Lateral Thinking

Knowledge Center


Description of Lateral Thinking. Explanation.


  1. Summary
  2. Forum
  3. Best Practices
  4. Expert Tips
  5. Resources
  6. Print

Example of Lateral ThinkingDefinition Lateral Thinking. Description.

Lateral Thinking (LT) is a term which was invented by Edward De Bono in his Book: New think: The use of lateral thinking in the generation of new ideas (1967) and further developed in Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step.

LT is a creative, fresh approach to problem solving and to thinking in general by approaching problems indirectly at multiple, diverse and unorthodox angles instead of concentrating on one approach at length. Trying harder in the same direction using the same approach is less useful as changing the direction and/or the approach.

LT is closely related to insight, creativity and humour. All four of these share the same basis. But unlike insight, creativity and humour, it is a deliberate process. Whereas creativity is often only the description of a result, LT is the description of a specific process using certain tools.

LT is about reasoning that is not immediately obvious and about ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic (comparable to Integrative Thinking). With logic you start out with certain ingredients just as in playing chess you start out with given pieces. But what are those pieces? In most real life situations the pieces are not given, we just assume they are there. We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries. LT is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change the pieces. It is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organize the external world into the pieces we can then 'process'.

De Bono identified four critical factors associated with lateral thinking:

  1. Recognize dominant ideas that polarize perception of a problem.

  2. Searching for different ways of looking at things.

  3. Relaxation of rigid control of thinking.

  4. Use of chance to encourage other ideas. This last factor has to do with the fact that lateral thinking involves low-probability ideas which are unlikely to occur in the normal course of events.

Lateral versus Vertical (Logical) Thinking

According to Hernandez and Varkey, the main differences between Vertical and Lateral (horizontal) thinking are:

  • Vertical thinking is a stepwise way of thinking and applies certain rules to achieve a predetermined goal. This approach has a linear direction and is restricted by logic; it only selects the relevant information and skills required for the set goal. Vertical thinking requires a depth of knowledge so that the right decisions can be made under whatever circumstances.
  • LT is not a stepwise fashioned way of thinking. In contrast, it seeks different directions for a certain problem that needs to be solved. Furthermore, this approach is not restricted by logical; it does not follow certain rules so as to achieve goals already set. Rather it involves creativity and imagination to generate new and innovative ideas. Rather than demanding a depth of knowledge, LT demands an understanding of complex systems, a so-called breath of knowledge.
  Vertical Thinking Lateral Thinking
Linear Yes No
Pattern Develop an existing pattern Restructure an existing pattern
Direction Stepwise and methodical Multidirectional and creative
Uncertainty Tolerated No Yes
Rewards for Depth of Knowledge Breadth of Knowledge
Restricted by relevant information Yes No
Novel approaches welcomed No Yes

Source: Hernandez, J.S. and P. Varkey (2008) “Vertical versus Lateral Thinking” The Physician Executive

Lateral Thinking Forum
  Factors to Unlock Creativity
To unlock creativity, senior managers should provide staff freedom of action. According to Chris Baréz-Brown (2015), SIMPLICITY is a key principle in this endeavor. Thus, eliminate unnecessary procedures that suffocate staff initiative, and provide f...
  Young’s 5 Steps to Help to Produce Creative Ideas
In his 1965 book 'A Technique for Producing Ideas’ James Webb Young outlined five steps to generate creative ideas that can still be put into practice. These are the following:
  1. FINDING NEW RAW MATERIAL: Try to obtain new knowled...
  Quotes on Lateral Thinking and Creativity
I just came across a beautiful quote on creativity to share with you: it runs thus:
'Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.'
Charles Minges....
  Lateral Thinking Quotes
Here are some some quotations related to lateral thinking I collected:
- Thinking out of the box: those who see the invisible can do the impossible...
- In business you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.
- I...
  Lateral Thinking Culprit
One day as my routine works at factory was shattered due to one stupid labour leader who never works, I asked him to drop his resignation letter. While I was conducting a brain storming session, the gentleman knocked and came in, and in his lifted ha...
  Use Eastern Philosophy for Lateral Thinking
If you disengage from the things you can find the most suitable solution in a much shorter time :)
Read eastern philosophy......
  Lateral Thinking Looks Like Applied Systems Thinking to Me
If you consider the systems thinking iceberg model, then lateral thinking seems to be looking at something at a particular level and the...
  Lateral Thinking and Meta Thinking
Lateral thinking and meta thinking are related. As meta thinking is about thinking about thinking (…and so on). To be an effective lateral thinker you should think about your thought process.
To explain further we can look at the g...
  Lateral Thinking can Improve the Brain and Memory
Lateral thinking is specifically concerned with changing preconceived thoughts to bring out new ideas and can be practised as a skill. Lateral thinking can improve performance of the brain and also the memory....
  Using Lateral Thinking to Find an Exciting Job
Logical thinking -> job portals, friends, newspapers etc.
Lateral thinking -> writing a case study, publishing a book, participating in a forum, writing an article in a magazine, guest lectures in education institutions etc.
While we...
  How to Think Laterally
Problem-solving, and lateral thinking in particular, requires that we think counter-intuitively, since intuitive/linear thinking brought us into the problem.
For example, when there's a problem, the initial tendency is to focus on the...
  Lateral Thinking is Divergent Thinking
Lateral thinking is hypothesizing the alternate ways of solving a problem. It involves divergent thinking and, at times, intuition. People can be trained to think laterally. Developing a culture of divergent thinking facilitates lateral thinki...
  Increased Scope of Thinking
Every solution will have its advantages and disadvantages. When the majority lies with the advantages, such solution is usually chosen.
However lateral thinking provides more scope to visualize solutions, so as to derive advantages even f...
  Lateral Thinking - Sometimes Suppressed
This is the way to operate out of the box. Unfortunately, as someone mentioned elsewhere, it can be suppressed by lilliputian who consider themselves giants - either at work, in school or at home.
The tragedy for many is that being asked ...
  Lateral Thinking Methods and our Decisions
Lateral thinking is a moral value that offers the possibility of overtaking.
Bono taught us a method to look beyond appearances.
For example:
- To fight against climate change, we could pay to plant a forest of trees. (po: we need a st...
  Lateral Thinking is Inborn
Lateral thinking is inborn and exists in children to a large extent. But as they grow up our system at home and school education generally kills this urge to think creatively since our parents/teachers are incompetent/hesitant to answer the qu...
  Lateral Thinking the New Thinking Which Makes the Difference
Last century the steam engine replaced muscle power. Currently computers are replacing models and linear processes.
We have been trained in a linear way at universities and apply this in our business. However this is easy to copy. In the futu...
  Lateral Thinking Methods / Tools
Lateral thinking is key today. What methods and tools are being deployed within lateral thinking?
Please summarize one tool in your reply. Thanks!...
  Lateral Thinking Should Be Taught at Univ / MBA
I recommend that this special subject "lateral thinking" should be a part of the engineer's and business management students in graduation and post graduation studies. Especially in India, where students are asked to follow what the book says and the...

