CEO’s, marketers, business owners today, they all face problems that don’t seem to have a solution. Looking at the state of the world, it’s clear that there’s never been a better time to develop creative problem-solving skills.
Lateral thinking is a useful skill to have, and not only in times of crisis. It’s also a fresh approach to everyday life. In this post, we’ll look into the value of lateral thinking and discuss five practical tips to improve your creative problem-solving skills.
What Is Lateral Thinking And Why Is It Important?
This concept was coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. This award-winning psychologist compares lateral thinking to a game of chess: The game represents a problem. Players using lateral thinking would not try to use chess pieces to solve the problem. Instead, they would change the pieces or use something else.
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This creative approach is the opposite of logical, top-to-bottom, first-this-then-that, or step-by-step thinking. Lateral thinking allows your mind to move freely and to explore alternatives that would not be visible otherwise. You can compare it to a tree branching out into many new directions and not only up and down its trunk.
This concept is essential because it has real-life applications and plays a crucial role in innovation. De Bono’s idea was adopted by many of the world’s leading multinationals and is still taught in corporate training courses. Lateral thinking is an incredibly valuable skill to have, to the point that it underlines many an interview question.
Sometimes, we cannot find a solution to a problem because we use a conventional thinking approach. As they say, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”. Therefore lateral thinking can give us a broader perspective. Going on a tangent can be useful!
According to de Bono, lateral thinking can help correct biases that block or slow down our problem-solving skills. In conventional thinking, we rarely challenge assumptions. And often, we get locked into circular arguments. But lateral thinking allows us to get unstuck and to find a way forward in what would otherwise be a dead end.
So how can you start thinking out-of-the-box?
Five Tips To Improve Lateral Thinking Skills
Lateral thinking may seem counter-intuitive, so commit to frequent practice until your mind gets used to travelling outside of its usual boundaries. Lateral thinking questions are a good starting point to creative problem-solving.
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The following tips can also help you build lateral thinking skills:
- The random entry idea: de Bono says that when problem-solving, we need to be open to input. We usually tend to focus, but in lateral thinking, it is ok to let the mind wander. To do this, you can choose a random word from the dictionary or pick an image and find a way to make them fit into a situation.
- Alteration: By challenging the things we take for granted, our mind moves outside of the box. Picture a situation and try taking elements out of the picture, or alter the order of a story, then see where that takes you. The key question is “what if?”.
- Reverse thinking: Ask yourself “what’s the one thing I should not be doing?” or “what if I stopped doing X?”. Doing the opposite of what conventional wisdom suggests creates the ideal conditions for novel thinking.
- Alter the narrative: It’s often said that humans process everything through six master narratives: Quest, Voyage and Return, Rebirth, Comedy, Tragedy, Overcoming the Monster, and Rags to Riches. Choose a situation or a problem, identify the narrative, and reframe it using a different one.
- Rolestorming: Think about what someone else would do to tackle your problem. This personage could be a successful business person, a sports figure, a competitor, or even a relative. The more “remote” or different from you this person is, the more insights you are likely to find.
Conventional thinking has its place, but it also has limitations. On the other hand, practising lateral thinking can help you find unexpected and creative solutions. Developing this skill is an excellent investment in times of crisis, and can open up new lines of thinking that will take your business further.
To find out how to apply lateral thinking to your corporate strategy, get in touch today with us.