Our brain tends to look for logical solutions to our problems. It relies on what is regular, through the usual neural pathways : this would be a vertical thinking. Edward de Bono, one of the foremost experts in the fields of creativity, published in 1976 «The Use of Lateral Thinking», a book explaining an unusual way of thinking.
Lateral Thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. (Wikipedia)
Lateral Thinking allows us to find new solutions to any experience or challenge from multiple perspectives, and in order to develop it, we can follow different paths : 1/check assumptions, 2/formulate appropriate questions, asking from the most general to the most specific, 3/seeing things from many perspectives and 4/apply logic.
Critical Thinking Vs Lateral Thinking
Critical Thinking is primarily concerned with judging the true value of statements and seeking errors, while the essence of Lateral Thinking is that at any moment, everyone is looking and working in the same direction.
The Six Thinking Hats method
The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. Emotions, information, logic, hope, creativity… all crowd in on us. It is is like juggling with too many balls. The Six Thinking Hats method allows every thinker to do one thing at a time and to separate emotion from logic, creativity from information, and so on.
Edward de Bono identifies six directions in which the brain can be challenged. However, none of these directions are completely natural ways of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking. Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color:
The White Hat – Facts and Figures
The Red Hat – Emotions and Feelings
The Black Hat – Cautius and Careful
The Yellow Hat – Optimistic and Positive
The Green Hat – Creative Thinking
The Blue Hat – Management and Control
Coloured hats are used as metaphors for each direction. Switching to a direction is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat. Sequences always begin and end with a blue hat. The first one indicates what we are thinking about and the final one indicates what we have achieved and what are the next steps.
One of the most immediate benefits of that method lies in the neutralization of some people’s egos: those who usually like to argue to demonstrate their ability to be right, whatever the issue. When using the hats, these will probably still feel the need to impress the crowd, but at least the hats will help to channel their ideas in a more constructive way.
Put into practice, in a meeting for example, each participant has to wear the same coloured hat one at a time. They evaluate the outcomes of that thinking and what they should do next. And then they put on another coloured hat, and so on. That is lateral thinking! Thinking in the same direction and making fullest use of everyone’s intelligence, knowledge and experience.