Problem Solving:

Creativity Secrets

Lateral Thinking

Looking for Wider Solutions


Vadim Kotelnikov personal logo Vadim Kotelnikov

Founder, Ten3 Business e-Coach Inspiration and Innovation unlimited!




"The mind sharp, but not broad, sticks at every point but does not move." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

"You cannot look in a new direction by looking harder in the same direction." ~ Edward de Bono

Creative Thinking: 6 Tips by Edward de Bono



Lateral Thinking is:

  • seeking to solve a problem by non-conventional, apparently illogical means.

  • a process and willingness to look at things in a different way.

  • a new type of thinking that complements analytical and critical thinking.

  • a creative problem solving tool that helps create new ideas, new products, new processes and new services... More

Lateral Thinking versus Vertical Thinking

Vertical Thinking

Lateral Thinking



Looks for what is right

Looks for what is different

One thing must follow directly from another

Makes deliberate jumps

Concentrates on relevance

Welcomes chance intrusions

Moves in the most likely directions

Explores the least likely directions

Entrepreneurial Creativity (Ten3 Mini-course)

Understanding Right / Left Brain Functions

  1. The right side of the brain controls your creative, visual, spatial concepts.

  2. The left side of the brain controls your logical, mathematical judgmental, analytical activities.

Lateral Thinking Tricks for Generating New Ideas

  • Pick a random unrelated word (example: window + flying)

  • Suggest the outrageous

  • (example: no one drives cars anymore)
  • Imagine or ask people to do the opposite (example: students teach, teachers take notes; or customers sell, sellers evaluate the product they are offered)


Lateral Thinking Defined

Lateral thinking is about restructuring a questions or problems.

Lateral thinking is concerned with generation of new ideas. It is also concerned with "breaking out of the concept prisons of old ideas."1

Turning Problems Into Opportunities: 6 Tips

Lateral Thinking versus Vertical Thinking

Lateral thinking is not a substitute for vertical thinking. Both are required they are complementary: lateral thinking is generative, vertical thinking is selective. For instance, during brainstorming meetings, you encourage lateral thinking during the first session to generate as much creative solutions as possible, and vertical thinking during the second session to select the feasible ideas.

In traditional vertical type of thinking (logic or mathematic), you move forward by sequential steps each of which must be justified. You select out only what is relevant. You must be right at each stage in order to achieve a correct solution.

In lateral thinking, you may deliberately seek out irrelevant information you use information not for its own sake but for its effect. You may have to be wrong at some stage in order to achieve an innovative and correct solution.

Loose-Tight Leadership

Ask Searching Questions

Don't ask one or two questions and then rush straight towards a solution. With an incomplete understanding of the problem it is very easy to jump to wrong conclusions.

How To Solve Problems

Ask open-ended questions that elicit a wide rage of answers:

  • 'Why' questions  to discover the roots of the problem

  • 'How' questions to discover different routes to significant improvement (see an example)

True Success: 4 Questions To Ask

The Power of Cross-Functional Excellence

If you build broad cross-functional expertise, no idea will be wasted!

Systemic Innovation: 7 Areas

6 Innovation Practice Tips

Your mind can accept only those ideas that have a frame of reference with your existing knowledge. It rejects everything else. If your knowledge is functionally focused, you'll be open to new ideas related to your functional expertise only and will miss all other learning and innovation opportunities. If you develop a broad cross-functional expertise, no new idea will be wasted. It will immediately connect with the existing knowledge and will inspire  you, energize you, and encourage your entrepreneurial creativity. The broader your net, the more fish you catch... More

 Case in Point  Encouragement of Lateral Thinking at GE Work-Out

At GE Work-Out, participants are made fell the urgency to change and begin to see the whole picture of the situation. Then, they are ready to focus on new ideas.  How can the process be improved? What can be done differently to achieve the stretch goal?

"Using the process map as a starting point, Work-Out asks participants to brainstorm ways of achieving the goal, and then provides a structure for quickly sorting through the ideas, selecting the best ones, and developing them into recommendations for change. As with any brainstorming process, Work-Out encourages people to toss out any idea, no matter how minor, how crazy, how seemingly impossible. And the process helps people learn how to build on each other's ideas, combine ideas, and think "out-of-the-box."

In fact, when the old Aetna Insurance Company implemented its version of Work-Out, the program's sponsors called it "Out of the Box."3

 Exercises  Practicing Lateral Thinking

Source: Effective Innovation: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition, John Adair

The Bicycles and the Fly

Two boys on bicycles, 20 miles apart, began racing straight towards each other. The instant they started, a fly on the handlebar of one bicycle started flying straight towards the other cyclist. As soon as it reached the other bicycle, it turned and started back. The fly flew back and forth in this way, from handlebar to handlebar, until the bicycles met.

If each bicycle had a constant speed of 10 miles and hour, and the fly flew at a constant speed of 15 miles an hour, how far did the fly flew?    (See the answer)








  1. Lateral Thinking, Edward de Bono

  2. 101 Ways To Generate Great Ideas, Timothy R.V. Foster

  3. The GE Work-Out, Dave Ulrich, Steve Kerr, Ron Ashkenas

  4. The Leader's Guide To Lateral Thinking Skills, Paul Sloane

  5. ASIT Advanced Systematic Inventive Thinking, Roni Horowitz

  6. 1000 Things You Never Learned in Business School, William. N. Yeomans

  7. TRIZ 40 Principles

Great Problem Solver

Problem Solving

4 Levels of Problem Solving

Creative Problem Solving

6-Step CPS Process

Questions for Creative Problem Solving

Turning Problems Into Opportunities


Systems Thinking

Creative Achiever

10 Locks Which Limit Creative Thinking

10 Secrets of Creativity

Inspiration: 3 Intertwined Pillars

5 Rules of Creative Thinking

Disney Creativity Strategy

Thinking Outside the Box

Asking Searching Questions

Challenging Assumptions

'Why' and 'What If' Questions

Tips for Challenging Assumptions

Entrepreneurial Creativity

6 Barriers To Creative Thinking and Innovation

Inventive Thinking

Building Your Cross-Functional Excellence

Creative Marketing

Managing Creativity in Your Business Environment

Creative Leadership DOs and DON'Ts


Techniques for Fast Evaluation of Innovative Ideas