Whenever I need a creative recharge, I revisit Edward DeBono’s Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. Instinctively and by training, I am a discursive thinker, driven primarily by reason and logic. So I need such recharges regularly.
Lateral Thinking makes the compelling case that creativity can be deliberately taught. Reading the book more than twenty years ago, I became aware of my latent creative potential. I realized that I am capable of “building up something new” as well as “analyzing something old.” A whole new world of possibility beckoned.
To define lateral thinking, DeBono compares it to “traditional” or vertical thinking. He articulates his concepts in clear, simple language. Here are some excerpts:
- Vertical thinking is analytical, lateral thinking is provocative.
- Vertical thinking is selective, lateral thinking is generative.
- Rightness is what matters in vertical thinking. Richness is what matters in lateral thinking.
- Lateral thinking is more concerned with concept breaking, with provocation and disruption in order to allow the mind to restructure patterns.
- Information imprisoned in old cliche patterns can often come together in a new way of its own accord once the pattern is disrupted. It is a function of lateral thinking to free information by challenging cliche patterns.
- The lateral thinking attitude involves firstly a refusal to accept rigid patterns and secondly an attempt to put things together in different ways. With lateral thinking one is always trying to generate alternatives, to restructure patterns.
- With vertical thinking one uses the negative in order to block off certain pathways. With lateral thinking there is no negative. There are times when it may be necessary to be wrong in order to be right at the end.
After building the case that creativity can be taught, Lateral Thinking introduces 16 specific creativity techniques, among them reversal, fractionation, brainstorming, analogies, and random stimulation. There are plenty of practical examples and exercises.
Each year brings a plethora of new creativity experts and books. Few, in my experience, match Debono and Lateral Thinking.