Linear Thinking vs Lateral Thinking in Blog Posts

by Brian Ritchie


Last Updated: Jan 2, 2013 16:09
814 words · 4 minutes read

Because writing lists is so yesterday, sometimes.

If you have noticed, a bunch of my most recent blog posts were not step by step, list oriented blog posts. Most of them were very abstract ideas and thoughts and visions that were floating around in my mind for quite a while and I desperately wanted to get them out on paper and to the world.

Why I choose to write such blog posts despite having the knowledge that my most popular post so far was a list based post is because I am a strong believer in Lateral Thinking when it comes to expressing ideas. This does not mean that I am dismissing Linear Thinking under any account but instead what this means is that I encourage more people to start thinking a little more laterally compared to the inverse.

The Italic Poster

The Italic Poster – Image Courtesy of Eivind Z. Molvær

Before I go any further, let me take a moment to quickly define what each of these terms mean to me.

Linear Thinking

Linear Thinking to me means a form of thinking that is driven primarily through step-by-step logic. This is primarily the form in which most of us are probably exposed to in school and helps tremendously when you are writing an essay for that Final grade of yours.

Its driven very much so by pre-determined outlines and an inherent need to follow those outlines down to the ‘T’. This form of thinking has guided most of humanity throughout the ages and still continues to do so. We see it everyday even within ourselves. That motivation to click on blog posts that start with “The Five Best”, or “10 Ways to”, etc etc.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral Thinking instead focuses on thought driven by a more indirect approach. It encourages one to delve into more of a creative form of reasoning. This form of thinking is something we are not always exposed to in our quest to solve problems or produce ideas although we tend to see it much much more nowadays as compared to works produced 20-30 years ago particularly because of the advent of the Internet and the information sharing ease that it brings to our fingertips.

A Little Bit About Us

The reason why each and everyone of us has an deep desire to click blog posts with titles such as “Top 20…” or “10 Proven Methods…” is because all of us are driven by a deep desire to find solutions or suggestions to everyday problems we face no matter how small or big they are. We all want to know what are the best headphones money can buy or the steps we need to take to better ourselves in our career, life or family. And the tipping point to why we click these posts is because we want to know it now, right now, immediately, without any waiting period.

We refuse to take some time to dig deeper and think a little more. We refuse to mentally mind-map out the options and table the pros and cons. Instead, we look to ‘word of mouth’ and ‘recommendations from trusted sources’ to guide our thought process and problem solving efforts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that though. Heck, I do it sometimes as well. Its easier, it gives us a predetermined outline and it gets us from point A to point B in our research much faster than if we were to do it on a blank slate.

BUT

Here’s the thing. While its great to be able to do that sometimes, you need to take some time to really back off and actually start from a clean slate. Clear the drawing board and start from the beginning. Remove any presumptions or pre-proposed notions and just think freely, without constraints. Let your mind roam. Unleash it and let it think for itself.

You’ll find that more often than not, this form of thinking has produced some of our most favorite things and has driven some of our idols to achieve greatness in their own forms. Individuals like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs for instance insisted that they be allowed to show their creative visions to the world and we still adore them for it. We still look and wonder in amazement by what drives their intellect and their mind to come up with some of the most prized inventions.

This is why I am pushing myself and those that take the time to read my posts to venture into the realm of Lateral Thinking. Take a little time to force yourself to not abide by lists and rules. By no means are you to abandon Linear Thinking but instead, I encourage you to create a sort of amalgam of ways you can incorporate the two in your daily lives. You’ll find it a little more fun once you do so 🙂