In our world we are governed by rules and structure, and there is a great deal of time spent developing them. We generally learn in sequence, and organize in the same type of order as most everyone else – like filing things according to name, subject or date so our lives are less cluttered and stressful. With the digital age it has become easier to organize information and retrieve it at will. This is “vertical thinking” — analytical, developed, sequential, and following the path that others have left behind.
There is nothing wrong with being a vertical thinker. They are the analysts of the world, the star student with the highest grades and they don’t make many mistakes. They are dependable, structured, and get the job done just as they are expected to do. They make the ideal employee.
Lateral thinking takes the indirect approach to solve problems. Although the reasoning may not be immediately obvious, and not obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic, it does work in a more indirect way.
Lateral thinkers are more disruptive in class, always asking questions and wanting to know as much they can about everything. To use an old and abused clichÃ©, they think outside the box. They make a lot of mistakes, but that’s because they try so many different things. They don’t have to be right all the time because, as Thomas Edison once said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Lateral thinkers don’t give up, and look for new ways to do things. They are the ones who start new companies, and take risks.
There is nothing wrong with being a lateral thinker. They are usually the ones with the highest IQ, although may never have completed school. They are the ones who constantly are trying new things. They are also the ones who are not dependable, have a hard time sitting still and completing a task, and teachers hate to have them in class.
The world needs both types of thinkers to progress – the ones who come up with the ideas, and the ones to implement them. There is nothing wrong with either group, but combining the two together makes for a fun and interesting ride!
From the Desk of Ron White
Lateral Thinking Skills: http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/lateral.htm