In the various readings and discussions in this module, you’ll learn about concepts such as lateral thinking, creative thinking, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and more. A lot of these terms

In the various readings and discussions in this module, you’ll learn about concepts such as lateral thinking, creative thinking, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and more. A lot of these terms are more or less interchangeable. Lateral thinking, for example, is what many people refer to as “thinking outside the box.” And that’s very similar to creative thinking. One of your goals in this module should be to understand these terms and use them in our discussions and in thinking about your own creative process (and if you don’t understand a term or concept, use our discussion activities to ask questions!) At the same time, I don’t want you to get bogged down or overwhelmed with vocabulary terms and the differences among them–there are more shades of gray among them than there are clear-cut lines of difference. At this point, just do your best to understand and use them whenever and however you can.

Lateral thinking (or creative thinking, or divergent thinking) is an ability that’s crucial to innovating solutions to a problem or task, in any situation, in any academic major or any career field. Lateral means side-to-side, as opposed to up-and-down. Most of us are accustomed to moving from a question/problem directly to the correct answer–that’s what you might call vertical thinking, or convergent thinking. Lateral thinking means moving side to side and all around a question/problem, developing multiple possible solutions, and then selecting the solution that works best.

The following activity will invite you to engage in lateral thinking puzzles, and to test the strength and flexibility of your creative muscles. For some of you, your creative muscles might have atrophied with years of neglect. Don’t worry about that, and don’t worry about getting the correct answer to the puzzles below. The point of this exercise is NOT to find the correct answers to these puzzles. The goal is to dive into a problem (in this case, a puzzle) that requires creative thinking, and then to reflect on the process of engaging with the puzzle, not necessarily finding the right answer.


FIRST, watch the videos at the bottom of this page–start at the top and move downward. Their purpose is to show you a little about how our brains typically work in everyday situations, and how lateral (creative) thinking looks and works. You might notice that there’s a big difference between the two!

SECOND,  after you’ve worked through all of the videos, visit the Lateral Thinking discussion thread (find it the same way you located the “Intros” discussion thread).  Write a thoughtful, well-composed message that addresses the following points: 

  • How easy or difficult were the puzzles for you? Were you able to complete any of them? How long did it take? How did you try solving them?
  • What, exactly, do the puzzles require of you that makes them challenging to complete? Why might lateral thinking be so challenging for so many people? 
  • What practical use might lateral thinking offer for people in your own academic major and/or career field?

THIRD, read through your classmates’ forum posts, and respond to at least ONE of them with any thoughtful thoughts you have. Remember to use good netiquette (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。! And PLEASE keep the Discussion Participation grading criteria in mind. Complete details and instructions are here: Discussion Participation Guide.doc


This Discussion is required, and is worth 10 points of your Discussion Participation grade (5 points each for an original post and one response to another classmate’s post). 

Your original post is due by 2/2.

Your response is due by 2/4.


From second to second in our everyday lives, our brains have to do an enormous amount of work. Even sitting on the couch and channel-surfing your TV requires your brain to manage millions of complex instructions and calculations. It’s no wonder that our brains try to simplify their work whenever possible. Example: When we’re given instructions, our brains focus on following the instructions rather than expending extra energy on seemingly unnecessary observations. The two videos below offer visual puzzles to test that notion.

Selective Attention Test (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。

Observation Test (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。


In addition to ignoring “irrelevant” information while following directions, our brains also tend to rely heavily on past knowledge/experience when faced with new experiences that defy logic. In other words, our brains go with what they already know (or think they know) in order to interpret and make sense of the world, and our brains tend to go with the simplest, easiest solution rather than explore other possible answers. Can you figure out how the man in the video below makes a cork float in mid-air?

The Floating Cork (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。


Lateral thinking, or creative thinking, is often referred simply referred to as “thinking outside the box,” and that’s not a bad description. Test your own creative thinking skills with the puzzles in the videos below.

The first video is a classic lateral thinking puzzle–the 9 dot puzzle. Pause the video before the solution is revealed and see if you can figure it out.

The second video offers a few different lateral thinking puzzles. They’re presented as a teaching activity–you’ll hear the narrator talking about how to present each puzzle to an audience, and what you might expect from audience responses. Ignore that aspect of the videos. Focus instead on the puzzles themselves. Again, after each puzzle is presented, pause the video and see if you can solve the puzzle on your own.

REMEMBER: The point is NOT to find the right answer, but to engage with the process of creative thinking, and evaluate the current state of your creative thinking abilities. By the way, don’t feel discouraged if you can’t find the right answers to these puzzles–they’re pretty challenging!

If you are genius solve this (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。

Link (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。

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