Lateral Thinking

Background Edward de Bono introduced the term lateral thinking in his 1967 book New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking.

Lateral Thinking

His contra-logical approach has become a well established part of most, if not all, of today's creative thinking methods and approaches.

Description: Lateral Thinking is a deliberate, systematic creative-thinking process that deliberately looks at challenges from completely different angles. By introducing specific, unconventional thinking techniques, lateral thinking enables thinkers to find novel solutions that would otherwise remain uncovered. Lateral thinking focuses on what could be rather than what is possible and centers around four directives:

  • Recognize the dominant ideas that polarize the perception of a problem.
  • Search for different ways of looking at things.
  • Relax rigid control of thinking.
  • Use chance to encourage other ideas

Seven techniques or mental tools help carry out these directives with the goal of eliciting unpredictable ideas, which may turn out to be novel and useful solutions to the problem being addressed.
  • Alternatives: Use concepts to breed new ideas.
  • Focus: Sharpen or change your focus to improve your creative efforts.
  • Challenge: Break free from the limits of accepted ways of operating.
  • Random Entry: Use unconnected input to open new lines of thinking.
  • Provocation: Move from a provocative statement to useful ideas.
  • Harvesting: Select the best of early ideas and shape them into useable approaches.
  • Treatment of Ideas: Develop ideas and shape them to fit an organization or situation.

An interesting aspect of de Bono's lateral thinking method is its relationship to humor. Essentially, jumping to laterally related ideas is exactly what makes a joke funny - the delight in the unexpectedly discovered relationships between seemingly unrelated elements.

Where to Learn Lateral Thinking

Next Thinking Method »

Suggest a Thinking Method Suggest ›

Edit text for "Lateral Thinking" Edit ›

Comments on "Lateral Thinking": Comment ›
The truth is de Bono stole Lateral Thinking from Alex Osborn of BBDO Advertising, and de Bono stole Six hats from Michael Hewitt- See my facebook pages or search #deBonostoleLateralThinking and #deBo..
- Ian Carter

I take objection to the use of the word "deliberate" in your definition of what lateral thinking is. I acknowledge that it has to be deliberate for folks who are inclined to vertical thinking, but the..
- David Hazlett

The opening of the article, ",,, a deliberate, systematic creative-thinking process that deliberately looks at challenges from completely different angles." Puts the concept of Lateral Thinking in a b..
- Dave Hazlett