How can leaders explore Lateral Thinking?

Lateral thinking is a habit of answering queries using an indirect and artistic approach via argumentation that is not instantly obvious. It includes ideas that may not be achievable using only conventional step-by-step logic. Brainstorming, in its core, includes the use of what is called lateral thinking to come up with new, out of the box clarifications to queries.

Conventional thinking, or upward thinking, is what we use more than 99 percent of the time. It almost always restricts productive brainstorming. It is the opposite of lateral thinking. When braved with a dilemma all of us have preconceived rational, legitimate ways of coming up with a solution. Using deductive logic we strip away all those things that don’t apply to the query. Step by direct step we go from query to resolution.

We apply conventional rules of right and wrong along the way. Usually, we also inject a massive dose of what is called “common sense”. The solution that we come up with is usually standard, dry, anticipated, societally determined, and often clearly doesn’t work. Because the problems we deal with are usually the consequences of our individual or societal way of thinking using that same thinking to produce a solution often just makes things more dangerous.

So how do we cut out of the box and start thinking laterally? It isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The subconscious inertia created by vertical thinking is remarkably difficult to redirect. However, various brainstorming techniques have been cultivated especially to stimulate lateral thinking.

Fractionation is a brainstorming method that takes a problem and divides it into fractions or segments. The individual parts of the puzzle are then analysed separately. The sections don’t need to make sense or be logical. Segments can also overlap. The idea is to wreck the individual segments laterally rather than take on the complete problem all at once. We want to avoid the mental rut of facing the entire problem all at once. Once the individual segments are considered they can be pieced back together much like a jumble quilt. The resolutions created in this way are often fundamental, attractive, and very effective.

Withdrawal is another way to stimulate lateral thinking while brainstorming. Consider the situation as the reverse or opposite of what it is. If the dilemma suddenly didn’t exist what would things be like? Problems often exist because of the view that we take. So take on the contrary perspective and see what it looks like from there. Often a breakthrough to a resolution will occur by using this brainstorming method. Another lateral thinking method is to use analogies or similarities. An analogy is almost a twin situation that is just different enough to trigger or jar you into a different way of looking at the fundamental problem.

A random stimulus is a brainstorming method used in especially stubborn cases. It is a wordplay game where you throw out random single words from almost any source. The words don’t have to be related to the issue at hand. The idea is to jolt you off your track and urge you to think laterally. None of these methods of brainstorming is simple. But this should not come as a shock since lateral thinking tries to transform the way we imagine.

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