Lateral Thinking Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group


Best Practices - Lateral Thinking Premium
  The Italian Way to Think
Once during a large conference an attendee was asking me why the Italian people seem to be so creative in so many fields of design, fashion, art, lifestyles, industry?
I replied that this was because a fundamental cultural reason.
  What is Lateral Thinking?
I would like members comments on Edward de Bono's statement:
"Anyone can be a lateral thinker, this does not imply they use lateral thinking....

Expert Tips - Lateral Thinking Premium

Generating New and Useful Ideas in Innovation: Avoiding the Primal Mark

In today's dynamic environment, to stay competitive continuous innovations and new ideas are important. For a creative idea to be successful, it has t...
Usage (application): Innovation, Creativity, Organizational Innovativeness, Lateral Thinking, Out of the Box Thinking, Avoiding Anchoring

The SCAMPER Technique to Creatively Solve Problems and Create Innovative Ideas

SCAMPER is a creative or lateral thinking technique that can be applied particularly for the developme...
Usage (application): Creative Thinking, Lateral Thinking, Idea Generation, Innovation Ideas, Product Innovation, Product Development

Resources - Lateral Thinking Premium

How to Manage Creativity in Organizations

This presentation elaborates on the management of creativity in organizations, and includes the following sections:
1. Objectives
2. Innovat...
Usage (application): Innovation Management, Managing Creativity, Managing Creative People, Fostering Creativity in Organizations, Creativity

Design Thinking for Innovation

This presentation is about design thinking and the connection to social entrepreneurship. The presentation includes the following sections:
1. Th...
Usage (application): Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking, CSR, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation

Lateral Thinking Puzzles

This presentation provides you with 16 small puzzles / questions most of which are actually examples of questions in which lateral thinking is needed....
Usage (application): Lateral Thinking, creative Thinking, Workshops

Techniques for Entrepreneurial Thinking

This presentation elaborates on the different types of thinking for successful entrepreneurship. The presentation includes the following sections:
Usage (application): Entrepreneurship, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Lateral Thinking, Entrepreneurial Thinking

Creative Thinking Techniques and Creative Problem Solving Methodologies

This presentation elaborates on the concept of creative thinking. It pays particular attention to the multiple methodologies for developing creative t...
Usage (application): Creativity, Innovation Management

Introduction to Managing Creativity and Innovation

Presentation about Innovation and Creativity, thereby mainly focusing on creativity in organizations. The presentation includes the following sections...
Usage (application): Innovation Management, Managing Innovation, Managing Innovative Employees, Managing Creative Employees

Critical Thinking in Decision Making

Presentation about critical thinking for decision making, including the following sections:
1. Failure of Imagination
2. Untested Assumption...
Usage (application): Critical Thinking, Testing Assumptions, Avoiding Fallacies, Avoiding Biases, Dealing with Emotions

Overview of Reasoning Types and Models

This comprehensive presentation clearly outlines the different models used in reasoning processes. The presentation includes the following sections: Usage (application): Reasoning

Thinking Out of the Box-Concept is Completely Misunderstood

The term and idea of thinking outside of the box is a concept completely misunderstood. Rules, regulations and standard procedures that represent best...
Usage (application): Thinking Out of the Box, Lateral Thinking, Consultancy


Lateral Thinking


Lateral Thinking


Lateral Thinking


Lateral Thinking

Compare with: Thinker's Keys  |  Brainstorming  |  Design Thinking  |  Synectics  |  TRIZ  |  Technological Forecasting  |  Gestalt Theory  |  Mind Mapping  |  Six Thinking Hats  |  Metaplan  |  Bounded Rationality  |  Causal Ambiguity  |  Stage-Gate  |  Scenario Planning  |  Game Theory  |  Root Cause Analysis  |  Paralysis by Analysis  |  Dialectical Inquiry  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Theory of Constraints  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Catalytic Mechanisms  |  Johari Window  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring  |  Delphi Method

Special Interest Group Leader

You here


Return to Management Hub: Communication & Skills  |  Decision-making & Valuation  |  Knowledge & Intangibles  |  Strategy

More on Management  |  Return to Management Dictionary  | 


This ends our Lateral Thinking summary and forum.

About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us | Privacy | Terms of Service
Copyright 2017 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.1 - Last updated: 22-7-2017. All names tm by their owners.