Byron's Babbles

Challenging Assumptions With Lateral Thinking

In the great book The Martian, Andy Weir uses the term “lateral thinking” to describe what NASA was doing a lot of to keep astronaut Mark Watney alive and bring him home from Mars. It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I love lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is a tool used worldwide, knowingly/unknowingly by many individuals for a creative output/product. Psychologist Dr. Edward de Bono originated the term lateral thinking and is a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools. Imagine that – teaching students to think. Lateral thinking processes provide guidance for thinking out of the box, thinking and creating something that has never been thought of. Just what was needed for Mark Watney’s success return to home in the novel and the real life return home of Apollo 13.

” Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.”

~ Dr. Edward de Bono

Lateral thinking looks at things from a sideways perspective in order to find answers that aren’t immediately apparent. In other words, being able to think creatively or “outside the box” in order to solve a problem. Lateral thinking is very situational. Lateral thinking leads to changes in attitude and approach; to looking in a different way at things which have always been looked at in the same way. Liberation from old ideas and the stimulation of new ones are twin aspects of lateral thinking.

With lateral thinking we challenge assumptions and generate alternatives – what many call “out of the box thinking.” I didn’t even know there was a box! This is why I am such a believer in using real world and relevant contexts when facilitating learning. Notice I didn’t say teaching. When students are in a productive struggle working out a real world problem or issue, they are learning to learn and think and be creative. Whether we serve adults or young scholars we need facilitate learning that hones their ability to develop original answers to difficult questions. Why is this so important? Because in our world today, traditional solutions are unlikely to get the desired result. We all remember that failure was not an option on Apollo 13. How was failure averted? The “voyage and return” lateral thinking.