Working your way up the corporate ladder and the concept of “paying your dues” to a company are such outdated ideas that I doubt that they ever worked in the modern era. People who skyrocket to success, use “lateral thinking” to break “rules” that aren’t actually rules.


So what exactly is lateral thinking?

It’s the type of problem solving that uses indirect and creative approaches. Using reasoning that is not immediately obvious. Ideas that might not come with traditional step-by-step logic. A simple way to think about it, is to imagine some puzzles that are solved using lateral thinking.


Imagine you’re in an Arts College taking Solving Mazes 101. For your first pop-quiz the professor hands you a piece of paper and pen with the instructions: To solve the puzzle, draw a line from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

lateral thinking puzzle



Well here you sit, in Solving Mazes 101 (I’m sure they offer that somewhere…) so your natural inclination is solve the maze by slowly figuring out the maze. But that’s not the semantics of the rules. Nobody said you had to solve the maze, just draw a line from ‘A’ to ‘B’. It’s logical to assume what the rules of the scenario are.  Lateral thinking is about disregarding the ‘implied’ rules. When you stop making assumptions about how you’re supposed to solve problems, you can think more freely and creatively.


traditional vs lateral logic


Let’s check out another puzzle:


“A man buys rice at $1 a pound from American growers and sells them at $0.05 a pound in India. As a result of this he becomes a millionaire. How come?”
The man is a philanthropist who bought great quantities of rice to sell to poor people at prices they could afford. He started out as a billionaire, but lost so much money in his good works that he became a millionaire!

(Highlight the black box to see the answer)

And another:


“A police officer saw a truck driver clearly going the wrong way down a one-way street, but did not try to stop him. Why not?”
The truck driver was walking. I never said he was driving, that’s a rule you assumed.

(More puzzles?)


Lateral thinking is all about disregarding assumption and thinking “out of the box”. It’s this kind of logic that the book Smartcuts tackles. The book highlights our preconceived notions of the path to success. The whole idea of working your way up the corporate ladder and the concept of “paying your dues” to a company are obliterated in this day and age. A common pattern among the fastest-rising US presidents’ journeys is that they didn’t “pay their dues” up a linear path. They climbed various ladders of success and then switched to the presidential ladder. The people that go into Congress go step by step by step, but presidents don’t. Companies that pivot – that is, switch business models or products – while on the upswing tend to perform much better than those that stay on a single course. Switching ladders can help bypass “dues” and accelerate the Bigger or Better cycle.



There were 9 strategies from Smartcuts to side-stepping traditional routes to elevate you.


  1. Hacking the ladder: Using lateral thinking to solve problems.
  2. Training w/ masters
  3. Rapid feedback: Understanding and using failure to push yourself
  4. Platforms: Finding the established paths to your goals.
  5. Catching waves: Watching the waters to see what trend is coming, and ride it.
  6. Superconnecting: Networking w/ powerful people AND being generous to them.
  7. Momentum: Small tasks give you momentum to move forward. Small wins feed success.
  8. Simplicity: Elimination of clutter. Hone in on your tasks.
  9. 10x Thinking: Big picture thinking. Make sure your small goals from step #7 fit inside of a master plan.