Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.
The human brain is a most flexible tool, and if you’re not using it in ways you haven’t thought of before, Lateral Thinking should prove to be an interesting and potentially process-changing concept. Have you ever wondered why a certain smell can bring back a childhood memory? Or why a song will remind you of a certain place and time, even though the lyrics, artist, melody and genre have little to do with that place? That’s because you are equipped with the most powerful and strange computer ever devised: Your mind.
The idea that something mundane and apparently irrelevant can inspire memories and creativity is called Fuzzy Logic, and it’s a major component in the way your brain processes stimuli and can lead to solutions your desktop PC and its software will never come up with.
You can apply Lateral Thinking to any problem solving procedure. Try using some of the following methods.
Random Entry Idea Generating Tool: The thinker chooses an object at random, or a noun from a dictionary, and associates it with the area they are thinking about.
Provocation Idea Generating Tool: The use of any of the provocation techniques—wishful thinking, exaggeration, reversal, escape, distortion, or arising. The thinker creates a list of provocations and then uses the most outlandish ones to move their thinking forward to new ideas.
Movement Techniques: The thinker develops provocation operations by the following methods: extract a principle, focus on the difference, moment to moment, positive aspects, special circumstances.
Challenge Idea Generating Tool: A tool which is designed to ask the question “Why?” in a non-threatening way: why something exists, why it is done the way it is. The result is a very clear understanding of “Why?” which naturally leads to fresh new ideas. The goal is to be able to challenge anything at all, not just items which are problems. For example, one could challenge the handles on coffee cups. The reason for the handle seems to be that the cup is often too hot to hold directly. Perhaps coffee cups could be made with insulated finger grips, or there could be separate coffee-cup holders similar to beer holders.
Concept Fan Idea Generating Tool: Ideas carry out concepts. This tool systematically expands the range and number of concepts in order to end up with a very broad range of ideas to consider.
Disproving: Based on the idea that the majority is always wrong (as suggested by Henrik Ibsen and by John Kenneth Galbraith), take anything that is obvious and generally accepted as “goes without saying”, question it, take an opposite view, and try to convincingly disprove it. This technique is similar to de Bono’s “Black Hat” of Six Thinking Hats, which looks at the ways in which something will not work.