Lateral Thinking

Knowledge Center

12manage is looking for students / contributors...


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 provi...
  Young’s 5 Steps to Help to Produce Creative Ideas
In his 1965 book 'A Technique for Producing Ideas’...
  Quotes on Lateral Thinking and Creativity
I just came across a beautiful quote on creativity...
  Lateral Thinking Quotes
Here are some some quotations related to latera...
  Lateral Thinking Culprit
One day as my routine works at factory was shatter...
  Use Eastern Philosophy for Lateral Thinking
If you disengage from the things you can find the ...
  Lateral Thinking Looks Like Applied Systems Thinking to Me
If you consider the  
  Lateral Thinking and Meta Thinking
Lateral thinking and meta thinking are related. As...
  Lateral Thinking can Improve the Brain and Memory
Lateral thinking is specifically concerned with ch...
  Using Lateral Thinking to Find an Exciting Job
Logical thinking -> job portals, friends, newspape...
  How to Think Laterally
Problem-solving, and lateral thinking in particula...
  Lateral Thinking is Divergent Thinking
Lateral thinking is hypothesizing the alternate...
  Increased Scope of Thinking
Every solution will have its advantages and disadv...
  Lateral Thinking - Sometimes Suppressed
This is the way to operate out of the box. Unfortu...
  Lateral Thinking Methods and our Decisions
Lateral thinking is a moral value that offers the ...
  Lateral Thinking is Inborn
Lateral thinking is inborn and exists in childr...
  Lateral Thinking the New Thinking Which Makes the Difference
Last century the steam engine replaced muscle powe...
  Lateral Thinking Methods / Tools
Lateral thinking is key today. What methods and...
  Lateral Thinking Should Be Taught at Univ / MBA
I recommend that this special subject "lateral thi...

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 ask...
  What is Lateral Thinking?
I would like members comments on Edward de Bono's ...

Expert Tips - Lateral Thinking Premium

Generating New and Useful Ideas in Innovation: Avoiding the Primal MarkSign up

In today's dynamic environment, to stay competitiv...
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 IdeasSign up

SCAMPER is a creative or  

Resources - Lateral Thinking Premium

How to Manage Creativity in OrganizationsSign up

This presentation elaborates on the management of ...
Usage (application): Innovation Management, Managing Creativity, Managing Creative People, Fostering Creativity in Organizations, Creativity

Design Thinking for InnovationSign up

This presentation is about design thinking and the...
Usage (application): Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking, CSR, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation

Lateral Thinking PuzzlesSign up

This presentation provides you with 16 small puzzl...
Usage (application): Lateral Thinking, creative Thinking, Workshops

Techniques for Entrepreneurial ThinkingSign up

This presentation elaborates on the different type...
Usage (application): Entrepreneurship, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Lateral Thinking, Entrepreneurial Thinking

Creative Thinking Techniques and Creative Problem Solving MethodologiesSign up

This presentation elaborates on the concept of cre...
Usage (application): Creativity, Innovation Management

Introduction to Managing Creativity and InnovationSign up

Presentation about Innovation and Creativity, ther...
Usage (application): Innovation Management, Managing Innovation, Managing Innovative Employees, Managing Creative Employees

Critical Thinking in Decision MakingSign up

Presentation about critical thinking for decision ...
Usage (application): Critical Thinking, Testing Assumptions, Avoiding Fallacies, Avoiding Biases, Dealing with Emotions

Overview of Reasoning Types and ModelsSign up

This comprehensive presentation clearly outlines t...
Usage (application): Reasoning

Thinking Out of the Box-Concept is Completely MisunderstoodSign up

The term and idea of thinking outside of the box i...
Usage (application): Thinking Out of the Box, Lateral Thinking, Consultancy

News about Lateral ThinkingSign up


Videos about Lateral ThinkingSign up


Presentations about Lateral ThinkingSign up


Books about Lateral ThinkingSign up


More about Lateral ThinkingSign up


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 / Cite us | Privacy | Suggestions | Terms of Service
© 2018 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.1 - Last updated: 16-8-2018. All names ™ of their owners.