Thinking Out of The Box
Updated: Jan 10
Lateral thinking is a manner of solving problems using an indirect and creative approach via reasoning that is not immediately obvious. It involves ideas that may not be obtainable using only traditional step-by-step logic. It is the way of thinking about the solution from different angle other than traditional or logical ways.
The term was promulgated in 1967 by Edward de Bono. He cites the Judgment of Solomon as an example, where King Solomon resolves a dispute over the parentage of a child by calling for the child to be cut in half, and making his judgment according to the reactions that this order receives. Edward de Bono also links lateral thinking with humour, arguing there's a switch-over from a familiar pattern to a new, unexpected one. It is this moment of surprise, generating laughter and new insight, which facilitates the ability to see a different thought pattern which initially was not obvious. According to de Bono, lateral thinking deliberately distances itself from the standard perception of creativity as "vertical" logic, the classic method for problem solving.
The thinker chooses an object at random, or a noun from a dictionary and associates it with the area they are thinking about. De Bono exemplifies this through the randomly-chosen word, "nose", being applied to an office photocopier, leading to the idea that the copier could produce a lavender smell when it was low on paper.
Lateral thinking will often produce solutions whereby the problem appears as "obvious" in hindsight. That lateral thinking will often lead to problems that you never knew you had, or it will solve simple problems that have a huge potential. For example, if a production line produced 1000 books per hour, lateral thinking may suggest that a drop in output to 800 would lead to higher quality, and more motivated workers. Students have shown lateral thinking in their application of a variety of individual, unique concepts in order to solve complex problems.
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