Sunday, 1 December 2013



When trying to solve a problem, it is very important to consider alternate solution instead of forging forward with the first decent idea. Picking one idea and proceeding until a solution is reached is called vertical thinking and this is the type of thinking that is most often taught in our schools.

When thinking laterally, you continue to generate ideas even after a promising idea has been produced.
A vertical thinker must always be moving usefully in some direction and must be correct at every step.
A lateral thinker can wander in different directions to find creative solutions and often must be wrong in order to be right in the end. Lateral thinkers welcome and explore seemingly irrelevant facts or ideas, whereas vertical thinkers shut out all irrelevant facts, ideas or data.

There are merits to both types of thinking. If you used only lateral thinking, you would be constantly experimenting and broadening and you would seldom finish anything. If you only used vertical thinking, you could go very far down the wrong path because you failed to find the correct path before starting out. A good compromise would be to use lateral thinking until you have decided on a solution and then switch to vertical thinking to implement that solution.

There is nothing wrong with being a lateral thinker. They are usually the ones with the highest IQ, although may never have completed school. They are the ones who constantly are trying new things. They are also the ones who are not dependable, have a hard time sitting still and completing a task, and teachers hate to have them in class.
The world needs both types of thinkers to progress – the ones who come up with the ideas, and the ones to implement them. There is nothing wrong with either group, but combining the two together makes for a fun and interesting ride!
Edward De Bono invented the term 'lateral thinking' in 1967.

There are several ways of defining lateral thinking, ranging from the technical to the illustrative.
1. "You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper"
This means that trying harder in the same direction may not be as useful as changing direction. Effort in the same direction (approach) will not necessarily succeed.
2. "Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perceptions"
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. Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces. Lateral thinking is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organise the external world into the pieces we can then 'process'.
3. "The brain as a self-organising information system forms asymmetric patterns. In such systems there is a mathematical need for moving across patterns. The tools and processes of lateral thinking are designed to achieve such 'lateral' movement. The tools are based on an understanding of self-organising information systems."
This is a technical definition which depends on an understanding of self-organising information systems.
4. "In any self-organising system there is a need to escape from a local optimum in order to move towards a more global optimum. The techniques of lateral thinking, such as provocation, are designed to help that change."
This is another technical definition. It is important because it also defines the mathematical need for creativity.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting topic and nicely expressed... Lateral thinking is also called ‘creative learning’ and fosters the ability to solve problems, seek more than one way to look at a situation, and allows for hands-on experience. In this global economy, a person who thinks ‘outside the box,’ has a better than average chance to become successful than those who rely on ‘group think.’ It allows us the ability to survive in a world full of people who are looking for new ideas to make them rich, or more successful..... Zahid Khan