wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)


Maltese expert in creativity based in Britain (pictured right) who coined the term “lateral thinking” in this book.


See also...

Edward de Bono in the Management Gurus section.


Book summary


What is lateral thinking?

The deliberate generation of new ideas and the abandonment of old ones.


Why is it important?

It is vital to creativity.


How is it achieved?

 Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)

1. Choosing attention areas (the problems) and entry points (the first area of attention)

For example

  • the inconvenience of using an umbrella could be... 
  • an entry point for another solution to keeping dry in the rain.


2. Challenging assumptions, ideas and clichés

You do this by looking at a problem and asking:Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)

  • what does this really mean?
  • how else could we do this?
  • what would we do if...?
  • why does it have to be done this way?
  • are there better ways of doing it?
  • what are the alternatives?


3. Identifying key ideas and crucial factorsEdward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)

For example, air travel:

  • speed.
  • safety.
  • service.


4. Using analogies

Using comparable situations to solve a problem

For example, using a hobby like stamp collecting to improve administration.


5. FractionationEdward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)

Dividing a problem into different parts.

For example, transport by bus can be divided into:

  • choice of route.
  • frequency.
  • convenience.
  • number of users.
  • bus size.
  • cost.
  • alternative transport.

 Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)

6. The reversal method

Reversing the situation.

For example:

  • customers helping shop assistants.
  • patients helping doctors.


7. Provocation (“po”)

This provokes new ways of thinking by:

  • comparing two unrelated things (juxtaposition).
  • changing the course of a discussion with completely new points (disconnected jumps). Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking (1970)
  • asking ‘what if?’ or ‘suppose?’ questions.
  • re-constructing a problem - for example, emphasizing brain power in policing by employing one-armed policemen.
  • introducing a random word (random stimulation).
  • concentrating on unlikely possibilities – for example, everyone can live to a hundred.
  • deliberate incorrectness.


Key quotes on creativity

The most basic principle of lateral thinking is that any particular way of looking at things is only one from among any other possible ways.

The only available method for changing ideas is conflict.

Lateral thinking is provocative.

Nothing is sacred.


Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books