Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Schooling - The Importance of Lateral Thinking

A famous saying in the medical community, "When you hear hooves...think horses...not zebras".

The essence of this statement is to decide upon the most obvious or most likely solution first when faced with multiple possibilities.

The problem arises when the obvious doesn't work or when a more efficient way is yet to be discovered.

The way of science involves taking into account all known variables and calculating probabilities to arrive at a hypothesis and to then test it in all known instances to arrive at a theory.

Lateral thinking is the consideration of unknown variables along with possible new parameters, trying them and if the experiment succeeds...the previously unknown variable becomes a known and new parameters are set...and so a new solution has been found.

In the real world, many problems are time dependent. Lateral thinking involves questioning the implied parameters...expanding, altering, or erasing them and trying anew. A quick mental run through usually brings forth possibilities.

To think laterally initially is not usually the best way to go as the obvious would, so often, be missed. Where the obvious has been considered...and fails...lateral thinking is a strength. Fix it men...whether in business, science, law....etc...the specialists in their fields, utilize lateral thinking to a great extent. They may quickly review the situation to ensure the obvious has been considered...they may then concentrate on what has been missed considering all the possibilities...not just on the standard.

An example of simple lateral thinking:

The solution lies in changing the implied parameters.  

While they may seem to be simple solutions...often times tradition or societal norms are used as a perceived unbreakable parameter and so possible solutions are not considered.  It is only when it is shown to be the correct path that new norms are emplaced.  Sometimes not.  The breaking of a sacred parameter sometimes disagrees with societal norms to such a strong degree that it is not considered to be a viable solution.

The saying, "Think out of the box" refers to lateral thinking.

There are many books available on lateral thinking.  It is a valuable way to increase his critical take in all known variables...and to consider possible unknown variables with possible adaptable parameters.

Lateral thinking is science so long as it follows a hierarchy of reasoning.  

Consider the obvious first.  Lateral thinking is used to solve the previously unsolvable or to fine tune a solved.

What is 1 + 1?

Typical thought pattern: 2

What a lateral thinker thinks:

When does 1 + 1 not equal 2?  How can 1 + 1 equal anything else?

1 + 1 equals 1 when it is a part of a whole (two fitting parts) or when combined makes a new whole with twice the mass (as in two pieces of clay mushed together).
Or even zero when you have a chemical reaction that converts the components to energy and no leftover mass...etc.

The inherently great lateral thinkers are usually innovators as their thinking goes beyond the bounds of normal thinking processes.  Many ask not...why? not? not?.  They have a solution in their head already and must then merely reverse engineer it to a viable solution.  

Either way...lateral think should be encouraged in the study of critical reasoning.

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