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Myths and Realities about Lateral Thinking!

lateraltI think most of us have heard about this two lettered word “Lateral Thinking”. If not lateral thinking, then you might have come across terms like “thinking out of the box”, “creative thinking” etc. And a few of us might have actually read the book about lateral thinking by Edward De Bono. But to be frank many of us have lot of wrong ideas about lateral thinking process and tend to complicate it to lose its real benefits. And I was one among them till very recently. But my ideas have been clarified by a few sessions on lateral thinking. So, I thought it would be a good proposition to put it up here in my own words and try to help dispel some of the myths associated with lateral thinking and bring into focus some of the realities.


  • Lateral thinking is something which defies logic, yeah true to certain extent, but not entirely. On the contrary a lot of logical analysis goes into the thinking process.
  • Creative thinking can only be done by creative people. Many of us might draw a picture in our mind of a creative person to be wearing long Kurtas, with long beard and lost in his own world. But there is no such distinction as creative people or non-creative people. I mean there is no such constraint that a non-creative person is born like that and he cannot think laterally or creatively. On the contrary the transformation process is very simple one.
  • Lateral thinking gives rise to impractical ideas. Many of us have the feeling that creative thinking is something which doesn’t have a real existence in the sense that it only gives rise to farfetched ideas. But the reality is quite different. In today’s world these concepts are actually revolutionizing the way corporate decisions are being made. And it is actually found to be very helpful in tricky situations.
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  • It is very simple. This is the reality! Creative thinking is actually in a way simple thinking. In general our mind is cluttered with so much of information that we tend to think in a complicated manner and ignore the small and simple facts.
  • Creative thinking and its outcome appears to be very easy and logical at the hindsight. Let me explain this in details. I would go with an example; this is taken from one of the demos given by none other than Edward De Bono himself. It goes like this:
    • Let us take a set of 20 people who don’t have any idea about arithmetic formulae to find out sum of numbers.
      o Ask them to add numbers from 1 to 10.
    • You will get the response in maximum one minute.
    • Now ask the same group to add numbers from 1 to 100.
    • It will take a lot of time for them to add the numbers (remember the condition that they don’t know how to use the formula for the same)
    • Now if we were able to think creatively we can do it by following the below steps
      • Write 1 to 100
        1 |2 |3 |4|5|…………………………..|100
        100|99|98| ………………………………..|1
      • Add column wise like 1+100, 2+99,..…. So each column will give the sum 101.
      • Thus we get hundred times 101.
      • But this is sum of twice the numbers that we actually want.
      • So the sum would actually be fifty times 101.
    • vertical_lateralthinking

    • So this is one example which shows how it seems simple after we know the final outcome.
  • Lateral thinking is about structuring the information properly to figure out a creative solution. A lot depends on the sequence in which information comes and it is an important factor which determines your ultimate outcome of the thought process.
  • There are some very innovative techniques designed by Edward De Bono to approach the lateral thinking process. A few examples are given below:
  • So, lateral thinking is more of a technique and it can be learned by anyone who is interested and have the will to learn it.
  • Lateral thinking is the way you jump away from the normal stream of thinking and go to a side track which provides you with a direction that is different and effective.

Lateral thinking is thus not a vague idea as many of us think it to be. But it is a process which emphasize simple thinking to make the decision making process more effective and to the point.


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4 Responses

  1. I think people get more bogged down by the term “lateral thinking” than by thinking itself.
    I would say “Lateral thinking gives rise to ideas that might seem impractical”.
    Fun/sense of achievement is when you actually make that impractical idea work.

  2. An incident comes to my mind here. A three year old was visiting her uncle. In the course of play, the uncle asks her if she can stand with her hands stretched in front of her. She does. Next, he asks her if she could stand with both her hands and feet stretched out in front.

    Normally, our reaction would be to reply with “It is impossible”, “We will fall down” or something like that. But, what this girl did was amazing. She thought for a moment, then came up to her father and said “Dad, pick me up”. while, her dad picked her up from behind by her shoulders, she stretched both her arms and legs in front, and amazed those around.

  3. It’s worth reading several times. I must admit that I didn’t know about this aspect. I heard about it only.

  4. Very simply written article……….. but explained the idea in such a penetrating way… waiting for more articles of this type…