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What Is Lateral Thinking?

When making choices that will improve both your business and personal life, consider implementing lateral thinking. Click here to learn more!


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Angela Ash

3 years ago | 3 min read

Lateral thinking has emerged as a new interesting topic, so if you haven’t heard of it yet, you’re missing out. If you’re thinking “more intelligent,” think again.

Lateral thinking is indeed a useful approach, but it is usually being perceived through the prism of money.-makers and excessively used in marketing and advertising.

There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you apply your newfound skills in other settings, right?


The Definition of Lateral Thinking

So, what is lateral thinking? More than a fancy name for thinking outside of the box, as it were, there are some tips by experts on how to achieve that useful state of mind.

Basically, applying pretty much any unconventional mental approach to solve a problem falls under lateral thinking.

As you’re probably aware, logical thinking, as the term portends, applies logic to brainstorm solutions. For that very reason, it is often called “vertical thinking.” By contrast, lateral thinking is a sort of sideways thinking (or, more accurately “horizontal thinking”).

The term was coined by psychologist Edward de Bono in his book The Use of Lateral Thinking. He argues that this type of reasoning encompasses a creative approach not immediately obvious to others. It deliberately distances itself from the typical reasoning — hence the term “vertical.”


Using Lateral Thinking for a Better Employee Experience

As mentioned above, lateral thinking is a valued skill in employees. Employee analytics show a variety of results in people capable of brainstorming tasks at hand in unusual ways, to simplify the example.

The skill is useful in more ways than one as the capacity to reason creatively in any given circumstance is an invaluable feature indeed. If you can demonstrate your lateral thinking skills in your workplace or — even better — right during the job interview, chances are, you’ll be able to develop your career in the choice you want it to.

Consider your career goals when practicing lateral thinking (yes, brain cells respond positively to training regardless of the type of reasoning you’re employing). And if you’re a leader, it can also be applied to better employee engagement.


The Connection With Creativity

Lateral thinking is often linked to creativity due to its unique perception. Creativity, as we know, is a skill not everyone can master even with proper training. Since it involves a number of complex neurological factors, lateral thinking may come easier to some people and more difficult to others, but certainly, everyone can learn how to apply some ideas to their daily routine. Consider a creative brief as a starting point and work on your ideas from there.


How to Improve Your Lateral Thinking Skills

Everything considered, improving your lateral thinking may be more or less difficult, depending on your mindset.

Improving these skills can be challenging, as lateral thinking comes more naturally to some people than others. Still, practice makes it better, if not perfect for everyone, so here are some ideas.

  • Test out different approaches in various situations

Since lateral thinking is considered “situational,” it is rather useful to brainstorm creative solutions in all kinds of situations.

  • Practice mind mapping

It’s no rocket science that visuals can help people with pretty much any task. Moreover, they help your brain adjust the thought processes to the given situation, leading to unusual or uncommon answers popping out of nowhere. The more “unusual” solutions there are, the better your lateral thinking becomes

  • Practice reverse thinking

If you make a habit of analyzing the usual actions of people and then work your way backward, you can pinpoint the spots where you get stuck. By going around these blind spots in reverse, you should be able to boost your perspective

  • Use your senses

The main reason why we seem stuck too often is the fact that we rarely use all of our senses all at once. Well, we should. When faced with a task or an issue, speak, listen and take your time comparing approaches.


Crafting a Better Version of You

Everything we do in life should be aimed at one goal alone — making a better version of ourselves. Just think about all the tips psychologists offer to help the lost souls in these hectic times, and how we can all benefit from custom eLearning. This world may not be the best of places for many people, but we’re here nevertheless, so why not make it a bit better? Bit by bit, we can jointly contribute to the next positive trend, so why not make lateral thinking your starting point?

Rather than brainstorming your next task, learn to brainstorm your life! From daily grocery shopping to room design to doing dishes to furthering your career and love life, think sideways! The cup can be half full if you shift your perspective, no matter how desperate a situation may appear at first. Train your brain to make you a happier person and your environment a better place for everyone.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Business2Community.

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Angela Ash

Angela Ash is a writer at heart, focusing on numerous topics related to business, productivity, mental health, travel and more. But, she also loves to edit, is addicted to HARO, and somehow finds time to write poetry and play the piano.


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