Move beyond the given categories of thought, and enjoy it.

26Apr13

Great Innovators Think Laterally

by Ian Gonsher and Deb Mills-Scofield

Often, when searching for a new way to understand a familiar idea, we look for its opposite. By doing this, we create a spectrum of possibilities between what it is and what it is not. This strategy is somewhat similar to what is often referred to as the Hegelian Dialectic, although Hegel himself probably never used this term, or its familiar formula: Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis:

  • Thesis is a proposition about a prevalent paradigm; e.g. a horse and carriage;
  • Antithesis is a counter proposition that opposes or negates the Thesis; e.g. the first generation of automobiles called “horseless carriages”;
  • Synthesis emerges from the tension between the Thesis and the Antithesis, blending the opposing ideas without fully negating either of them completely; e.g. our modern understanding of the car.

A creative, innovative mind also seeks to move beyond the given categories of thought established by binary either/or frameworks (such as the Hegelian model just described). This is still a move towards synthesis, but it includes opposing concepts that are internal to that binary framework and to ideas outside of it. If you’re a visual thinker, you can think of the internal concepts as a “vertical” axis and the external concepts as a “horizontal” axis. Lateral thinking, the ability to move horizontally across different categories of thought, often manifests itself as a synthesis between seemingly incongruent ideas; think of Roger Martin’s classic, Opposable Minds.

Read the full article here

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