Lateral Thinking boils down to ‘thinking outside the box’ in order to come up with new, unique, creative, and fresh solutions to problems. There are endless examples of it all over the world. The car you drive is an example of lateral thinking, because someone like Henry Ford thought ‘What if rather than just a faster horse, we could build something more? Something beyond?’. The smartphone you use everyday is an example of lateral thinking, because Steve Jobs thought ‘Why do we need to have unwieldy buttons and tiny screens when we should just be able to touch what’s on the screen?’. Even the tea you make is an example of lateral thinking, because someone out there thought ‘Really? Do we have to cut these tea leaves every time? Aren’t there any more efficient solutions out there? What if there was just a bag you could drop in?’
As you learn about lateral thinking, you will surely start to notice and even appreciate more of these stellar examples of it that you see all around you. Naturally, your next question might be:
‘How do I use some of this lateral thinking in my own life?’ It’s very simple! We’ve listed five powerful tips below that will get you thinking laterally in no time at all!
1. Make Mind Maps:
Create ‘mind maps’ to chart out your thinking process and make it flow in a more coherent, structured manner. Mind maps are a tool to assist you in thinking rapidly and logically. They are diagrams that you can make, in the style of flowcharts, where you can chart out all your thoughts and ideas on any specific problem. There are various tools and templates online to help you make mind maps, and it’s quite straightforward!
2. Think in Reverse:
Sometimes, thinking just in one direction might jam up our thinking process and leave us at a seemingly insurmountable roadblock. It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In these cases, you can try to go in a completely opposite direction. Rather than thinking, ‘How do I solve this issue’, think, ‘How do I NOT solve this issue?’. And whatever ideas you come up with, just do the opposite of those. Seems like a minor distinction, but it’s crucial!
3. What Would ‘X’ do?
Think about any of your role models, whether in life or business, and try to envision how they would face this situation. Try to list out what approaches they might take based on what you know about them and their processes and attitude. And then try to see if those approaches are useful for you. Some great role models are Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and so on. Although you can even think of ones closer to home such as a mentor or a family member.
4. Use Randomness:
Do you know one of the most common pieces of tech support advice? ‘Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?’ It sounds so simple, but is in fact so effective! Well, the same thing applies to your brain. But how do you turn your brain off? Sleep is one option – you can definitely sleep on ideas and wake up with a new perspective as your subconscious mind works on it overnight. But another thing you can do is scramble it and force it to ‘reset’ in a way. To do this, you can look at sets of things that are completely random, that could have no possible connection to any problem that you are working on. Paradoxically, this will help your brain refresh and take a step back so you can come up with new perspectives on the problem.
5. Use Puzzles:
Another way to strengthen the brain is to feed it more work. It is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it grows! You can solve crosswords, Sudoku puzzles, and so on to help sharpen your brain which will in turn help you in tackling problems!
So, these were five tips to boost your lateral thinking. We encourage you all to start using them today, because not only are they helpful, they’re fun too!