Lateral thinking gives us strategies to facilitate creative and original outcomes 

More than just problem-solving, lateral thinking is about the creation of opportunity

Lateral thinking differentiates


De Bono considered humor (such as a joke) to be like lateral thinking in that it involves an “insight switchover” from a familiar pattern to a new, unexpected one … a pattern-switching process.

The answer to the joke triggers laughter because it reveals a proposition that makes sense in an unexpected way.


“Humor is the most significant behavior of the human mind”

Dr. Edward de Bono


Humor and lateral thinking are (often) considered to be sideways thinking … a tangent not immediately in your focus.


Lateral thinking tool to escape dominant thinking

Imagine dominant thinking (on any subject or situation) reaching an impasse (unable to find a universally acceptable/plausible answer). There seems to be no path forward (no common ground). However, the unexpected answer to the joke (or the lateral thinking-derived solution) reveals that an alternative had always been possible, if only we had seen the earlier turnoff.


(To better understand the close relationship between lateral thinking and humor, check out: BLINKERED THINKING)


Lateral thinking origin:

The phrase “lateral thinking” was first introduced by Edward de Bono way back in 1967. De Bono cites the “Judgement of Solomon” as the earliest known application of the lateral thinking principle. In that judgment, King Solomon resolved the parentage of a child by proposing to cut the child in half … but in fact, awarding the child to the mother that relinquished her claim in order to save the child’s life.

Dr. Edward de Bono – lateral thinking definition:

“Lateral thinking involves the solving of problems by an indirect or creative approach, typically by viewing the problem in a new and unusual light”

Lateral thinking is primarily concerned with the creation of original thinking. Yes, much of that original thinking is for the purpose of solving problems. However, the understated significance of these simple, yet extremely powerful, disciplines is revealed when we consider their possibilities beyond the mere solving of problems and look at the potential creation of … opportunity.


Muxy – lateral thinking definitions:

“Lateral thinking involves the purposeful breaking of the restraints that inhibit creative and original thinking”

There are many definitions of lateral thinking out there; many opinions of what lateral thinking actually is. They typically seem to focus on only a small part of lateral thinking’s potential . . . problem-solving.

It is much more …

“Lateral thinking is the deliberate employment of disruptive strategies for the purpose of unleashing your creative thinking potential”

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When does “creative” thinking, become “lateral” thinking?

Where do you draw the line to say that something isn’t just creative thinking, it is also lateral thinking? This is where MY views/opinions possibly differ from those of “the master” LOL.


Take a step back for a moment to consider the question:

“What is creativity?”


Define creativity:


“Creativity is merely the combining of existing things in new ways”


The artist that paints a masterpiece is merely combining existing colors in a new way.

The author that writes a best seller is merely combining existing letters/themes/thinking in a new way.

The composer that writes the latest hit on the radio is merely combining existing notes in a new way.

The philosopher . . .

The architect . . .

The sculptor . . . you get the idea.

Okay, so the concept of creativity is actually quite simple. Now let’s consider lateral thinking creativity …


Lateral thinking meaning according to Dr. Edward de Bono:

“Lateral thinking is a way of solving problems by thinking about them in different and original ways without using traditional or anticipated methods”


A more “distinct” lateral thinking meaning:

“Lateral thinking is a process of deliberate DISRUPTION to our existing thinking for the purpose of generating original thinking”


Examples frequently used/quoted by Edward de Bono are brilliant, but they don’t always necessarily showcase any “deliberately planned” element of “disruption”.

“It is the element of DISRUPTION that so clearly differentiates lateral thinking from the broader category of creativity”


These are my “opinions”.

It is also my “opinion”, that lateral thinking has lost its way. So, how can we turn things around?

The answer is lateral thinking … fiction.

What is lateral thinking fiction?

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Some additional thoughts:

What about critical thinking and vertical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to make a judgment or draw a conclusion, based on observations and facts on hand. For example, you might judge something to be true or false. You might determine a course of action to be dangerous. It involves a degree of “subjectivity”.

Vertical thinking is about determining the correct answer using a logical process of investigation. Why did something break? How did they get here? It involves an objective approach to analyze the information at hand.

Remember the differences in this uncomplicated way:

Critical Thinking = Subjective

Vertical Thinking = Objective

Creative Thinking = Out-of-the-box

Lateral Thinking = Ways to achieve “out-of-the-box” thinking.

Thanks for listening.

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About Muxy

See more about this first book project

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Check this out:

14 FREE Lateral Thinking Lessons


Lateral thinking lessons content:

Lateral thinking lesson ONE – Blinkered Thinking

A simple puzzle that demonstrates how our experiences and learning over a lifetime can “blinker” our thinking.

Lateral thinking lesson TWO – Random Starting Points

Randomly chosen starting points are an easy and effective tool to break the shackles of your “blinkered” thinking.

Lateral thinking lesson THREE – How creativity works

Creative thinking involves the DELIBERATE combining of ideas and things not previously considered.

Lateral thinking lesson Four – Alternative perspectives

Successful outcomes can often be improved by considering the perspectives of others.

Lateral thinking lesson Five – Provocation

Sometimes, you just need to “stir the pot” to see what floats to the top. From conflict … comes opportunity.

Lateral thinking lesson Six – Challenge existing concepts

This is a lateral thinking skill we had as children, but somehow it gets buried as we get older.

Lateral thinking lesson Seven – Escape dominant thinking

Should you challenge something that works well?

Lateral thinking lesson Eight – Backwards planning

A brilliant planning strategy that reveals successful pathways.

Lateral thinking lesson Nine – Goal setting

Goal setting for the exceptional.

Lateral thinking lesson Ten – Creative Speaking

Be able to speak confidently, and expertly, on any subject, at any time, with this simple creative technique.

Lateral thinking lesson Eleven – Creative Combinations

This extremely practical creative lateral thinking technique will make you super productive and effective.

Lateral thinking lesson Twelve – Problem-solving

A simple and creative four-step procedure.

Lateral thinking lesson Thirteen – Time management

Important Vs Urgent

Lateral thinking lesson Fourteen – Memory pegs

Mnemonic memory technique that engages the imagination.

Simplicity is power!


Real-life examples of lateral thinking disruptive strategies