Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term lateral thinking was coined by Edward de Bono in the book New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking published in 1967. Lateral thinking, is the ability to think creatively, or “outside the box” as it is sometimes referred to in business, to use your inspiration and imagination to solve problems by looking at them from unexpected perspectives.
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Lateral thinking involves discarding the obvious, leaving behind traditional modes of thought, and throwing away preconceptions. It’s very important in careers such as advertising, marketing, the media and art and design where you may get questions in the selection process along the lines of “Write down one hundred ways to use a brick/paperclip”, but it can also be of value in the jobhunting process itself.
Contents [hide] •1 Methods •2 Lateral thinking and problem solving •3 See also •4 Further reading •5 References  Methods Critical thinking is primarily concerned with judging the true value of statements and seeking errors. Lateral thinking is more concerned with the movement value of statements and ideas. A person would use lateral thinking when they want to move from one known idea to creating new ideas.
Edward de Bono defines four types of thinking tools: •Idea generating tools that are designed to break current thinking patterns—routine patterns, the status quo •Focus tools that are designed to broaden where to search for new ideas •Harvest tools that are designed to ensure more value is received from idea generating output •Treatment tools that are designed to consider real-world constraints, resources, and support Random Entry Idea Generating Tool: Choose an object at random, or a noun from a dictionary, and associate that with the area you are thinking about.
For example imagine you are thinking about how to improve a web site. Choosing an object at random from an office you might see a fax machine. A fax machine transmits images over the phone to paper. Fax machines are becoming rare. People send faxes directly to phone numbers. Perhaps this could be a new way to embed the web site’s content in emails and other sites. Provocation Idea Generating Tool: choose to use any of the provocation techniques—wishful thinking, exaggeration, reversal, escape, or arising. Create a list of provocations and then use the most outlandish ones to move your thinking forward to new ideas.
Challenge Idea Generating Tool: A tool which is designed to ask the question “Why? ” in a non-threatening way: why something exists, why it is done the way it is. The result is a very clear understanding of “Why? ” which naturally leads to fresh new ideas. The goal is to be able to challenge anything at all, not just items which are problems. For example you could challenge the handles on coffee cups. The reason for the handle seems to be that the cup is often too hot to hold directly. Perhaps coffee cups could be made with insulated finger grips, or there could be separate coffee cup holders similar to beer holders.
Concept Fan Idea Generating Tool: Ideas carry out concepts. This tool systematically expands the range and number of concepts in order to end up with a very broad range of ideas to consider. Disproving: Based on the idea that the majority is always wrong (Henrik Ibsen, John Kenneth Galbraith[who? ]), take anything that is obvious and generally accepted as “goes without saying”, question it, take an opposite view, and try to convincingly disprove it. The other focus, harvesting and treatment tools deal with the output of the generated ideas and the ways to use them. edit] Lateral thinking and problem solving Problem Solving: When something creates a problem, the performance or the status quo of the situation drops. Problem solving deals with finding out what caused the problem and then figuring out ways to fix the problem. The objective is to get the situation to where it should be. For example, a production line has an established run rate of 1000 items per hour. Suddenly, the run rate drops to 800 items per hour. Ideas as to why this happened and solutions to repair the production line must be thought of, such as giving the worker a pay rise.
Creative Problem Solving: Using creativity, one must solve a problem in an indirect and unconventional manner. For example, if a production line produced 1000 books per hour, creative problem solving could find ways to produce more books per hour, use the production line, or reduce the cost to run the production line. Creative Problem Identification: Many of the greatest non-technological innovations are identified while realizing an improved process or design in everyday objects and tasks either by accidental chance or by studying and documenting real world experience…. I invented the term ‘lateral thinking’ in 1967.
It was first written up in a book called “The Use of Lateral Thinking” (Jonathan Cape, London) – “New Think” (Basic Books, New York) – the two titles refer to the same book. For many years now this has been acknowledged in the Oxford English Dictionary which is the final arbiter of the English Language. 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. PARALLEL THINKINGTM I introduced this term in my book ‘PARALLEL THINKING’ (published by Viking, London and Penguin Books, London). Parallel thinking is best understood in contrast to traditional argument or adversarial thinking. With the traditional argument or adversarial thinking each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side.
Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. This is the type of thinking established by the Greek Gang of Three (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) two thousand four hundred years ago. Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the ‘truth’ not to build anything. With ‘parallel thinking’ both sides (or all parties0 are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation.
But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage the way forward is ‘designed’ from the parallel thought that have been laid out. A simple and practical way of carrying out ‘parallel thinking’ is the Six HatsTM method which is now being used widely around the world both because it speeds up thinking and also because it is so much more constructive then traditional argument thinking.
Information on Lateral Thinking and Six HatsTM methods are available on this website. Particulars of training courses are also given. Edward de Bono Lateral thinking in the job hunting process A number of graduates have tried the old and hackneyed methods of trying to gain the selector’s attention, such as enclosing a tea bag with their application, so that the selector could take a break to have a cup of tea before reading it. Others have send their CV to newspapers in a magazine format, but below are a couple of truly original approaches: A graduate had een trying to get into investment banking, but without success and had exhausted all the normal routes. As a last resort, he had 100 postcard-sized CVs printed. He then went round the “Square Mile” in the City, where all the main financial organisations in London are located and proceeded to place one of these CVs under the windscreen of every Rolls Royce and top of the range BMW and Mercedes he came across. Next day, he had several ‘phone calls offering him interviews from the senior executives whom the cars belonged to. Note that we are not advocating this approach!
A student wanted to become a trainee journalist on her local newspaper. She decided to carefully analyse the content of the paper and compared it with similar local papers. She conducted a small survey of readers’ opinions on the paper by interviewing passers-by in the city centre. Using this information, she drew up a list of possible changes to the paper, wrote a sample article to show what she had in mind and sent these to the editor. The editor invited her in to discuss her suggestions – they had a long discussion and the next vacancy that arose was offered to her without competition.
For more examples of lateral thinking in jobhunting see our Creative Careers Search page Lateral Thinking Quiz The following questions will test your ability to think laterally. If you get more than 50% of these right you’re certainly strong on your lateral thinking skills (or maybe you’re just good at quizzes! ) 1. A graduate applying for pilot training with a major airline was asked what he would do if, after a long-haul flight to Sidney, he met the captain wearing a dress in the hotel bar. What would you do? 2. What can you hold in your right hand, but not in your left? 3.
If you have two coins totaling 11p, and one of the coins is not a penny, what are the two coins? 4. How many animals of each species did Moses take into the Ark? Jackie Stewart, three times World Champion Formula One racing driver had undiagnosed dyslexia and was unable to complete his school education. He said: “When you’ve got dyslexia and you find something you’re good at, you put more into it than anyone else; you can’t think the way of the clever folk, so you’re always thinking out of the box. ” 5. A man built a rectangular house, each side having a southern view. He spotted a bear. What colour was the bear? 6.
If you were alone in a deserted house at night, and there was an oil lamp, a candle and firewood and you only have one match, which would you light first? 7. What can you put in a wooden box that would make it lighter? The more of them you put in the lighter it becomes, yet the box stays empty. 8. Which side of a cat contains the most hair? 9. The 60th and 62nd British Prime Ministers of the UK had the same mother and father, but were not brothers. How do you account for this? 10. How many birthdays does a typical woman have? “The fear of making a mistake, of risking an error, or of being told you are wrong is constantly with us.
And that’s a shame. Making mistakes is not the same thing as being creative, but if you are not willing to make mistakes, then it is impossible to be truly creative. I f your state of mind is coming from a place of fear and risk avoidance, then you will always settle for the safe solutions—the solutions already applied many times before. Failing is ? ne, necessary in fact. But avoiding experimentation or risk—especially out of fear of what others may think—is something that will gnaw at your gut more than any ephemeral failure. A failure is in the past. It’s done and over.
In fact, it doesn’t exist. But worrying about “what might be if…” or “what might have been if I had… ” are pieces of baggage you carry around daily. They’re heavy, and they’ll kill your creative spirit. Take chances and stretch yourself. You’re only here on this planet once, and for a very short time at that. Why not just see how gifted you are? ” Daniel Garr – Presentation Zen 11. Why can’t a man living in Canterbury be buried west of the River Stour? 12. Divide 40 by half and add ten. What is the answer? 13. To the nearest cubic centimetre, how much soil is there in a 3m x 2m x 2m hole? 4. Is it legal for a man to marry his widow’s sister? 15. If you drove a coach leaving Canterbury with 35 passengers, dropped off 6 and picked up 2 at Faversham, picked up 9 more at Sittingbourne, dropped off 3 at Chatham, and then drove on to arrive in London 40 minutes later, what would the name of the driver be? 16. A woman lives on the tenth floor of a block of flats. Every morning she takes the lift down to the ground floor and goes to work. In the evening, she gets into the lift, and, if there is someone else in the lift she goes back to her floor directly. Otherwise, she oes to the eighth floor and walks up two flights of stairs to her flat. How do you explain this? 17. A window cleaner is cleaning the windows on the 25th floor of a skyscraper, when he slips and falls. He is not wearing a safety harness and nothing slows his fall, yet he suffered no injuries. Explain. 18. The band of stars across the night sky is called the “…… Way”? 19. Yogurt is made from fermented …….. 20. What do cows drink? 21. A farmer has 15 cows, all but 8 die. How many does he have left? I once visited a major pharmaceutical company to discuss their graduate recruitment for marketing.
They told me that one of the key attributes they looked for was Helicopter Ability: the ability to soar above a problem and to see all aspects of it, to stand back and see the bigger picture, the wood rather than the trees. Creativity involves being able to think outside the box to ? nd solutions to unpredictable problems. This needs logic and analysis, but also the ability to see the big-picture and this involves a creative mind. 22. If a red house is made of red bricks, and a blue house is made of blue bricks, what is a green house made of? 23. In what sport are the shoes made of metal? 4. The Zorganian Republic has some very strange customs. Couples only wish to have female children as only females can inherit the family’s wealth, so if they have a male child they keep having more children until they have a girl. If they have a girl, they stop having children. What is the ratio of girls to boys in Zorgania? 25. If a plane crashes on the Italian/Swiss border, where do you bury the survivors? 26. If the hour hand of a clock moves 1/60th of a degree every minute, how many degrees will it move in an hour? 27. How many hands does the clock of Big Ben have? 28.
How many degrees are there between clock hands at 3. 15 pm? 29. How many times do the hands of a clock overlap in 24 hours? 30. John’s mother has 3 children, one is named April, one is named May. What is the third one named? 31. A cowboy rode into town on Friday, spent one night there, and left on Friday. How do you account for this? 32. How can you throw a ball as hard as you can, and make it stop and return to you, without hitting anything and with nothing attached to it? 33. Using just ONE straight cut, how can you cut a rectangular cake into two equal parts when a rectangular piece has already been removed from it? 4. A man went into a store to buy an item. He asked the assistant: “How much does it cost for one? ” The assistant replied 2 pounds, Sir” “And how much for 10? ” The assistant replied “? 4” “How much for 100? ” He got the reply “? 6” What was the man buying? 35. A man and his son were in a car crash. The father was killed and the son was taken to hospital with serious injuries. The examining doctor exclaims: “But, this is my son! “. How can this be? 36. There are 23 football teams playing in a knockout competition. What is the least number of matches they need to play to decide the winner?
One student, desperate to get into advertising, had been rejected by the main London agencies, so he decided to try a different approach. He bought some pink envelopes and a small bottle of expensive perfume. He placed his CV in the envelopes and wrote “Private” on the outside. He liberally sprinkled the envelopes with scent and posted them to the senior agency partner in several of the biggest agencies. When it arrived, nobody dared to open the letters and the graduate was offered several interviews – presumably for his daring. Note that, we don’t recommend this approach! Answers:
Most of the above are what we call “Insight puzzles”. Research by Schooler and Melcher (University of California) found that people who wrote down the puzzles and tried to solve them on paper were on average 30% less likely to come up with the right solution than those who didn’t write it down and just solved them in their heads. Writing down the puzzles invokes the use of the left side of our brain which deals with verbal and logical (algorithmic) reasoning, rather than the right side which deals with visual and creative (heuristic) thinking. These puzzles tend to require creative ather than logical reasoning to solve them, so we need to use right brain thinking. 1. Offer to buy her a drink! The captain was of course a woman. Many airlines are now hot on equal opportunities and a candidate who had difficulty envisaging that an airline captain might be female would not go very far! 2. Your left hand, forearm or elbow. 3. 10p and 1p – the other coin can be a penny! 4. None. NOAH built the Ark 5. White. Only at the North Pole can all four walls be facing South. 6. The match! 7. Holes 8. The outside 9. Churchill was Prime Minister twice, from 1940 to 45 and from 1951 to 55. 0. One 11. Because he is still alive . 12. 90. Dividing by half is the same as multiplying by 2. 13. None – it’s a hole! 14. No – because he’s dead 15. YOU are the driver! 16. The woman is of small stature and couldn’t reach the upper lift buttons. 17. He was cleaning the inside of the windows. 18. Milky Way 19. Milk 20. Water. After the previous two questions, did you answer milk? 21. Eight 22. Glass 23. Horse racing; or other horse sports 24. About 1 to 1. Any birth will always have a 50% chance of being male or female. 25. You don’t bury survivors! 26. One 27.
