Lateral Thinking

The term Lateral Thinking was coined by Edward De Bono. Bono defines lateral thinking as methods of thinking concerned with changing concepts and perception.

I’d like to give a few examples here which might help you understand better about Lateral Thinking.

Problem:

A landscape gardener is given instructions to plant four special trees so that each one is exactly the same distance form each of the others. How do you arrange the trees?

The usual procedure is to try and arrange four dots on a piece of paper so that each dot is equidistant from every other dot. The problem seems impossible to solve.

The assumption that the trees are all planted on a level piece of ground. If one challenges this assumption one finds that the trees can indeed be planted in the manned specified. But one tree is planted at the top of a hill and the other three are planted on the sides of a hill. This makes them all equidistant from one another.

Problem:

This is one of my favorite problems. A man worked in a tall office building. Each morning he got in the lift on the ground floor, pressed the life button to the tenth floor, got out of the lift and walked up to the fifteenth floor. At night he would get into the lift on fifteenth floor and get out again on the ground floor. What was the man up to?

Various explanations are offered. They include:

  • The man wanted exercise.
  • He wanted to talk to someone on the way up from the tenth to the fifteenth floor.
  • He wanted to admire the view as he walked up.
  • He wanted people to think he worked on the tenth floor (it might have been more prestigious) etc.

In fact, the man acted in such a peculiar way because he had no choice. He was a dwarf and could not reach higher than the tenth floor button.

The natural assumption that man is perfectly normal and it his behavior that is abnormal.

This information was extracted from the book “Lateral Thinking” by Edward De Bono.

If you like this information please read the book. It is a very nice book where Sir Bono says that innovativeness and creativity are not by-birth gifts. Thinking can also be practiced. All that is needed is sparing some time for it.

Storytelling

As I discussed in my previous post, there are many types of learnings. Learning by experience, classroom coaching, etc. Recently, I’ve realized that there’s another form too. Learning from stories. Its sounds childish, right? But the fact is it actually works better than classroom coaching. There are several examples in literature with a mention of learning from stories. One such important name is “The stories of Panchatantra” by Vishnu Sharma. If you’ve not heard about him, you can read about him on web/wiki.

What makes learning from stories important? OK. Consider this. These days I see a lot of political terms everywhere. I don’t really understand them. What do I do? I refer a dictionary or I read it from wikipedia. But still I’m not able to understand the meaning of the words. Inadvertently, I stumbled upon a site where I read a short story which clearly explains all these political words. That’s why I wrote it as a post on my blog as a remnant. Now, I understand the difference.

One always remembers the hare and tortoise story throughout one’s lifetime. Why? Because it has a moral. Every story has a moral.

The moral of any story is ” Every story has a moral “. (That makes it recursive. Btw, recursive names and acronyms are very catchy to look. Isn’t it?). Learn it, practice it. It makes you wise.

PS: This is a very nice presentation. It was one among the top rated presentations of 2008 [courtesy: slideshare.net]. Do read it.

A small experiment

Please look at the following pic. Can you find a hidden deer?

Ok. Now record the time taken by your brain to find out the hidden deer. Now reset your timer and have a look at this pic. Now, can you find the hidden tiger?

Again record the time taken by you to find the hidden tiger. If you’ve seen both the pics for the first time, you’ll notice that the time taken to find the hidden tiger was more than the time taken to find the hidden deer?

Why does this happen? I’ll tell you. Visual illusions are more catchy and are immediately spotted by our receptor cells. You can spot the hidden deer within 2 – 3 seconds. Now your brain starts constructing things and when you see the second image, first your brain tries to find the image of a tiger in the second image, instead of finding the text. It tries and tries and in the end it gives up. The answer actually lies in the image itself. Look at the stripes of the tiger. But your brain was not able to figure it out in the first shot(Why?). Its not your mistake. Its the way brain constructs things. It happens to everyone. This is called as learning by experience. Now once you have noticed the difference you’d like to tell this to your friends to see if they too can find it in the first shot. Believe me its hard for any normal human being to find it in the first take. This is because right from our childhood we’ve trained our brain to do things in this manner only. This is how we have shaped our brain to be and hence this is how it is. There are more than 100 forms of learnings. Learning by experience has always topped the list.

This does not end here. You can cultivate your mind to think in anyway it wants to, you can reduce the time in solving puzzles by thinking in a different way, you can solve the problems easily. There are many techniques. But this requires practice, a lot of practice. Right from our childhood we have cultivated our brains to be like this and changing the way we think isn’t going to be easy. Change is never acceptable in first place. But later you get used to it. To find out more on this read the books by Edward De Bono. And also by doing meditation and a few other techniques, the capacity to think can be improvised. After all, isn’t our brain the most beautiful thing ever created by God?
Keep reading for more information on cognitive processes and thinking capabilities.