Before I comment on what thinking or lateral thinking is, I would like to comment on my
association with lateral thinking.
There is a concept called serendipity which means that a person discovers something of
worth by chance or while striving for one discovery, a person discovers something different,
the worth of which is equal to or more than the actual object of discovery. It was my
supervisor Professor William R. Ferrel (Clinical Physiology/Immunology, University of
Glasgow) who invited my attention to the existence of a lateral thinker in me, in 2007.
After the discovery of a lateral thinker in me, the rest of the job was done by devising and
performing exercises. I use lateral thinking skills in column writing.
The purpose of this page is not to teach lateral thinking to a viewer but to give a brief
overview of my understanding (and practice) of lateral thinking.
To think about something (i.e. what/how/why/where/when it is and what/how/why/where/when
it is not) is a function of the frontal lobe of the brain.
In its memory portion, the brain stores information in the form of words, numbers, pictures,
ideas, concepts and themes. During thinking, the brain processes the stored information
and generates a new kind of information. This is how two things are important: (a) the input,
and (b) the processor.
Interestingly, if the input is broad and diverse but the processor is slow and inefficient, the
product will not be impressive. Similarly, if the input is narrow and monotonous but the
processor is fast and efficient, the product will again not be impressive. Hence is the
importance of the quality of both input and processor.
Creative thinking means that the product (of thinking) is supposed to be different from the
input (of information). The difference is made by the processor (on information).
Creative thinking is possible by two main ways: (a) Critical thinking and (b) Lateral thinking
1. Critical thinking
To think critically is possible if one pays attention to what one is reading, hearing, seeing,
feeling and sensing. Hence the input is five dimensional.
Justifications for critical thinking
a. Critical thinking is often used to develop an argument and counter another argument.
b. Critical thinking helps one to identify both the obvious and the hidden messages more
accurately and precisely, besides making one understand the process by which an
argument is constructed.
c. Critical thinking is associated with reasoning or with one’s capacity for rational thoughts.
(Rationale = using reasons to solve problems).
Domains of creativity
Benjamin Bloom's six learning domains (a model of learning objectives) introduced in 1956
can be viewed/used as six domains of creativity. These domains work in both independent
and inter-dependent fashions in critical thinking.
1. Knowledge: to retrieve bits of information (which may be definitions, numbers,
concepts, etc.) from the memory log. (The knowledge domain is also called remembrance.)
Questions such as 'What is the definition of critical thinking?'
2. Comprehension: to define and explain a point, expand an idea or make a summary of
the expanded idea, distinguish one point from the other or combine two points to make
them one, and classify the given information. (The comprehension domain is also called
Questions such as 'How do you differentiate between critical thinking and lateral thinking?'
3. Application: to apply ideas, concepts, principles and generalisations in a newly evolved
or constructed situation.
Questions such as 'In what ways can critical thinking help you to be creative?'
4. Analysis: to find out relationships (both abstract and explicit) between two ideas or
concepts, and figure out similarities and differences between two ideas or concepts.
Questions such as 'What are the similarities and differences between critical thinking and
5. Synthesis: to combine given ideas or concepts to generate new kinds of ideas or
concepts, and mix old themes to make new themes. (The synthesis domain is also called
Questions such as 'What are the draw backs you find in critical thinking? Suggest ways to
improve it (as such and on lateral thinking).'
6. Evaluation: to make judgements and assessments of a given situation to draw
Questions such as 'What do you foresee the future of critical thinking for creative writers?
Prove your point with examples.'
Differences between critical thinking and lateral thinking
The difference is of the processor. That is, the way the information processor works. Here
lies the importance of skill. It is a skill to make the information processor work in one way to
produce one product and work in another way to produce an entirely different product.
Unlike critical thinking, lateral thinking respects ambiguity, uncertainty and disorder to
create clarity, certainty and order.
Unlike critical thinking, lateral thinking yearn for a leap in the dark.
Elements of critical thinking
Critical thinking is all about challenging the given idea, concept, or theory by asking
questions, finding out errors and constructing the correct idea, concept, theme or theory.
Critical thinking is possible by asking right set of questions.
2. Lateral thinking
To think in lateral or horizontal way and not in linear or vertical way. Lateral thinking does
not follow the linear pattern of the step-by-step approach. Instead, it takes leaps from a
known area to an unknown area and create a new one.
Eward de Bono coined this term in 1967. The word 'lateral' suggests a side-ways loop.
Justifications for lateral thinking
a. The mind works on the linear (vertical) pattern, e.g. 1 + 2 + 3.
b. The mind does not get training to work on the pattern other than the linear pattern.
c. In lateral thinking, the mind works on lateral thinking pattern, for instance after the digit
1, the letter A or symbol γ can come and not the digit 2. Similarly, after a banana, a mango
may be placed and not another banana.
Lateral thinking exercises
Go to next pages 1 2 3
Common pathways between critical thinking and lateral thinking
By sleeping on the problem, the sub-conscious mind or the incubator plays the most
important role. Through the process of concentration and de-concentration, the
sub-conscious mind works wonder by generating novel ideas.
Nevertheless, the following diagram which is a modified version of Graham Wallas' concept
of the synthesis of a solution describes certain common factors and pathways between the
two domains of thinking:
How to think is also a skill. By performing certain exercises, the thinking skill can be
developed and honed at both conscious and sub-conscious levels to think and produce
more and better (than before/the others) ideas, concepts, theories, etc. Further, lateral
thinking can be developed to the point of habit to become a part of one’s nature.
Academically and socially, critical (and/or vertical) thinking is promoted and accepted
while lateral thinking is discouraged and rejected.
Vertical thinking is a part of critical thinking and not vice versa.
Lateral thinking is not a deliberate, automatic and habitual way of thinking but a creative
gift which some people have while the others do not. However, it can be acquired by
Domains of creativity
Benjamin Bloom's six learning domains remain the undercurrent of both critical and lateral
thinking, though the latter utilize certain variations in them, besides the addition of a few
For instance, in lateral thinking, in both independent and inter-dependent fashions, the
six domains of activity work in the following ways:
1. Knowledge: to rely on memory is not important; to get inspired is also important.
2. Comprehension: to define and explain a point in more than one (strange) ways,
expand an idea in multiple (weird) ways, join two (entirely) disparate points to make them
one, divide one point into two (entirely) different points, and classify information in multiple
(including horizontal and vertical) ways.
3. Application: to apply ideas, concepts, principles and generalisations in a situation not
meant for them.
4. Analysis: to find out relationships (both abstract and explicit) between two disparate
ideas or concepts, and figure out similarities between two opposing ideas/concepts and
differences between two similar ideas/concepts.
5. Synthesis: to recombine given ideas or concepts to generate new (and strange) kinds
of ideas or concepts, and mix old themes with new (and strange) themes to generate
another new (and strange) theme.
6. Evaluation: to make judgements and assessment of a given situation to draw different
and unexpected conclusions.
Another lateral thinking approach model
The following model which I created transcends the uni-directional mode of the
functioning of the brain (and, by extension, of the thought process). Apparently, this
model seems a bi-directional model but it is actually a tetra-directional model. It
means that any one given idea (or product) is looked at from four different directions
This model may help a lateral thinker to create new (and novel) ideas, theories and
A lateral thinking approach model
In the domain of lateral thinking, there are available several models, the one that
was created by me and is in my use is the following: