Lateral Thinking Book Summary - Lateral Thinking Book explained in key points
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Lateral Thinking summary

Edward de Bono

Creativity Step by Step

4.3 (351 ratings)
18 mins
Table of Contents

    Lateral Thinking
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    Lateral thinking helps the mind rethink and update its entrenched patterns.

    There are two modes of thinking: vertical thinking and lateral thinking. For the most part, we’re used to vertical thinking. This is the kind of process that takes an idea, solidifies it, and backs it up with data and facts – almost like planting the idea firmly, and deeply, into the ground.

    If vertical thinking is like digging a hole to plant your idea, lateral thinking is about finding other places to start digging. 

    The key message here is: Lateral thinking helps the mind rethink and update its entrenched patterns.

    To begin with, it should be noted that lateral thinking isn’t antithetical to vertical thinking – they’re not at odds with each other. Vertical thinking is necessary and useful because it aligns with how the mind works.

    Among other things, the mind is a powerful system for identifying patterns and organizing information. It does this through what’s known as a self-maximizing memory system. That is, we base our ideas on the experiences we remember, the patterns we’ve identified, and the evidence we’ve gleaned from them. 

    This system works great for the most part. For example, we come to understand letters and numbers so well that even if they’re partly obscured, we can still recognize them. But it also has a downside. The more we experience, the more we become entrenched in these patterns and expectations. We take them for granted and are more than willing to just let them be.

    Lateral thinking is a way of challenging the patterns – of testing them, prodding them, and seeing if they can be updated or improved. Creative and innovative ideas are hard to come by if we don’t challenge the patterns and assumptions our mind is unconsciously making.

    This is why both vertical and lateral thinking are important. In subjects like science and math, it’s necessary to label and categorize things. And the brain is the perfect tool for doing this. But other times we need to purposely go against our systematic nature and rethink those categories and what’s in them. This is where lateral thinking comes into play. 

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    What is Lateral Thinking about?

    Lateral Thinking (1970) explains the important differences between vertical and lateral thinking. It offers techniques on how to strengthen your ability to think creatively – and spark important changes and innovations along the way. It also provides lessons that teachers can use to help young students develop a talent for lateral thinking.

    Who should read Lateral Thinking?

    • People who want to improve at thinking outside the box
    • Teachers looking for lessons to inspire creative thinking
    • Executives eager for more productive brainstorming sessions

    About the Author

    Edward de Bono was a philosopher, professor, psychologist, and the inventor of the term “lateral thinking.” He was on the faculty of universities such as Oxford, Harvard, and Cambridge. He wrote over 80 books, including The Mechanism of the Mind and Six Thinking Hats

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