Exactly what is lateral thinking?


 It is the deliberate strategies of “disruption” that so clearly differentiates lateral thinking from creative thinking.


 Think of lateral thinking as being a pathway that leads to original and creative thinking.


“The greater purpose of all life … is to evolve.

It is our capacity for creativity … that makes human evolution so exceptional”

Michael Muxworthy

Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction


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.

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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.


Michael Muxworthy – 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”

Michael Muxworthy

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”

Michael Muxworthy

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”

Michael Muxworthy

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.

Vertical thinking is about determining the correct answer using a logical process of investigation Why did something happen? What will the outcome be? Vertical thinking is sometimes described as being the opposite of lateral thinking.

Remember the differences in this uncomplicated way:

Critical Thinking = Subjective

Vertical Thinking = Objective

Creative Thinking = Out-of-the-box

Lateral Thinking = Disruptive strategies to stimulate “out-of-the-box” thinking.

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Lateral thinking and humor


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

Dr. Edward de Bono


De Bono considers humor (such as a joke) to be like lateral thinking … a pattern-switching process involving an “insight switchover” from a familiar pattern to a new, unexpected one. The new insight occurs at the moment of realization that triggers laughter, usually involving a misdirection … the answer/proposition makes sense in an unexpected way.

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

Thanks for listening.

Take a moment to scroll down to the bottom of this page and subscribe to my email updates.

. . . and stay in touch,

Michael Muxworthy

About Michael

See more about this first book project

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The best way to understand lateral thinking creative strategies is to do this free course:

14 FREE Lateral Thinking Lessons

Lateral thinking lesson’s introduction:

A quick summary of the course objectives.


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.

Why can’t you solve this simple puzzle?

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. Learn how from these practical examples.

Lateral thinking lesson THREE – How creativity works

Creative thinking involves the DELIBERATE combining of ideas and things not previously considered. See how creative combinations work.

Lateral thinking lesson Four – Alternative perspectives

Successful outcomes can often be improved with this simple lateral thinking technique. Discover hidden alternatives with this creative tool.

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. Learn again to ask the question “why”.

Lateral thinking lesson Seven – Escape dominant thinking

Should you challenge something that works well? It’s all too easy to fall into a comfort zone with things that “ain’t broken”. If you yearn to grow and improve, this lateral thinking strategy is awesome. Learn how to build on existing success.

Lateral thinking lesson Eight – Backwards planning

This creative lateral thinking strategy involves deciding what you want and then creating a path to get there. Learn this creative planning technique here.

Lateral thinking lesson Nine – Goal setting

This creative goal strategy is ONLY for the passionate amongst us. If you are passionate about achieving something, this creative process is guaranteed to your goals within reach. Are you ready to be successful?

Lateral thinking lesson Ten – Creative speaking

Be able to speak confidently, and expertly, on any subject, at any time, with this simple creative technique. Never be lost for words that people love to hear.

Lateral thinking lesson Eleven – Creative combinations

This extremely practical creative lateral thinking technique will make you super productive and effective. Click here to learn the power of combining.

Lateral thinking lesson Twelve – Problem-solving

This simple and creative four-step procedure is the making of a leader. Don’t live with problems, show leadership and resolve all your problems easily. Start solving your problems now.

Lateral thinking lesson Thirteen – Time management

Have you ever noticed that when you try to plan your time, it rarely works? Don’t. This powerful technique will allow you to efficiently and productively manage your time WITHOUT having to make unnecessary plans. Start making better use of your time.

Lateral thinking lesson Fourteen – Memory pegs

Never write down a shopping list again. Go to meetings and “listen”, and not need to take notes. Learn this powerful memory skill that uses your imagination.

These free lateral thinking lessons more powerful than anything else in the lateral thinking, creative thought, or creative management learning marketplace today. Why?

  1. A focus on simplicity, effectiveness, and habit;
  2. You can share/interact with all ages, all levels of education;
  3. Unlimited free support from the author;
  4. A truly broad and diverse mix of skills; and
  5. It’s absolutely free!

In 28 years of development of my various personal, management, creative and lateral thinking skills, I’ve become familiar with an enormous array of the various techniques and tools on offer. However, despite this vast library of knowledge, I find myself constantly drawing upon the same few skills repeatedly. Why? Because simplicity is power!

I sincerely hope you enjoy, learn, and grow,

Michael Muxworthy – Disruptive Author

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Test your ability to think “out-of-the-box” with these challenging lateral thinking puzzles:

New lateral thinking puzzles 1 to 12

Classic lateral thinking puzzles 1 to 10

Classic lateral thinking puzzles 11 to 20

Classic lateral thinking puzzles 21 to 30

Classic lateral thinking puzzles 31 to 40

Brainteasing puzzles for kids

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The most powerful lateral thinking examples anywhere on the internet can be found here:

Real-life examples of lateral thinking disruptive strategies