What's your best lateral thinking question

Lateral thinker: advantages, 7 tips + 3 methods

Unfortunately, lateral thinkers often have a hard time. They are seen as troublemakers, outsiders, deviants. Anyone who does not follow the same path of thought as everyone else will encounter incomprehension or rejection. It's a shame, because lateral thinkers are extraordinary and particularly important types of thinkers - and necessary for progress. They bring a breath of fresh air, bring about innovations and changes on paths that others do not see. What makes a lateral thinker, what advantages they bring and tips with which you can become a lateral thinker yourself ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What makes a lateral thinker?

The term lateral thinker is used derogatory or almost insulting. “This is a typical lateral thinker…” However, lateral thinking in itself has nothing negative at all and is also not judgmental. Rather, lateral thinkers are people who pursue a different approach that deviates from classic, conventional ways. You don't take the familiar, straight route, but think outside the box and proceed in an unconventional manner.

Unconventional thinkers embark on intellectual paths that are completely new territory and see problems or issues from a completely new perspective. Since others cannot always understand these approaches, they are belittled from the outside. What does not correspond to the majority thinking is criticized or dismissed as nonsense. If you like to think outside the box, you will have to face some headwinds. Otherwise the extraordinary ideas fizzle out and give way to conformity.

The power of lateral thinkers

In an experiment, the psychologist Solomon Asch had test subjects determine the length of three rods. One simple thing: the longest stick could be identified with the naked eye. The group, however, was manipulated: except for one participant, all of them were informed and named the wrong, short stick. Most of the real subjects then followed the majority decision and peer pressure even though they knew it was wrong. So far not surprising.

However, this does not mean that minorities are powerless. When the experiment was continued, only two participants were privy to it. These banded together and argued vehemently for the shorter staff. So the duo was actually able to convince others. The insight behind it: Few lateral thinkers can compensate for being outnumbered. The decisive factor for the power of the minorities was that they spoke with one voice throughout and that this voice was particularly powerful. Or to put it another way: The majority must have the impression that the lateral thinker is extremely sure of his cause. Then she is quite ready to question herself.

Advantages: lateral thinking pays off

Simply wiping the ideas of a lateral thinker off the table is a big mistake anyway. Much more applies: Every team needs an extraordinary thinker - precisely because he sees things differently than the average. There are several advantages and good reasons in favor of lateral thinkers:

  • Lateral thinkers provide completely new approaches
    If everyone thinks the same, they all come up with the same solutions. There is a lack of really creative and innovative ideas. The ability to think outside the box provides perspectives and possibilities that all those who think alike would never come to mind. In this way, you provide valuable alternatives and options with which developments can be driven forward.
  • Lateral thinkers question everything
    Since lateral thinkers view many things differently, they reflect on and question existing structures, other ideas or approaches. This is the contrast to the otherwise unanimous approval. Perhaps not always pleasant, but extremely important, as a group full of yes-sayers and like-minded people waves a lot through, although it should be critically questioned.
  • Lateral thinkers inspire those around them
    Another positive effect: lateral thinkers can serve as role models if their input is handled correctly. If a boss in the workplace shows that he takes the objections and suggestions of a lateral thinker seriously, other colleagues also dare to come up with bold and unusual ideas. In this way, an environment with greater freedom of thought can be created.

A parable about lateral thinking

A woman goes into a New York bank. She says she wants to go to Europe for a week tomorrow and that she urgently needs a $ 5,000 loan. “Well,” says the bank manager, “we'll be happy to do that, but what security do you offer us for it?” The blonde then points to a brand new Rolls-Royce that is parked outside on the street and has the papers and keys with her. “Of course that's okay,” says the bank manager. After all, the value of the Rolls-Royce far exceeds the credit line. A bank employee takes the car keys and parks the Rolls-Royce in the bank's underground car park. Then the woman gets the money and goes away.

After a week she returns in a good mood and visibly refreshed. She first hands the bank manager the $ 5,000 in cash and finally the interest of around $ 15.

“You know,” says the manager, “we are really pleased that this deal went off so well. But what really bothered us last week: What did you need $ 5,000 for? We did a little bit of research about you and found out that you are a multimillionaire and you don't have to borrow the money at all. "

“That's right,” says the woman. “But you know, I did some research too. And there is nowhere else in New York where you can safely park your car for $ 15 for a week. "

Types: Convergent versus divergent thinkers

There are many different types of thinkers:

The last type - the status quo thinker - may need some explanation. These guys are perhaps less known by the name, more like pigeonhole thinkers. And they make an amazingly large group. Often these are very thorough and conscientious colleagues. Good observer. Strong opinion analysts. Experienced lover of logic. That makes them very influential, but also dangerous. Status quo thinkers carefully and conscientiously cultivate their own prejudices, clichés and thought drawers> into which they force others or they gossip until they fit in there.

In addition to the different types of thinkers, the way people think can also be divided into other categories: A distinction is made between the so-called convergent thinkers and the divergent thinkers.

