Lateral Thinking and Creativity

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Lateral thinking is also called ‘creative learning’ and fosters the ability to solve problems, seek more than one way to look at a situation, and allows for hands-on experience. In this global economy, a person who thinks ‘outside the box,’ has a better than average chance to become successful than those who rely on ‘group think.’ It allows us the ability to survive in a world full of people who are looking for new ideas to make them rich, or more successful. In other words, the same old tried and true ideas just don’t work anymore.

So why aren’t more school systems teaching creativity?

Currently the teaching style encouraged by most school systems is the “teach-study-test” model, with the test being the gauge for success or failure. School systems are so worried about economics that they force the teachers to spend a great deal of time teaching how to pass a standardized test, as opposed to teaching students to learn how to find different answers to the same problem. The teacher is afraid if the students do not perform well on their tests they will be out of a job, and the system thinks that if the classes don’t produce the ‘necessary’ results they will lose their funding. This does not foster job security or independent thinking.

We tend to think within a pattern that works and become used to this pattern, which becomes habit-forming and boring. We develop solutions based on past performance to similar situations and don’t take a risk to look for different answers outside this ‘comfort zone.’ If teachers make their students teach only from the syllabus or textbook is that encouraging them to think for themselves? There will become a time when they will have to have those skills, but are they being shown how to do that while they are in school, or is it sink or swim after graduation?

By using lateral thinking techniques you are presenting students with the opportunity to become original problem solvers — something employers are always seeking. Lateral thinking can generate completely new concepts and ideas, and brilliant improvements to existing systems. In the wrong place, however, it can be sterile or unnecessarily disruptive.

Add to the fact that students who seem to be the most creative also can be the most disruptive and you have a system that doesn’t want to deal with the stress of finding something to get their attention and make them want to learn — just give them Ritalin to sedate them so others aren’t disturbed.

We constantly encourage our preschoolers to use their imagination and post their art on our refrigerators, yet when they get into higher grades we discourage that same instinct by rote memory and visual learning. This is easier for the teacher, who is overloaded with enough as it is, and conforms to the standards the school system allows in their schools. Yet, we have seen time and again the schools who receive the most attention, the largest percentage of students who go on to college, and the most positive attitude and lowest drop-out rates are the schools where the students, parents and teachers all work together to encourage creative thinking! What message does your school send to their students?

This is Ron White. I am a memory-training expert. Albert Einstein left school early because he had teachers, one in particular, who discouraged him from asking questions and seeking answers. If Einstein had caved in to the will of the teachers, and never asked questions, where would the advances he made in the world of science and math be today?

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