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A 2017 study published by Stanford found that people typically fall into two groups – vertical thinkers, and lateral thinkers or “fact checkers”, with vertical thinkers being more common.

We are constantly externally influenced, and we can develop skewed opinions because of it, so it’s important to practice the skill of thinking creatively on a regular basis. Creativity is associated with ‘divergent thinking’ which aims to produce a variety of new and original ideas.

By using a technique called SCAMPER, you can flex your lateral thinking muscles and improve this underutilised critical thinking skill.

This acronym can be used to explore problems from seven different perspectives, either individually or holistically as a whole. Basically, it encourages you to be creative and think outside the box, plus continuing to do so once you have come up with a ‘solution’.

SCAMPER is an acronym where every letter refers to a specific thinking process:

Substitute – what else can we use instead of reverting to this usual idea?

(C) Combine – form more novel ideas by combining a variety of disparate thoughts. Which ideas can be combined?

(A) Adapt – Use and modify existing ideas to create new ones, by asking, for example, what circumstances have changed?

(M) Modify/minify/magnify – by taking a more micro or macro view, it is possible to throw up completely new ideas, providing completely fresh perspectives.

(P) Put to another use – how can you use this existing idea to solve problems?

(E) Eliminate – take away part of the existing idea to create a better version. What would happen if…?

(R) Reverse – basically what happens if we think of this backwards? Inversion thinking is another key critical thinking skill, which is well worth practicing.

Positive outcomes

The SCAMPER way of thinking has been shown to have positive effects on the outcome of participants’ creative thinking abilities, especially for ‘divergent thinking’, or thinking outside the box.

The purpose of all these strategies is ultimately to sharpen your creative thinking skills. Through this, you develop a natural ability to see things from multiple points of view, giving you the opportunity to challenge your own bias and identify flaws in your reasoning.

The outcome: reduced susceptibility to misinformation and disinformation.

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