Eight: there are four faces to the clock of Big Ben (see the picture to the right) 28. Not zero degrees as you might at first think. The minute hand will be at 15 minutes (90 degrees clockwise from vertical) but the hour hand will have progressed to one quarter of the distance between 3 pm and 4 pm. Each hour represents 30 degrees (360 / 12), so one quarter of an hour equals 7. 5 degrees. So the minute hand will be at 97. 5 degrees: a 7. 5 degree difference between the hands. 29. 22: the minute hand will go round the dial 24 times, but the hour hand will also complete two circuits. 4 minus 2 equals 22. 30. John 31. His horse was named Friday 32. Go outside and throw it upwards. 33. Cut it horizontally half way up (i. e. parallel to the top) . See right 34. House numbers. 35. The doctor was his mother. Going full circle, this is very similar to the first question. 36. In a knockout competition, every team except the winner is defeated once and once only, so the number of matches is one less than the number of teams in this case 23-1 = 22. Score ?Over 30. You are a true lateral thinking Guru. Edward De Bono would be proud of you. Or maybe you are the man himself. ?25 to 30.
Very good. ?20 to 24. Quite good. ?15 to 19. Average. ?Under 15 – watch The Matrix, The Simpsons and Dr Who a few more times. The final test! Pick one of the following cards: When you have chosen your card, focus carefully on it and keep it clearly in your mind for 15 seconds. Once you have done this scroll down to the bottom of the page. Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. Edward de Bono Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned. Edward de Bono Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. ” Edison
The great composers did not set to work because they were inspired but became inspired because they were working. Ari Kiev An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. Edwin Land Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create. Albert Einstein Inventions don’t come in Eureka moments: they are the consequence of experts absorbing themselves for so long in their field that they become pregnant with creative energy: deep immersion in an area of expertise.
Bounce, by Michael Syed Here are some web sites which will allow you to take lateral thinking further. ?For some more logic problems see our Case Interviews page ? Timed verbal logical reasoning test ?Creative Careers Search Page – how to network effectively. ?Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Diagonal Thinking Self-assessment Tool ? IPA Copywriting Test ?The most difficult application forms ?Edward De Bono: the “inventor” of lateral thinking www. edwdebono. com/debono/lateral. htm Your card has been removed! Back to our other skills pages The Magnet – Back to the Logic Puzzles
This logic puzzle was published in Martin Gardner’s column in the Scientific American. You are in a room with no metal objects except for two iron rods. Only one of them is a magnet. How can you identify which one is a magnet? Spoiler for Solution Magnet – solution You can hang the iron rods on a string and watch which one turns to the north (or hang just one rod). Gardner gives one more solution: take one rod and touch with its end the middle of the second rod. If they get closer, then you have a magnet in your hand. The real magnet will have a magnetic field at its poles, but not at its center.
So as previously mentioned, if you take the iron bar and touch its tip to the magnet’s center, the iron bar will not be attracted. This is assuming that the magnet’s poles are at its ends. If the poles run through the length of the magnet, then it would be much harder to use this method. In that case, rotate one rod around its axis while holding an end of the other to its middle. If the rotating rod is the magnet, the force will fluctuate as the rod rotates. If the rotating rod is not magnetic, the force is constant (provided you can keep their positions steady).