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Edward de Bono (1933- )Edward de Bono


Maltese expert in creativity based in Britain (pictured right) who coined the term “lateral thinking” in his 1967 book, The Use of Lateral Thinking.


Key books


Lateral Thinking (1970)

(see for more detail Lateral Thinking in the Business Books section)


Vital to creativity is “lateral thinking” (the deliberate generation of new ways of looking at things) that is achieved by:


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

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


2. Challenging assumptions and escaping from cliché concepts and polarized thinking

Do this by asking:

  • how else could we do this?
  • what would I 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 factors 

(for example, safety and reliability in cars).

These crucial factors may be assumed.


4. Fractionation 

Dividing a problem into different parts e.g. car transport becomes car and driving.


5. Brainstorming

Generating new solutions to a problem (freely and uncritically) in small groups (min. 6, max. 15) and very quickly (min. 20 mins, max. 45).

The group must include a chairperson (who guides it but doesn’t control or direct it) and notetaker.

The problem mustn’t be too broad or too narrow e.g. to improve traffic flow, not to improve traffic lights.

Proposed solutions must be evaluated after a brainstorming session.


6. Analogy

(for example, a shortsighted man finding his way around to discover a way through fog).


7. Provocation (“po”)

Challenging assumptions and creating new perspectives on problems by:

  • Role reversal e.g. patients treating doctors and students teaching teachers.
  • Comparing two unrelated concepts.
  • Disconnected jumps - linking a problem to its possible causes.
  • Posing ‘what if?’ or ‘suppose?’ questions.
  • Reconstructing a problem e.g. employing one-armed policemen highlighting the need for brain power not brute force.
  • Concentrating on unlikely possibilities - e.g. everyone can live to a hundred.
  • Merging occupations - e.g.artist/inventor.
  • Random stimulation - using random words from a dictionary, book or journal to stimulate ideas.
  • Deliberate incorrectness - to see where it leads you.
  • Delayed judgement (of an idea).


In The Masterthinker’s Handbook (1990), de Bono identifies four further sources of provocation:


1. Distortion

Changing normal relationships between people and the order in which something is normally done.


2. Exaggeration

Upwards or downwards but never to zero e.g. your organization has only one desk.


3. Escaping from any point that is taken for granted

- for example, hospitals don't have patients.


4. Wishful thinking  ('wouldn't it be nice if...')


Key quotes on creativity (from the 1990 edition of Lateral Thinking )

 Lateral thinking is... an attitude of mind.

 Liberation from old ideas and the stimulation of new ones, the two aims of lateral thinking.

 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.

 Nothing is sacred.

 The only available method for changing ideas is conflict.


Six Thinking Hats (1985)

(see for more detail Six Thinking Hats in the Business Books section)


Six ‘hats’ can be used for creative thinking:


1. White hat (objective information, facts not opinions)

  • what information do we have here/ is missing/ would we like to have?
  • how are we going to get that information?
  • what are our essential factors (e.g. safety in airlines)?


2. Red hat (intuition, emotions and feelings)

What is our intuition (gut feeling)?

Remember intuition can be wrong.


3. Black hat (negatives and points of caution)

Why can’t something be done?


4. Yellow hat ( being positive and optimistic)

What is feasible, beneficial and logical?


5. Green hat (creative thinking)

  • what new ideas and concepts do we have?
  • are there any alternatives?
  • could we do this a different way?
  • could there be another explanation?


6. Blue hat (overview and evaluation)

  • what is our agenda for thinking?
  • what is our next step in thinking?
  • what are our summaries, conclusions, priorities and decisions?
  • what other thinking hats can we use to get some ideas?


Key quotes on creativity

The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas.

In the end all decisions are really ‘red hat’. We lay out the factors but the final decision is emotional.

 Intuition... is the result of complex judgement based on experience.


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