3 Best ways to Improve the Special Skill of Lateral Thinking

Lateral Thinking is solving problems via a direct and plausible strategy, employing the rational thinking, isn't instantly comprehensible and between ideas that might not be accessible using only conventional step-by-step logic. The term was coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. He gives as an example of the verdict of King Solomon, where King Solomon solves a dispute over the parenthood of a child by calling for the child to be cut in half, and making his judgment verdict according to the reactions that this order received by the Claimants. Edward de Bono also connects lateral thinking with wisdom, arguing that there's a change over from a known pattern to an entirely new and unexpected thought. It is in this moment of surprise that generates amusement and new insight which demonstrates an ability to see a different thought sample that initially was not clear.

To have a comprehensive idea of lateral thinking, it is necessary to compare lateral thinking and critical thinking. Critical thinking is mostly related to judging the true value of statements and looking for errors.  People use lateral thinking to move from one known solution to unexpected and new ideas.

Lateral Thinking and Its Significance

What is Lateral Thinking?

In the late 60s and early 70s Edward de Bono, a psychologist, writer and doctor by profession, a scholar of the mechanisms of organization of information and the functioning of the human mind, began to speak of this term in two of his books "The use of Lateral Thinking" and "Lateral Thinking" . Since then he has not stopped investigating, developing and writing a theory about how our mind works in its imaginative aspect and how we can incorporate it and exercise it in our life.

Edward De Bono explains lateral thinking as a diverse way of using the mind in a conventional way, a mental approach in which problem-solving introduces thoughts and creativity to the process. Human creativity is a basic process, it accompanies us in the observation that we form of the certainty that surrounds us.

Sometimes before the difficulties of life, we involuntarily reason from the logic, looking for "what is", giving rise to more rigid reactions than if we had in mind the alternative approaches, looking for "what could be", intensifying the range of options. De Bono invites us not to observe logic and imagination as something special, but as two ways of processing corresponding information, which is added to achieve, as well as a great ability to think (which is what we build based on developing our logical capacity), an effective thought (when we add creativity to the process). In short, with his supposition of lateral thinking, he proposes to actively seek other points of view and find improved ways of doing things.

To observe other solutions and enhance this creative processing of information, one of the most important things is to become aware of transforming the image of the "intellectual" or "clumsy" self-charged with value, by the operational image of "thinker". It is not a question of motivation or of being in good spirits, it is rather an assurance in our creative talent and not repairing where it can take us.

Some Techniques to Practice Lateral Thinking

The Creative Break

The plan seems simple to carry out, it is about knowingly making a break in the flow of everyday thoughts with the purpose of paying attention to something consciously. It is better to do it without having reasons for it because if we start looking for them it will be an acceptable pause and therefore we will move away from the progress of lateral thinking. If you stop while eating, you will better perceive the taste of what you are eating; likewise, if one stops while thinking, he will pay more attention to the point at which he has stopped. Keep in mind that this is a brief and light method, not a challenging task.

Search for Alternatives

We usually choose a choice from among the alternatives that we have and this process we consider as something limited; as when observing the menu of a restaurant, we will choose one of the dishes that are presented to us, but does that mean that I can’t look for alternatives to what is stated? Maybe I can ask the server if he can bring me a half ration if I do not have a lot of hunger, or propose that he makes me a white rice if I feel stomach uneasiness at that moment, although none of these options is reflected in the letter. Normally, the possibilities may seem fixed, but they are really endless, and the occasions in which we can devote effort to generate new alternatives as well. Let's not stay with the first possibility that comes to mind.

Random Expression

If one has been blocked and has run out of ideas throughout the creative process this technique is very interesting. It involves entering a word at random, then generating a word that is related to it, and so recursively, repeating this last step. Each time you change your word you will try to unite it to the problem for which you are looking for a solution, generating possible ideas.

Conclusive Tips to Improve Lateral Thinking

  • Do not focus on the first solution, but try to ask yourself the right questions that will guide us to know the type of solution we are looking for.
  • It is necessary that the ideas at the end of the process be real and specific, not so much at the beginning of the creative procedure.
  • Look for similar and diverse areas, not to find the right concept, but alternative possibilities.
  • Keep in mind that from the most unlikely ideas something useful can arise if we make a "movement" effort. Furthermore, if we overcome the fear of using erroneous premises and allow ourselves to think provocative ideas, we free our minds of fixed and boxed structures.
  • If we propose to practice, we may not find a creative idea whenever we want, but over time, the habit of stopping and striving to find it will pay off. Training and continuous practice are essential.


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