Encouraging Lateral Thinking to Problem Solve

Our model of thinking in the Western world is based on linear logic – which is entirely derived from the left side of the brain.

Now don’t get me wrong. Linear thinkers are important — they keep us on track in a methodical, sequential and focused way, which is great for lots of problem solving situations.

Linear thinkers tend to see the world as black and white and are comfortable with a singular answer to a problem.

Lateral thinkers, on the other hand, tap into the right side of the brain – the creative center. They view problems from multiple angles and not in a straight line.

They enjoy taking the journey and the process of discovery.  They are explorers and reject traditional solutions.

One of the greatest advantages of lateral thinking is the ability to generate a broad array of options.

How can you tap into the creativity of lateral thinking to solve problems even if your tendency is to think in a linear fashion?

According to the book “A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World,” the answer is to follow these brainstorming rules:

  • Go for quantity – set a numerical goal of ideas to generate (say… 100). Good ideas emerge when lots of ideas are generated.
  • Encourage wild ideas – anything goes – crazy ideas often serve as the seed for a great idea.
  • Be visual – draw pictures or use mind map. Include colors, images and symbols to help you visualize.
  • Defer judgement – get the ideas out there first and evaluate them later.
  • Don’t step on each other’s ideas – listen, be considerate and build on ideas.

And I have another suggestion to add. If your group is large enough, consider using an ‘audience response system.’ Participants will be able to anonymously generate ideas that are displayed for all to see. When you have reached your goal of 100, you can begin to evaluate them and no one’s feelings will get hurt.


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