Lateral thinking is a concept developed by Edward de Bono. It involves a way of thinking that does not adhere to the typical step-by-step thinking following a logical order. Our brains are conditioned to think in a straight-forward manner. It takes deliberate effort to do some kind of lateral thinking to arrive at a conclusion or solve a problem. Traditional thinking is more vertical, where each thought is connected or related to the next one following some logic. Edward de Bono argues that thinking happens in 2 stages. The first stage is a perceiving stage, where the brain sets the environment, the constraints to think under. And the second stage, where the brain uses the environment to arrive at a conclusion.
He has also described 4 ways to practice deliberate lateral thinking:
- Awareness : First step is to be cognizant of how the brain works and how it thinks. You'll have to do some kind of meta-thinking and figure out what were the thoughts that you thought and what patterns and constraints were assumed.
- Random Stimulation : We have a tendency to avoid distractions when trying to think. One way to trigger lateral thinking is to let these stimuli be acknowledged in the thinking process.
- Alternatives : Even after solving a problem or if the solution is obvious, it is still useful to keep it aside and think about other ways it can be solved.
- Alteration : This technique involves reversing different elements of the problem, questioning what's taken for granted. One easy way to do this is to ask questions starting with "What if..?".