Lateral Thinking: breaking the mold

What is Lateral Thinking?

From Wikipedia, we find the definition: “… a way of solving logical problems that involves a particular approach, that is the observation of the problem from different angles …”.

So, what does that mean?

We usually face the problems that arise in front of us having already well in mind those who are the elements and actors in the field with their possible dynamics, therefore reasoning in finding a single solution to everything. Lateral thinking allows us to go a step further and use the elements we already have but completely changing our perception of them.

Lateral thinking concerns the perception linked to our thought process; our brains are not “programmed” to always be creative. It is designed to understand how to do things and how to think of them in this way, once the answer has been set, it initiates automatisms in our subconscious that arise in the face of the different situations we face.

This way of thinking therefore helps to get out of the usual mechanisms of reasoning, to overcome the automatic patterns of our brain and thus allow us to be creative.

To give also a historical approach, the concept of lateral thinking was invented by Dr. Edward De Bono in 1967, a Maltese psychologist who is today recognized as the father of this approach and thinking and who has written several books on the subject, including Six Thinking Hats, dedicated to learning to think outside the box.

How does lateral thinking work?

This approach therefore allows us to unhinge a stagnant mental mechanism that does not allow us to leave the logic and beliefs we have created for ourselves.

Finding solutions and alternative ways instead becomes the push, the fuel that allows us to grow and above all to rediscover creativity which plays a key role in our life and which is also important for our well-being.

However, there must not be a contrast between vertical thinking (that is, logical) and lateral thinking. Instead, there must be a collaboration between the two in the direction in which vertical thinking provides the paths, elements and possibilities already explored to lateral thinking, so that it can restart from the pre-existing material and find alternative answers, not yet known to our brain.

Lateral Thinking - Thinking out of the box

How to train lateral thinking?

Having established that this, which we could call thinking strategy, allows us to find alternative ways, useful for personal and professional growth, we try to understand the methods and techniques to train it, but above all to develop it.

First of all, let’s start by considering and using arguments and methods that we usually don’t “use”, very often because those automatisms that are triggered make us a bit lazy:

  1. Reverse perspective : perhaps the most banal method, that is to look at the problem we are facing from a new perspective. So try to reject the solution that we would automatically adopt and evaluate alternatives, even if they do not come to mind immediately. Therefore, trying to think the opposite could inadvertently open up new scenarios, even important for one’s growth.
  2. Subdivision: If the problem is bigger than you thought, try breaking it down into several elements. The vision of each single side that makes up the problem helps us to have a different approach and evaluate other hypotheses that we had never considered.
  3. Analogies : finding juxtapositions and comparison with other problems and solutions, it can help to train the ability to think outside the box and the usual circuit.

What do these methods have in common? The ability to have a free mind and open to the new.

Above all, give yourself permission to make mistakes. In fact, only by making a mistake do you find new unexpected paths.