You need to get more sales. Or a better way to distribute your product. Maybe you need to attract more users or just think of a new startup to chase…
Whatever, what your particular problem or goal is is beside the point. You have an endgame you’re trying to reach. You’re at Point A looking for the path to Point B.
You have two choices on how to do this:
|Think of yourself at Point A and imagine the chain of events that will bring you to Point B.||Or||Consider yourself already at Point B, and mentally step slowly backwards to point A.|
Which one do you think works better for the creative process?
The first is what we usually do, but what about those times you get stumped this way?
That’s when we use the second method, called Lateral Thinking, because it disregards your expectations. Breaks you out of the box, and all that.
Here’s the interesting part: Changing the direction you come at the problem from will actually help you think up new solutions! This is because instead of thinking vertically up from the problem — where you’ve already been doing a lot of thinking — you progress laterally out from the solution. You’re bound to think up a lot of new possibilities this way because it forces you into a new perspective.
It’s like solving a maze by starting at the end.
As you figure your way back to the start, you can confidently look over your shoulder to see a clear path back to your goal. It frees you from the rigid constraints of logical thinking because you know any path you might explore has a valid connection back to your endgame. This lets you confidently consider unusual, even absurd paths. You can realistically ponder solutions you never would have thought of as options if you’d stuck to vertical thinking, but are clearly viable solutions now that you see how they connect to your endgame — it’s just a matter of thinking how those unusual paths might be led back to your Point A. Working backwards is always more flexible, and even more fun.
This reveals a solution you may not have normally found.
To get from A to B, you may have to pass through Point C, or maybe it’s best to take the long route through E and F. Whatever. The point is now you know how to do it. Now you can go do it.
Jordan Feldstein is a friend to all, lover to few, who hopes his writing shows people what’s within reach when you’re willing to think and operate outside the norm. He believes that education should be used to open minds not train workers, that technology should simplify life and that music can free the soul. Now building his second company, Jordan is waiting to turn 21 to have a beer with you.