Lateral Thinking: Goodbye to Conventional Solutions

Lateral Thinking is a term coined by the Maltese-born UK psychologist Dr. Edward de Bono in his 1970 book titled just that, “Lateral Thinking.”

By definition, Lateral Thinking is a process of idea generation and problem solving where new concepts are created by looking at things from a new angle. Logical thinking is considered vertical thinking and carries an idea forward by means of conventionality and meeting the challenges head on. Sideways thinking, or Lateral Thinking provokes fresh ideas or alters the frame of reference in order to procure a new approach the issue. In Lateral Thinking, individuals try to bypass or topple problems by thinking up radically new approaches conformists would never have thought possible.i

“Lateral Thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces.” – Dr. Edward de Bono

When Should Lateral Thinking be Used?

Problem Solving | When faced with a problem or in early development stages of a product, you are bound to face a challenge, and there will typically always be an obvious solution. In Lateral Thinking, it is important to take time to brainstorm and conjure up different, alternative ways to define the issue and thinking more broadly to concoct a creative solution.

Find a New Direction | It is not likely that all your business practices and company processes are designed to be the most effective they can be. By using the principles from the Lateral Thinking approach to problem solving or creative reasoning, individuals break away from obvious answers and look for new ways of doing things that are more advantageous to operations.

Inventions & Innovations | Starting from a “blank slate” or “beginning from square one” is not simply about improving what has already been done and already exists on the market, but rather, Lateral Thinking, helps innovative thinkers be more proactive and confident in their imagination and design processes.

Conquer Your Creativity | Lateral Thinking does not have to take more than a couple of minutes to actually see the things from a new perspective. Trying to find a new approach or a radical concept is not limited by the parameters of time. Whether you invest a little or a lot of energy into the subjects, all that matters is that the principles are applied.ii

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” - Dr. Edward de Bono

When you disregard the assumption that you must act immediately, the “best” answer becomes clear.

Creativity and innovation are popular words today that sometimes get used so much their meaning is lost. History demonstrates some of the master thinkers of the time all had breakthroughs when they employed outside the box thinking which in the essence is a commonality following the principles outlined in Lateral Thinking.

Lateral Thinking is the art of reframing questions and attacking them sideways which essentially means throwing assumptions in the trash and breaking the rules. For example, Picasso’s Cubism captivated Paris and invigorated the world in world in such a way that it is unparalleled by Van Gogh’s impressionism. Apple turned the tech world upside down by revolutionizing music and mice when others just followed suit, employing the standard practices that only showed minimal returns in advancing the way the world used technology.

Here are five steps to train teams on the principles of Lateral Thinking.

1. List the Assumptions

Write down a list of easy answers that come to mind. What would you normally do in this situation and then look for other ways of handing the issue. Challenge yourself to evolve.

2. Articulate the Convention

Ask yourself or your team, “How would an average individual approach this problem?” Then ask yourself or the team, “What would we do if this route were no longer available?” Be MacGyver, be crafty and resourceful.

3. Question the Question

Rewrite the question a couple of ways and in doing so, this activity may prompt a new response.

4. Start Backwards

Start with the solution and work backwards; taking a new approach may lead to a new way of being.

5. Change Perspective

Imagine yourself as an outsider entering a new industry with fresh eyes. You will take an entirely new approach than say your colleague with 15 years of experience. You are ignorant of convention, and that’s a good thing!

GBSB Global Business School promotes innovative thinking practices by utilizing a wide variety of progressive business methodologies, case studies and group projects in its curriculum. Whether you are studying Business Innovation, Operations and Supply Chain Management, or Entrepreneurship, these principles shape the way our future leaders will conduct business, propel change, and grow.

If you are interested in leading the way in which business is operated today, contact GBSB Global Business School here for more information on the program that may be just the right fit for you and your career aspirations. Position yourself among the next generation of competitive leaders graduating from business schools around the globe. Your education at GBSB Global Business School will propel you ahead of the crowd.

[i] Business Dictionary. Retrieved from
[ii] De Bono, Dr. Edward. Lateral Thinking. Dr. Edward de Bono. Retrieved from


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