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Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step

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Essay title: Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step

LATERAL THINKING: CREATIVITY STEP BY STEP

Edward De Bono

Harper Collins, 1990

Why the total majority of great things happens in our minds when we are doing something completely different than work? In this book, Dr. De Bono is trying to explore this “heureka paradox” and other still relatively unknown thought processes via his lateral thinking theory.

The LATERAL THINKING was introduced by the author in 1967. It was aimed to destroy the old established ways of thinking and support creativity. De Bono claims that creative thinking is something what can be learnt (or at least improved) by everybody.

“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.”

The lateral thinking offers alternatives to conventional cognitive processes. De Bono described the brain as (a) a self-organizing system and (b) a self-maximizing system.

a/ Self-Organization The first feature, self-organization, is the pronounced tendency of the brain to make sense out of the data provided to it by the sense organs. The brain seems to store information largely in patterns. Each bit of information entering the brain becomes a part of one or more patterns already stored in the brain. This means that an attempt to think about one isolated idea or image will bring with it a large amount of associated information. The more fully developed a cognitive pattern is, the more it tends to dominate thinking processes. b/ Self-Maximization The second feature of brain functioning, self-maximization, operates to contain certain patterns as information continues to flow into the brain. Once a pattern has developed, it begins to dominate not only the thinking processes, but the perceptual processes as well. The brain begins to select for recognition certain information that is compatible with the established patterns. The effect of these two features of the brain's functioning is to create habits of thought that suppress creative thinking. Although a great number of these patterns are convenient and beneficial to the individual (e.g., control of routine mechanical functions and interpretation of standard signals), many others are self-defeating and dysfunctional. Certain patterns, which can be imagined as beaten paths within the brain, tend to imprison the individual, binding the person to a narrow range of options for dealing with his or her experiences.

“Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.”

Based on the brains’ features described above, De Bono recognises two types of thinking - vertical and lateral .

Vertical Thinking

The term vertical thinking describes the habitual style of thinking that is dominated by the brain patterns. Vertical thinking is logical and linear, e.g., if..., then..., or "cause and effect." It operates by establishing and following natural pathways, which link ideas together in ways that are consistent with the stored patterns. Vertical thinking is characterised by a logical analysis with one step or premise following another and building to a conclusion or solution. This may be described as "straight-line" or "analytical" thinking.

Vertical thinkers take the most reasonable view of the situation and then proceed logically and carefully to work it out. They tend to assume that there is only one correct answer to the problem, and the approach used to solve it involves the use of mathematics, a model, a matrix, a decision tree, or some other deductive-reasoning processes.

Lateral Thinking

De Bono believed that there were two general approaches to problem solving. The second approach is "lateral thinking" or "creative problem solving," in which all the things that relate to the problem are considered. The term lateral thinking describes a deliberate, conscious strategy for interrupting linear chains of thought. It does not destroy patterns, nor does it operate without patterns. Instead lateral thinking facilitates transitions between patterns, thereby widening the range of patterns available for dealing with a particular problem. Lateral thinking also is a strategy for creating new patterns that may be useful.

Lateral thinkers tend to explore all the different ways of looking at something, rather than accepting the most promising and proceeding from that. Lateral thinking is typified by the process of brainstorming, in which all solutions are considered, no matter

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