet there is a method to lateral thinking that can be taught and in learning the method and putting it into practice you will hopefully become more creative.
The reason why people lose their ability to ‘think laterally’ is because people get stuck in the specifics, they get caught in the deductive process rather than being more inductive to other ideas and opportunity.
Lateral thinking method.
Too many times in business meetings people zero in on the details, at these times to think laterally we need to move ourself away from the details and look at the bigger picture and towards the larger concepts, because it is here when we generalise that we can open ourselves up to new possibility. Ask yourself;
What is this and example of ?
This will ‘chunk up’ your thinking and give you a more general perspective, this stage can be repeated until you feel that you are as far away and abstract as you need from the original example, then you need to ask yourself;
What is another example of this ?
This will ‘chunk down’ your thinking and make you more specific again.
So an example of this process would be starting with a shoe, we can then ask what this is an example of to get the answer footwear, we then ask ourselves what is another example of footwear to get the answer boot.
Lateral thinking is a process, it doesn’t guarantee that you will come up with ground breaking ideas yet the process can be used very effectively to break your current thinking pattern that may be stuck on the detail. Lateral thinking helps you broaden your mind and take you away from the obvious and specific, it allows you to be more abstract in your thinking and it will hopefully give you a far better range of answers.