Tag Archives: inappropriate conclusions

Find a new angle – lateral thinking

This is the next post in the Thinking Styles Series

Lateral thinking

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, our thinking styles can often get in the way of moving forward, particularly in messy situations. Our natural instinct is to think about things in a logical and systematic way but often this can trap us into reaching inappropriate conclusions.

Edward De Bono

Lateral Thinking was first proposed by Edward De Bono in 1967 – I came across the idea a few years later. The concept is to come at your problem or situation from different angles, to challenge the [often unstated] assumptions built into your thinking and seek multiple alternative approaches.

There are strong parallels to some of the ideas put forward in Creative Thinking and it would be easy to dismiss this way of thinking as a sub-set of those ideas, but the concepts are stronger than that. I don’t propose to go into details here because the ideas are easily followed up via the author’s websites. Read Dr De Bono’s own explanation here.

It is, however, critical to recognise that logical thinking will sometimes get in the way and sometimes lead us inappropriate conclusions. This example demonstrates the differences between lateral and logical thinking – revealing a strategy for success which would never be found by conventional thinking.

Vaccinate your thinking processes

In his book, Dr De Bono quotes the case of the switch in thinking styles which allowed Edward Jenner to discover the route to vaccination against Smallpox. Whilst others focused on why sufferers got Smallpox, Jenner turned his attention to asking why milkmaids seemed to be immune to the infection. He postulated that the similar but less aggressive disease of Cowpox provided immunity against smallpox

That “simple” switch of focus allowed a means of preventing this horrific disease to be found and as we now know it has been eradicated.

So when you are faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, why not stand to one side, ask some probing questions about what is and what is not and see if there is a new angle to attack your challenge.

Dare to be different

It is also worthwhile to build lateral thinking into your strategy development and marketing because if you adopt a purely logical approach, you are likely to do the same as your competitors!