Convergent thinkers

Most people are. It is typical of these types of thinkers that they only see a limited number of options for their decisions. Often there are only two: either - or. Either we do it that way - or we don't do it at all. Either I get the job - or I'm a loser. Either victory - or defeat. They are yes-or-no thinkers who like to categorically exclude everything else.

Divergent thinkers

Not that divergent thinkers always have more options, but they always look for them and usually they find them. There are always alternatives for them. This can even mean that for them the shortest connection between two points is the crooked one. You are open to alternatives, unimagined solutions and compromises.

Even the definition shows that it doesn't sound too flattering to be a convergent thinker. It sounds more like a narrow forehead with a penchant for black and white painting. Lateral thinkers and divergent thinkers, on the other hand, manage to look beyond apparently limited alternatives. Suddenly, completely new possibilities arise. Where others are restricted, lateral thinkers are free to choose.

Tips: How to become a lateral thinker

Some people are born lateral thinkers, they always think outside the box, their ideas don't fit into the typical drawers and their approaches always go against the current. Others find it extremely difficult. If you belong to the second group, we have a few tips that can make you a lateral thinker:

  • Surround yourself with other people
    "Show me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are." There is a lot of truth in this bon mot, because the people we surround ourselves with influence our behavior and our ways of thinking. By seeking contact with people who are different from you, you challenge yourself and discover new perspectives. In the job in particular, the opportunities are very large, as the team brings together a wide variety of characters, ways of working and views.
  • Broaden your horizons
    When thinking outside the box, you create connections between many areas. For this it is helpful if you think outside the box and broaden your own horizons. A greater knowledge of different topics makes unusual solutions possible. This is how you combine individual points to create creative connections and special ideas.
  • Allow friction
    Lateral thinkers enjoy contradictions. They do not see this as an attack on their worldview, but as an intellectual challenge. With this mentality, you are always open to new ideas. Don't give in to a factual discussion and agree to everything. Sometimes you consciously take the opposite position in order to test different ideas and to find arguments for both sides.
  • Stand against convention
    Why should everything always run according to the scheme? Lateral thinkers are masters of breaking rules intelligently. You put the tried and tested to the test and do not shy away from trying new methods. If someone says "We have always done it this way ...", you should take that as an occasion and answer, as a lateral thinker, "And that's exactly why we should consider whether it really makes sense."
  • Use frustration as an incentive
    Dissatisfaction can become the driving force behind change. However, it is not enough to just nag. The frustration should be used to actively work on solutions. Are you frustrated with a situation, decision or solution and there seems to be no alternative? Then think outside the box and find a previously unknown option.
  • Develop an eye for detail
    Opportunities and solutions are sometimes right under your nose. It is important to recognize these and develop them further. Also pay attention to details, do not just accept seemingly trifles, but include them in your considerations.
  • Keep your distance
    Operational blindness prevents opportunities and potential from being recognized. Only those who can maintain a certain distance can take on a different perspective. Try to look at situations from a distance, as if you were an outside observer. This technique can make lateral thinking easier, especially at the beginning.

In addition to these tips, various methods can also help you think outside the box. Three examples are:

Headstand method

With the headstand method, you turn an existing question around and force other trains of thought. Instead of asking: "How do we increase sales?", Start with the question "How do we make a loss in any case?" Then collect as many ideas and ideas as possible - which in the end are reversed into the opposite. In this way, you will come across suggested solutions that would otherwise have remained hidden.

Provocation method

Related to this is Edward de Bono's provocation method. In order to generate ideas, certain fixed findings are reversed, exaggerated or even canceled. For example, you could assume that there is an unlimited budget available for implementation - and think further from this assumption.

Diaboli advocate

The idea is simple: you are always against it. They provide counter-arguments, question every suggestion, express constructive criticism and stimulate a discussion. This creates numerous new suggestions and arguments instead of choosing the first option.

Requirements for lateral thinking

In addition to these tips and methods, there are some basic requirements that lateral thinkers need. The following properties are particularly important, which is why you should work on them if you want to think outside the box more often:

  • courage
    It takes a good deal of courage to be uncomfortable and to contradict popular opinion. You will only be able to muster this if you yourself are convinced of your ideas and believe in their implementation.
  • Stubbornness
    Resistance is a certainty for unconventional thinkers, but you shouldn't let dissenting voices dissuade you. Stick to your approaches even when you face headwinds, others don't share your opinion, and it seems like your best ideas are petering out. It is hard and long work to convince others of novel proposals.
  • Thick fur
    Unfortunately, lateral thinkers also have to cope with the fact that they are mistaken for unrealistic weirdos. “Who needs that?” Or: “It won't work anyway!” And sometimes also: “What a huge nonsense!” These are all reactions that lateral thinkers often hear. You shouldn't forget that you can decide for yourself which opinion really counts and which you don't care about.
  • credibility
    Lateral thinkers need a certain credibility. Anyone who is always on the edge of a group and always insists on their opinion is neither taken seriously nor respected. It is different, however, if you have previously proven your ability to work in a team as well as social reliability.

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