What Is Lateral Thinking?
Consider this riddle: What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never speaks, has a head but never weeps, and has a bed but never sleeps?
If you are thinking in a linear fashion, you'd want to take the facts as you know them and proceed in a sequential manner. Linear logic tells you that an object with legs to run, a mouth, a head and a bed must be a living thing. But, you'd be wrong.
Lateral thinking would lead you to ask, "Since no living thing fits that description, what else could the object be?" And, you'd come up with the answer: a river.
Why Apply Lateral Thinking to the Development of a Content Strategy?
There's nothing wrong with linear thinking, but it will only allow you to create a good content strategy. A great strategist will combine both linear and lateral thinking to create a great content strategy.
For example, let's say that you are a content strategist for a software company that produces Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software. Your overall goal is to publish content related to CRM features and benefits. How many blog posts can you write to extol the virtues of the CRM system without repeating yourself? It's a very small number.
This is where lateral thinking comes into play. Rather than trying to find new ways to talk about the same set of features, challenge your thinking! Look at CRM trends. What are your competitors talking about? What are the thought leaders in the industry talking about? How does your software development staff see CRM capabilities evolving?
Let new topics emerge
Once you've started thinking laterally, new topics will come to mind. For example, you may decide to focus on how companies can use the CRM rather than rehashing features and benefits. That might lead you to identify topics that explain how to use key reports rather than bragging about all the available reports.
You might decide to interview administrators at key clients to identify specific ways companies are using the CRM data. In addition, since integration is a critical part of business software, you may decide to write a series about integrating your CRM with gamification software to motivate a sales force. Suddenly, you're seeing your brand and industry trends from a different angle, and it will supercharge your content strategy.
[h]Keeping Your Strategic Process Fresh Requires a Paradigm Change/h]
Today, strategies don't last for a decade or longer. You need enough creativity in your planning process to keep up with the rapid changes your customers and your markets are making.
Upgrading your strategic planning process will require a paradigm change. You'll need to change the way you've always thought about the role of content. According to Brand Quarterly, one of the critical elements of lateral thinking that will lead to a paradigm change is challenging your assumptions by asking basic questions.
For example, ask questions like, "Who are our customers?" and "Why do they buy from us?" The answer to those questions will change over time as customer needs and the competitive landscape change. In today's market, both of those things change much faster than in the past. Your content strategy needs to be at the forefront as those transitions take place.
Find Your Content Tipping Point
How will you take your content from good to great? Shane Snow, the co-founder of Contently, says:
"Breakthroughs, by very definition, only occur when assumptions are broken."
Use lateral thinking to stay away from the "we've always done it that way" mindset.