Lateral Thinking – The Key to New Possibilities
24th January 2023

Lateral Thinking – The Key to New Possibilities

The ability to approach a problem or challenge from different angles is a great skill to have.  It essentially involves ‘outside the box’ thinking or better ‘throwing the box away’ to arrive at unconventional solutions. 

This problem-solving approach known as lateral thinking allows your mind to think freely and explore alternatives that aren’t apparently visible. It’s almost like a tree branching out in multiple directions, not necessarily up its trunk. This approach, the exact opposite of logical/vertical /step-by-step thinking, breaks through mental blocks to find multiple ways to solve problems and explore never imagined possibilities for idea generation.

This skill, first coined by psychologist Edward De Bono in 1967, is today often required in the marketing, advertising, journalism, film direction or media sector. While some people are naturally gifted lateral thinkers, there are certain things you can do to improve your thinking prowess.

Ignite your curiosityCuriosity is the primary driver of innovation and creativity. By being curious you constantly expand your knowledge base, explore the inner workings of a topic and understand how everything fits together. Without curiosity, learners have no incentive to think laterally and approach problems from different angles.

Read more and solve puzzlesReading books, articles, and other useful materials broadens your thinking and knowledge. Even solving puzzles and playing mind games that require you to think strategically can be a fun way to improve your lateral thinking skills.

Mind mappingMind maps are a technique for exploring all possibilities and finding interconnecting links between elements. You function like a detective solving a case starting with the problem in the center and branching out to sub-topics. As a visual aid it helps you to organize information, visualize relationships among elements and find answers unexpectedly.

Reverse thinkingOriginality is the ability to come up with ideas never thought of before. In this method you analyze what everyone will normally do, then do the opposite. For example- you describe what the solution to a problem ideally must be and then you begin working backwards to reach the starting point.

Use collaborationCollaboration is a process where a group of people collectively problem-solve and offer their point-of-view. In this brainstorming session as many ideas as possible are generated, even if they’re not good. The idea is to get the group thinking using different hats to come up with unconventional ideas.

Be flexibleFlexibility requires you to be open-minded and willing to tread the new. When you’re flexible, you’re open to new ideas and willing to try something new. This can help you break free from monotony and find novel solutions to problems.

Exploit sensesTypically, you use visual senses to work things out but making use of our other senses – hearing, smell, touch and taste – can sometimes have useful results. For example, when faced with a problem, speak your thoughts aloud and record them. When you listen attentively you may find something you’ve missed.

Take a breakSometimes stepping away from a problem and returning to it later can bring fresh perspectives to problem-solving. Even yoga and meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and in the process improve your thinking.

By experimenting with these tips in your daily life you’ll certainly solve problems or approach issues innovatively. The way you arrive at cool solutions will make you stand out from the crowd too.

Alvina Clara, Content Writer, emQube