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- By Lise Eliot, Ph.D


Lateral Thinking - Simple Techniques and Methods to Learn the Art

By Andrew Loh

de Bono suggests a number of techniques to fine tuning the art of lateral thinking. His techniques are simple and straight forward and one can extend them to numerous situations and scenarios that are challenging in nature. Here are three simple techniques to start learning lateral thinking:

Applying the idea of alternatives

Children should learn how to look at different options, choices and alternatives that usually are hidden away from their mind. If they learn how to look at them, they can easily find best solutions to most difficult problems. Conventional wisdom says that at least one of the alternatives found and traced by children would lead to the most appropriate solution. Alternative found are unorthodox and unusual and they might even look very silly at first. However, the answers found would be much more effective and result oriented than the one found by using an orthodox vertical thinking method.

Applying focus and concentration

Applying focus and concentration is perhaps the most important step in lateral thinking because finding the most relevant solution needs immense effort and dedication. With this step, children will not only learn how to think in a lateral way but also master the technique of focusing and concentrating in a calibrated manner. Focusing should be taught in such a way that all the sides of a given problems are taken into consideration one by one and in a queue.

Problem should be treated as an immediate challenge

Children treat every problem as a viable challenge and a great opportunity to face the truth. The solution is the truth and truth could be found out only tackling it in a calculated manner. Challenges bring the best out of the children and they can cajole them to think in an effective manner. Challenges also offer an opportunity for children to refresh their minds into a fast forward mode that sets the pace for finding out solutions in a rapid manner.

Here are some simple examples with possible solutions:

Example #1

A basket contains 10 eggs. Ten people take one egg each from the basket. However, one egg is still left inside the basket! How is it possible?

Solution: Let the child think and concentrate to find different alternatives. The first one is that all the eggs inside the basket were taken by 10 people at the rate of one per each person. However, the problem is diverted now and it refers to the remaining egg inside the basket even after ten people taking all the eggs. The most obvious point of interest here is the basket that held the eggs inside. The key words are “one egg is left in the basket.” It means that the last egg was still in the basket and the most obvious solution to the problem is that the tenth person took the egg along with the basket.

Example #2

John wins the race bit he never gets the prized trophy! Why is that so?

Solution: Assume that there three important keywords in the problem - “John”, “wins the race” and “never gets the prized trophy.” It means that the trophy relates something about race that could be horse race. There are only two entities in a horse race - a running horse with the rider and the owner who owns the horse. In horse racing, only the horse owner gets the prize while the rider gets the kudos. The most obvious answer to this question is that John is a horse and just because he is so, he does not get the prize but love and affection from the owner and the jockey.

Example #3

The University of Kent provides a classic lateral thinking question to its readers. Here is the question (modified) - A family builds a rectangular shaped house where each side faces the south. One day, the young child of the family sees a bear. So what was the color of that bear?

Solution: It is obviously white because people can find houses facing southern angle. It means that the house is situated in North Pole region. Here, the answer is found by using two important keywords - “south facing house” and “bear”. By falling back on possible clues like south facing house, bear and color of the bear, one can easily decipher the meaning of the problem as related to the geographical location of the house. Once the reader locates the region (North Pole).

Lateral thinking is the new and equipped technique. With this thinking, children may easily get ready to face challenges of the new world order, where the best comes out with the most practical and immediate solutions.

Featured Resource

Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step
By Dr. Edward de Bono

The first practical explanation of how creativity works, this results-oriented bestseller trains listeners to move beyond a "vertical" mode of thought to tap the potential of lateral thinking. Edward de Bono has had faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, London, Cambridge and Harvard. He is widely regarded as the leading authority in the direct teaching of thinking as a skill.

Dr. Edward de Bono is regarded as the leading international authority in the field of conceptual thinking and also the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. He originated the concept of "lateral thinking," which is now officially recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary-and which contributed to the success of the 1984 Olympic Games.


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