When You Want Fresh Ideas, Think Laterally

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a creative tip, so today’s post is all about lateral thinking.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper?” There are several variations of this line that all mean essentially the same thing: to get new ideas, you have to look in new (and sometimes illogical) directions.

It might feel comfortable to use the same solutions to a problem (which is considered vertical thinking, btw) but that doesn’t always lead you to good answers or ideas.

When we talk to new people, read interesting magazines, listen to different music, and take new routes, we allow for inspiring ideas and new perspectives to soak in.

All of that is good material for solving problems – especially if you want to try your hand at lateral thinking.

What is lateral thinking?

The father of lateral thinking is Dr. Edward de Bono. Some people claim he is one of the very few people in history to have had a major impact on the way we think. He defines lateral thinking as “disrupting an apparent sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle.”

Yah, yah. What are some examples?

Have you seen the New Uses for Old Things section in each issue of Real Simple? This is lateral thinking!

life saver candle holder

A candy Life Saver can also be the perfect candle holder! {via}

books as shelves

Books can make great shelves. {via}

rubber band

If you have a stripped screw, a rubber band can get you out of a jam. {via}

Another example can be found in a lateral thinking puzzle, like this one…

puzzle1

A: Pour juice from second glass into the fifth. {via}

How to put lateral thinking to use?

For one, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to New Uses for Old Things. There are countless ways to think laterally about organizing and decorating your home, wrapping unexpected gifts, cooking, etc. So lateral thinking has some practical uses.

You can also apply this to your job. I read a great article that gave some solid examples.

  • Lawyers and detectives use lateral thinking when attempting to solve crimes, because the sequence of events is often not as straightforward it first appears. (Um, and having some detective skillz can come in handy as a parent, too.)
  • If you’re in the creative arts, lateral thinking is an especially useful technique for developing ideas.
    • As a writer, this approach could help you come up with unexpected twists and turns in a plot.
    • For comedians, it can help you set up the perfect joke.
    • If you work in communications, like I do, it could help you develop an unexpected headline or approach to selling a product.

Keep up the good work!

You’ve probably been using lateral thinking all along, but didn’t realize what it was called. Now that you do know, be sure to keep up your skills. It’s like anything in life. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Here are a few links to some fun lateral thinking puzzles and resources:

Have fun thinking laterally. How do you think you’ll use this in your daily life? I’d love to know!

-Kate

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