What’s the Deal With Lateral Thinking?

A focus on creative thinking.

Do Something New

I believe that everyone possesses creative skills. However, the manner in which someone expresses creativity will vary from one person to the next (and honestly, I feel like that goes without saying). It is important, in this context, to think of creativity outside the realm of traditional arts and instead think about creativity as a business practice giving prominence to problem solving. I think of creativity as the ability to find new answers to interesting problems. The element of newness is paramount in this sort of creativity to which I’m referring. Creativity, as a soft-skill, can certainly be taught, but inherently creative people demonstrate a stronger inner motivation and passion along with a high frustration tolerance level, which means that they continue to be productive (or innovative) even in the face of resistance.* Those folks who are inherently creativity may go on to be more successful facilitators, more apt to uncover a multitude of possibilities, and more successful divergent thinkers.

Here’s the secret to creative thinking:

Being able to think laterally really sets a true creative thinker apart from the rest.

One Solution vs. Infinite Solutions

What I understand to be true of lateral thinking is that it is largely based around pattern formation, code communication, and the repetitive sequencing of information. To create an example: Imagine you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle and instead of using the pieces in the box to complete the task you create your own puzzle pieces. Taking it a step further, you use those newly created pieces to form new puzzles altogether. I know it sounds absurd, but lateral thinking requires you to solve problems through reasoning that is not always obvious. The logic here is not flawed. It is intentionally distanced from our traditional perceptions of problem solving. With lateral thinking, one generates as many approaches to solve a problem as possible. When applying vertical thinking, one moves in a clearly defined direction with a single approach (a box of puzzle pieces = one puzzle). Many of us naturally employ vertical thinking and we’ve never known any other way. This distinct difference boils down to demonstrate that vertical thinking is selective and lateral thinking is generative.

De Bono Knows Best

Something that stood out to me in Edward De Bono’s book, Lateral Thinking is that one does not seek to solve a pattern with lateral thinking but instead the intent is to generate pattern. Additionally, lateral thinking does not have to be correct at every interval where vertical thinking requires precision.

The overarching concepts of pattern formation, iteration, and inexactness are what validate to me that my creative process, as abstract as it may seem, employs the methodology Edward De Bono could appreciate.


* Bono, E. D. (1970). Lateral thinking: Creativity Step by Step. New York, NY: Harper & Row.