Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Thinking About Thinking: Lateral Thinking

June 5, 2010

You’ve probably heard of critical thinking. Basically, it’s a set of techniques that you can use in order to decipher facts, investigate ideas, and so on. Critical thinking makes you better, as it were, at thinking. If thinking was swimming, critical thinking would be the ability to swim down and hold your breath.

But that’s not all thinking is. Lots of people write a lot of stuff about critical thinking, so I’ll not touch much on it at the moment. For now, I want to focus on lateral thinking. As you might be able to tell from their respective wikipedia articles, critical thinking gets way more attention than lateral thinking does – lateral thinking doesn’t get much at all in comparison, despite it being if anything more important – if thinking were swimming, lateral thinking would be the kind of swimming you’d do to actually go places.

A lot of that’s probably because there’s no clear method to teach lateral thinking – thoughts about it tend to go along the lines of, “How the heck does one teach creativity!” and giving up. When I did it, I instead started with, “So, how does my lateral thinking works, and why can’t I just try telling people to do that?”

So I figure, well, first I pick stuff up. Stories, ideas, riddles, that sort of thing. Most of my wit comes from somewhere else and then gets changed in my mind just enough to be useful for my purposes. I don’t think about how I do it – I just think about the things I do it with. Once I think about them long enough my brain just applies them automatically to other things. I suspect that if you have something in your mind, and then get another thing put in your mind, then your mind will automatically explore putting those two together.

So it’s like putting together lego blocks – you want a good supply of different ones so that you’ll always have something for the need. That requires seeing a lot of stuff and understanding it.

Now, just seeing something doesn’t put it in my lego idea bin. I need to understand something to do that, and to do that I need to put that thing into my own words. This links up the new idea with ideas already in my mind. So the kind of thing where someone says, “So it’s like so-and-so but different ’cause of someotherthing”? That’s really important.

Next step, lowering one’s inhibitions. A lot of lateral thinking is just silly-sounding (ninja zombies: more or less effective than normal ninjas?), so if you get comfortable with saying silly things, you eventually get comfortable with thinking silly things – which ultimately helps you to think creatively when you start out with something silly but then it turns out to not be silly at all.

That’s all I’ve got at the moment. Might think more about it later.