I listened to a book (or half, anyway) the other day by Edward de Bono called Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. It was a bit old-fashioned, having been written in the 1970s (crickey, I must be positively antique), and was really aimed at educators and teachers. It was still an interesting look at the type of thinking we are often taught, and the ‘other’ option.
The two types of thinking de Bono talks about are vertical thinking and lateral thinking. He posits that education focuses primarily on vertical thinking (although, I think in the last 40 years this has changed somewhat) which is the seeking or learning of knowledge along a logical line where each step is built on the one before. Lateral thinking is following a more sideways path of seemingly unrelated thoughts that can then, perhaps, be connected.
His useful visual image is that vertical thinking is akin to digging a particular hole deeper and deeper to reveal more of the treasure down there. De Bono stresses that this is vital thinking and that his promotion of alternatives in no way lessens its importance. Lateral thinking, on the other hand, is like digging a range of shallower holes across an area to see what might be uncovered that way. Further, I tentatively add my own image – that creativity is seeing possible ways that these many holes can be connected by unexpected tunnels.
I’m taking a couple of weeks’ holiday from painting to go on a road trip but it seems to me that my swirling thoughts over the many miles of road ahead can still strive for lateral-ness! In fact, it’s probably a good opportunity with new sights and experiences to set me off. Lots of ground, lots of shovels, lots of holes I hope.
I’ll keep you posted.