A Simple Guide To Lateral Thinking Skills

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

- Albert Einstein


1. What is Lateral thinking?

Lateral thinking is method of solving problems using non-traditional (that means no step-by-step) logic and reasoning in a way that defies conventional thinking patterns. In other words, lateral thinking is being creative with creative thinking.


It was formulated by Edward de Bono in 1967.


2. According to De Bono, there are two kinds of thinking:


Vertical thinking and Lateral thinking.


- Vertical thinking: The conventional, logical, critical and analytical thinking, long supported by traditional education.


Vertical thinking is focused on 'what is.'


De Bono says this will not yield creative solutions.


De Bono said Vertical thinking is 'Adversarial Thinking', where people are more focused on getting around arguments, defeating others in argument, than in actually solving the problem itself.


- Lateral Thinking: Simply, unconventional thinking.

Business types often call Lateral Thinking as 'outside the box' thinking.


Roughly, lateral thinking means deliberately setting out to look at a challenge from completely different angles to find great solutions that would otherwise remain hidden.


Lateral Thinking is focused on 'what could be.' It will yield multiple creative solutions from which to choose.


3. Vertical Thinking vs. Lateral Thinking


Vertical: Step by step, analyzing, based on facts, one result

Lateral: Provokes, jumps from one to another, looks at possibilities, many results


4. Use of Lateral Thinking in Business

Lateral Thinking is very important in careers such as advertising, marketing, the media and art and design.


Many Product Development departments use lateral thinking to come up with new product ideas.


Lateral Thinking is of course applicable in most life situations - job hunting, negotiation, advertising/promotion ideas, new product development, etc.


Example: In many job interviews, you will come across the ‘Edison’ test variations. For example, 'Write down one hundred ways to use a brick/paperclip'.


Story: On the internet, there is this story of a person in New York, who wanted to work in a top advertising agency.


So, he Googled the names of the creative directors of these agencies and then spent just six dollars on a set of Google ads that were triggered when the directors searched for their own names.


The adverts said 'Hey, (creative directors name), Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too' Of the five directors he targeted, four gave him an interview and two offered him a job.


5. Lateral thinking techniques


- Random Entry: Choose an object at random, or a noun from a dictionary, and associate that with the area you are thinking about. Edward de Bono's word suggestions are: weed, rust, poor, magnify, foam, gold, frame, hole, diagonal, vacuum, tribe, puppet, nose, link, drift, duty, portrait, cheese, chocolate, coal


- Provocation: Declare the usual perception out of bounds, or provide some provocative alternative to the usual situation under consideration.


- Challenge: Simply challenge the way things have always been done or seen, or the way they are.


This is done not to show there is anything wrong with the existing situation but simply to direct your perceptions to exploring outside the current area.


- Focus: Pick a word, an issue…anything. Note down all that you know about it; and all that you don’t know about it.


6. Example of lateral thinking


Example: Two men were on a jungle safari in Africa.

Suddenly, they came across a lion that started roaring. Both men were frightened and one of them started wearing his shoes.


The other one said, 'How is this going to help? We can't outrun the lion.'


The first man replied, 'I don't have to outrun the lion; I only have to outrun you.'


Puzzle#1: Throwing Balls

How can you throw a ball as hard as you can so that it comes back to you? The ball should have nothing attached to it, it shouldn't hit anything, and no one else should catch it or throw it.

Answer: Throw it up in the air.


Puzzle#2: Coin out of a bottle

Put a coin in a bottle and then stop the opening with a cork. How can you get the coin out of the bottle without pulling out the cork or breaking the bottle?

Answer: Push the cork into the bottle, and shake the coin out.


Things to do: Google ‘Lateral Thinking quiz’ and you will find lots of great stuff, which will certainly get your mind in new ways.


Thank you for reading.
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In: Thinking Skills