Thinking: Lateral Thinking

Think of the times when you found a solution to a problem without going through a logical step by step process. Maybe you allowed yourself to be a little crazy, used humour, asked too many whys, or just opened yourself to new ideas. And voila – the solution presented itself.

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach. It uses reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involves ideas that may not be obtainable through the traditional step-by-step logic. This term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.

Edward de Bono divides thinking into two methods:

He calls one “Vertical Thinking”-The traditional, historical method using the process of logic.

The other “Lateral Thinking” – It involves disrupting the obvious thinking sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle.

Differences between Lateral and Vertical Thinking

Vertical Thinking Lateral Thinking
Selective Open – Generative
Moves only if there is a direction in which to move Moves in order to generate a direction
Analytical Provocative
Sequential Makes jumps
Needs to be correct at every step There is no such requirement
Uses the negative in order to block off certain pathways No negatives
Concentrates and excludes what is irrelevant Welcomes chance intrusions
(categories) Classifications and labels are fixed Nothing fixed
Follows the most likely paths Explores the least likely
Is a finite process Looks at probabilities


Uses of Lateral thinking

  • Creating new ideas
  • Problem solving
  • Processing
  • Periodic reassessment
  • Developing fresh thinking


Basic methods of lateral thinking

  • Brainstorming
  • Cross stipulation
  • Debate
  • Discussion
  • Conversation
  • Sharing ideas
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