LATERAL THINKING METHOD
Unlike traditional, vertical, logical thinking, we attempt to challenge and undermine the common sense, to come to completely new solutions


Some people enjoy argumentation, because they can demonstrate how very smart they are. They win their war of words and destroy their opponent. Obviously this is not very creative. These same people often say that they prefer to leave creativity to others. They repeat phrases you've certainly heard before:

Only artists are creative. This is completely untrue – what about engineers, scientists, economists, businessmen ... Creativity is not only about changing perceptions, concepts and ideas. Artists aren't even the most creative, only the greatest among them really changed anything, most of them are only stylists.

Ideas just happen. So it's best to wait, and they will come. We can wait, however, there won't be very many. Or we can make an effort and search for them consciously. And also find them this way.

Creativity depends on talent. This is a very common and traditional opinion, and the most common excuse of people. Some people really are naturally more curious, others have a more active imagination and yet others try to change things. However, for creativity all one needs is motivation and later discipline in using the tools of Lateral thinking.

Only rebels are creative. Rebels are creative because they wish to be different. Now that Edward de Bono has explained how self-organizing information systems (e.g. our consciousness) form patterns and how we can break out of these routines, anybody can be creative. It all depends on a desire for new ideas – if rebels have no new ideas and conformists do, then conformists can be even more creative.

It's enough to be liberated. Another common opinion is that our hands are tied and that we therefore cannot be creative. We encourage people to liberate themselves, to be playful and childish, which is what brain storming techniques most often achieve. But if you don't know how to play the violin, you won't play it even if your hands are untied. What you need is mastery of proper technique.

Tools and techniques are limiting. This statement develops from the previous. People think they just have to be playful and ideas will come on their own. Systematic techniques and methods feel too narrow and limiting. However, tools actually increase our abilities. Just like a key increases our ability to leave a locked room.

Our brains are designed to be uncreative and to function according to patterns, experiences and routines. Imagine you wake up in the morning and have to get dressed. You have 11 pieces of clothing. In how many ways can you dress? Eleven possibilities for the first piece, ten for the second, nine for the third and so forth. You have 13,916,800 – that's nearly fourteen million – ways of getting dressed if you choose among 11 pieces of clothing. If you spent your entire waking life trying on every variant for one minute you would need 76 years of your life. If your brain worked in that way, it would be useless. We have to be thankful that they developed to be uncreative. Our reason organises every piece of incoming information into a routine pattern. That's why you dress in the morning, thinking to yourself, »This is how I usually dress,« and hurry off to work.

Thinking is a skill that we can develop. Unlike common convictions, it is not linked to intelligence. The connection between intelligence and thinking is similar to that between car and driver. The horsepower of a vehicle is its potential, just like intelligence is the potential of the human mind. However, how the car will behave on a journey depends not just on the car, but mostly on the driver. Thinking is our skill, which utilizes the potential of our intelligence.

Most of us aren't even aware that we need new ideas, though we're thankful when they appear. We don't try to generate new ideas, because we assume that they can't appear if we make an effort. Although new ideas are always useful, there come moments when we become aware of our need for new ideas. Jobs also exist which demand a constant influx of new ideas (research, design, architecture, engineering, advertising, etc.).

Generating new ideas on purpose is always difficult. Vertical thinking doesn't help us too much, or we would find it easier to get to new ideas. Even more, we would only need a program for mixing them. In reality, we are usually reduced to waiting for coincidence, inspiration or praying for a creative idea. Lateral thinking is a more purposeful way of generating new ideas.

However, even if our purpose is not generating new ideas, problems exist all around us. We don't have much choice except making an effort and solving them. The problem may not be presented formally and may not require paper and pencil to solve. A problem is simply a disparity between what we have and what we want. Perhaps it is a question of avoiding something, gaining something, removing something or learning something, that will get us what we want.

Three types of problems exist:

  1. The first kind requires more information or better techniques for managing information to solve.
  2. The second kind requires no new information to solve; however, it requires a change in already available information: an internal rearrangement of patterns in our brains.
  3. The third kind of problem is a problem that isn't a problem. The stability of a current solution stops us reaching a better solution. We can't find a point on which to focus our efforts, to reach a better arrangement, because we are not even aware that better possibilities exist. The problem is recognising that we have a problem – realising that we can make things better. We can call this realisation the problem.
The first kind of problems can be solved by vertical thinking. The second and third kind demand lateral thinking for their solution. Lateral thinking means thinking sideways, off the beaten path.
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