Lateral thinking

Lateral Thinking : A practice much needed today

2008 it was! A year that marked the beginning of my teaching career. So it all started with Basic Design. As a student, I always used to wonder whether Basic Design is any which ways related to architecture? Why do we experiment with so many creative explorations? How can Basic Design help me?…. It was during my teaching tenure that I actually got answers to these questions! Yes, Basic Design is a creative tool that fosters good design practices in architectural design and in general as well. As I started learning Basic Design from various perspectives, I realised that most of the times we focus on or are keen on knowing just the end product of explorations. Any work of art is generally valued on the way it looks, feels or is used. We tend to be judgmental based on the creation but not much on the process of creation.

Be it any kind of design, it’s very unfair to criticise without knowing the story behind it. So what is it really that plays a vital role in the process of creativity? “Thinking” – the most important and constant thing that we humans do all the time. It is our thoughts that inspire our creativity. Other inspirations could be experience, memory, narratives, motivations etc. Any new idea is a byproduct of creative thinking.

When I started reading more on thinking as an important aspect of creativity, I came across many theories and research papers. Honestly, it was this time that I got to know that such theories exist!!

There are so many people researching and innovating creative thinking. One such person, a master I should say, is Dr. Edward de Bono, who has laid down theories and practices of creative thinking. He originated the term lateral thinking and is a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools. I learnt that there are so many types of thinking – Lateral, Vertical, Parallel, Horizontal, Traditional…..

Lateral thinking, as Dr. Bono says, is a skill to be acquired. Its processes provide guidance for thinking out of the box, thinking and creating something that has never been thought of. There are various techniques listed by Dr. Bono which can effectively bring about lateral thinking in everyday life. Right from deciding upon efficient ways of exercising to improving revenue generation of multi-national companies, his practices of creative thinking can be used.

Let’s try to understand the Lateral thinking.

  1. Lateral thinking is a non-linear way of thinking, i.e. seeking solutions in more than one direction and trying to achieve a single solution or multiple solutions that can be either one of these or a combination of many of these approaches.lateral thinking image 2
  2. Lateral thinking always involves an indirect and creative approach. While using lateral thinking as a practice, one should refrain from using the traditional approach of vertical thinking. Sometimes ridiculous ideas also lead to more creative and productive ideas.lateral thinking image 1
  3. Practising immediate, unobvious reasoning is also a very effective tool for lateral thinking. This involves giving random and quick simulations to the brain for logical as well as illogical ideas.lateral thinking image 3
  4. Evolving ideas that may not be logically perfect is an important aspect of understanding the lateral thinking. This way the brain doesn’t limit its imaginations and thus innovative ideas and concepts can be easily generated.
  5. Lateral thinking gives birth to more than one possibility or multiple solutions for the same problem. There can be more than one way of looking at the same problem thereby broadening one’s thinking towards situations.
  6. The lateral thinking, being generative, helps achieve better creative ideas. Unlike traditional thinking where a set pattern is used for thinking, lateral thinking allows or rather encourages one to be more and more generative than selective. Hence, it is a more positive thinking for problem-solving.

So the question now is, how is Lateral thinking used? Well, lateral thinking encourages one to use thinking as a tool to –

  1. Formulate new ideas – New ways of doing things, new ways of looking at things, new ways of organising things, new ways of presenting things, new ideas about ideas…
  2. Problem Solving – Problem is a simple difference between what one has and what one wants, but the most important aspect of this i.e. approach to problem-solving is characterised by lateral thinking tools.
  3. Process perceptual choice – Natural patterning behaviour of the mind to follow ideas is through perceptions and intuitive calculations. Hence this becomes a subjective (generative or risk taking) approach and not selective (fixed and methodical).
  4. Periodic reassessment – Challenging all assumptions – thereby rechecking and reassuring about assumptions made through non-linear thinking. Deliberate and unjustified attempt to look at things in a new way.
  5. Prevent sharp divisions and egocentric assessment – Lateral thinking keeps a tab on counter arrogance and rigidity due to its positive approach towards thinking.

Lawyers and detectives do employ lateral thinking when attempting to solve crimes because the sequence of events is often not as straightforward as it first appears to be. Students use lateral thinking for the creative arts and crafts. Scriptwriters and authors use lateral thinking for coming up with unexpected twists and turns in a plot along with an interesting climax. Lateral thinking is thus a tool used worldwide, knowingly/unknowingly by many individuals for a creative output/product.

” Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.” – Dr. Edward de Bono

Ketaki PatwardhanAbout the author:

Ketaki Patwardhan, Director at Green Hat Studio, has over 10 years of working experience in Design Management and execution. Her interest in teaching has also led her to take many workshops about Design Thinking & Basic design for students as well as professionals.

4 thoughts on “Lateral Thinking : A practice much needed today

  1. I really wished that someone write about understanding the importance of ‘Basic Design’ & the importance of a ‘process’ rather than just the result in an architectural school.So today reading this blog and that too from the auther who has been my much known professor was just overwhelming.It was indeed a very intresting information to know about.It has driven more quest within me to explore more on the topic and beyond.Thank you.

  2. Hello mam,
    I wish to learn more about Lateral thinking, what would be the right source to start with?
    Also i found the blog very useful and interesting.
    Wish to hear more of it

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